It seems quaint to think of people’s eyeballs glued to the television, where TV commercials reigned supreme in the advertising ecosystem. Now we watch programming and vids on other screens. If you think about how much time you or your family members (and certainly teens) spend on screen, you understand that the advertising ecosystem had to migrate to a more digital model. The advertising ecosystem contains everything in its environment—all the channels and platforms—broadcast, digital channels, mobile, social, print, direct mail, branded experiences, and more.
From the hoots and hollers at plays first performed at Shakespeare’s Globe to the dancing in the aisles at contemporary music concerts to interactive science museums, audiences like to participate. In advertising and visual communication, participation turns viewers into partakers, into vested co-authors with different degrees of involvement and even ownership, where they take an active role in the advertising messages. Participatory advertising helps the message stick, it engages the user, it gives the user some control and a delegated interest.
Participation-oriented messages are known as pull advertising, whether a social media campaign offers an opportunity for user interaction, an advertiser solicits consumer-generated content, or a unique in-store experience is hands-on (think of the retail phenomenon that is the Apple stores). If a participatory experience is immersive and engaging, it pulls the audience in and may turn the participants into brand sirens.
Pull Advertising Rule 1: Offer an immersive experience.
If people are at the center of an experience, they are not merely observers but actual participants who become invested in the experience. For example, to get the word out about the importance of getting a mammogram for detecting breast cancer and to get people involved, a creative team at agency 360i knew social media would be a great place to start. The team of two female advertising creatives, one of whom is a breast cancer survivor, created a passion project: #mamming, which garnered lots of awards and raised awareness about the importance of getting mammograms, helping people embrace the awkwardness of mammograms.
Pull Advertising Rule 2: Offer an involving experience.
“The key to engagement is participation. Consumers are empowered to engage in the content they choose; if they don’t ‘care’ about a campaign, they’ll avoid it. When executed in a welcoming manner, digital content invites consumers to engage on their terms,” says Daniel Stein, CEO and founder of Evolution Bureau (EVB).
Pull Advertising Rule 3: Offer content your target audience cares about.
BBDO New York created a “Never Stop Improving” brand campaign for Lowe’s, the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world. As part of the campaign, the agency set out to bring tips to life as extremely short films on Vine, using their looping six-second video app, and called it “Lowe’s Fix in Six.”
The agency explained, “We knew that our Facebook and Twitter audiences would appreciate quick improvement tips; like how to remove a stripped screw, or how to quickly clean a cookie sheet.
Instead of forcing people to view an ad, we gave them something they wanted. And they rewarded us by sharing the Vine videos across Twitter, Facebook, and of course, Vine itself.”
At the outset of the campaign, the press recognized Lowe’s Fix In Six as the first branded effort to “crack the code” of Vine, using it as a strategic communications device rather than a novelty. Not only are these vids informative, they’re charming.
Pull Advertising Rule 4: Offer clear, how-to content your target audience needs.
If you haven’t watched Jean-Claude Van Damme performing an Epic Split between two moving Volvo trucks reversing at high speed to the sounds of Enya music, I do recommend it. The stunt is real and was performed in just one take, according to Anders Vilhelmsson, public relations manager for Volvo Trucks. With the Van Damme video, Volvo wanted to illustrate the new dynamic steering model in a spectacular way, and reach beyond traditional markets. Created to demonstrate the trucks’ precision handling, this video is part of a series of stunt videos by Forsman & Bodenfors for Volvo.
For the third edition of my book, Advertising By Design, I interviewed Sophia Lindholm, art director from Forsman & Bodenfors, the agency behind Van Damme’s “Epic Split,” the two-minute online video for Volvo Trucks. I asked Lindholm about the state of advertising today. She replied, “I strongly believe that the advertising industry needs to be more about entertainment. And I think that the commercial today needs to be more interesting than the program it is interrupting. Because today we are not only interrupting people, we are asking people to choose to interact with us instead of doing what they set out to do.”
Pull Advertising Rule 5: Your content must be worthy or it’s just contributing to the digital din.
So whether you’re designing a branded store experience or conceiving unique branded content, a website, a Snapcat story, or a Vine vid, in our digital age where people have so many choices, so much entertainment and information available to them 24/7… stay interesting, my friends.
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