Social Media Week London
The Cure For ‘Content Shock’

According to Unruly CEO Sarah Wood, our society is suffering from a disorder called content shock. “There’s so much stuff out there,” she says, “we don’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with it.” A constant inundation of ads has resulted in a massive fall in attention, with fewer than 20 per cent of TV ads watched to completion. And with fewer people watching ads, that means even fewer are sharing, which Wood sees as critical; “You can buy views — shares are the gold standard of advocacy.”

“Trust in advertising is at an all time low,” says Wood. This decline in trust and patience is understandable when you consider the “creepy ad stalking” where cookie-driven ads follow users around the internet, and indiscriminate pre-roll videos which have no relevance to the viewer. In her Social Media Week London session, entitled ‘Seven Steps To Surviving The Ad-pocalypse’, Wood prescribes an industry-wide treatment for content shock.

  1. Clarity of purpose.

What does your brand stand for? This is the question you need to answer before setting out any campaign goals. Clarity of purpose is at the heart of any effective ad, says Wood, citing Save The Children’s ‘Most Shocking Second A Day’ video as an example of compelling content with a direct, integrated call to action.

  1. Be yourself!

“Authenticity is the key to credibility,” says Wood, highlighting the fact that 78 per cent of millennial consumers tend to lose trust in a brand when an ad feels fake; “Digital native are very quick to detect B.S.” Wood acknowledges that it’s less of a challenge for smaller, newer companies to have a human voice, but with more established brands, it might take more soul-searching. “If your brand went to a party, how would it behave?” She asks. “What kind of wine would it take?”

  1. Make an emotional connection with your audience.

“In a media-saturated world, we don’t have time to make rational decisions,” says Wood, which explains why ads that create a deep emotional impact have such a high rate of effectiveness. But it’s not enough to elicit a muted “aww”; the best emotional ads will have people laughing out loud or sobbing. And if yours is a more rational category, there are still appropriate emotional triggers, including ‘surprised’, ‘informed’ or ‘enlightened’.

  1. Keep it personable and relatable.

The ‘Share A Coke’ campaign, complete with names on cans, is a great example of getting consumers involved and excited in a very personal way. “Video hasn’t reached its potential here,” says Wood, “making people part of the content is a good way to do this.” She points to recent efforts like Three’s ‘Sing It Kitty’, which inserts user-generated photos into music videos.

Being relatable and relevant will also prove instrumental in overcoming ad-blocking technology, which is set to become even more popular thanks to its inclusion in the latest iPhone browser. 81 percent of millennials don’t mind seeing an ad if it’s for a product or service they are actually interested in, which Wood believes is key to solving the ad-blocking problem. “It’s a bit of a red herring, the ad-blocking issue,” she says, “because the real ad blockers are inside our heads…It’s really only be creating relevant, interesting, useful, valuable content that brands are going to be able to break through.”

  1. Mobile is a must.

The advertising industry knows it needs to cater to mobile consumers, and yet the vast majority of campaigns are planned on desktop. Wood points out that while mobile ad spend is predicted to overtake print spend in the UK this year and globally next year, an attitudinal shift is still very much required. “There’s a lot of creative that doesn’t translate to mobile,” says Wood, “but while we’re sat in our offices, planning campaigns on desktop, it’s difficult to appreciate.”

  1. Don’t be antisocial. Empower consumers.

It is important to create content that people want to watch, share, and become advocates for, but it doesn’t end there. “It’s not just about the kind of content you create,” says Wood, “it’s about the way that content is distributed. There’s no point creating amazing content that really seems to understand the user, if you then pop it in a pre-roll and just expect people to have to watch it… That is anti-social video.” Three quarters of millennials are happy to share branded video if they see value in it, so it’s important to make video as social as possible.

  1. Never stop testing and learning.

“Experiment with depth, rather than breadth,” says Wood. “If you experiment superficially, it’s not very fulfilling and probably won’t generate very good results.”

There was a time not too long ago when content went viral over the course of a few days — now it’s a matter of minutes. As consumers become keener to be the first to share, and sharing behaviour speeds up, agility is key for brands. But being agile doesn’t necessarily just mean going at a breakneck pace; rather, says Wood, brands need to “work at the speed of social.”

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