News flash: if you want your company’s advertisements to be at all relevant on social media and digital platforms today, you need to be edgy, provocative, and flat-out attention-grabbing. Are you rolling your eyes? Good, you should be. We’re stating the obvious here - yet, for some reason, most brands are still posting safe, generic ads all over the internet just for you to skip over. And no, just because it’s a GIF doesn’t mean it works.
Consider the best advertisements you’ve seen recently - the ones that really caught your attention. Chances are they genuinely surprised or shocked you in some way. For me, three that stand out are Burger King’s Save Net Nutrality (culturally relevant), BarkBox’s Dog Mom Rap (funny - plus it doesn’t look like an ad), and Twilight’s sticker blitz below, which put 2 red dots on other people’s ads (getting people to take a closer look at things out in the world).
Easier said than done right? Maybe not. Let’s take it from the top.
Advertising: A Brief History
Advertising in the ‘90s and early 2000s was all about more “traditional” advertising channels like billboards, magazines, television commercials, and mail advertisements. The process was simple and established: media companies sold advertising space to get funding, companies bought that space to reach consumers - and it really worked.
How? Well, people at the time wanted to see those ads. See, after World War II, America was more prosperous and wealthy than ever before. People had money, they had fewer concerns, and they wanted to see what cool things they could buy. Plus, television was a new and exciting medium, and there was a really low bar for amazement on it. Just look at the first TV ad. It fucking sucks!
By the 1990s, people were still riding that high. They wanted to see aspirational images of models and celebrities. They wanted to be thinner, richer, prettier, sexier, happier. And they wanted to believe that these brands and products could give them that.
But then things started to shift. The world became more digital and the advertising landscape began to evolve.
The Rise of Digital Advertising
The Internet exploded, and smartphones started becoming more accessible to the everyday person. There was more content than ever before - too much content - and people started to get oversaturated and sick of it. People started calling out the “glossy reality” they saw in bullshit advertisements, and the world just didn’t want to be sold the pipe dream anymore.
On top of that, the public could suddenly choose what content they wanted to access - they could fast forward through TV commercials or read their favorite magazines online, scrolling past ads faster than they could ever flip - and if they didn’t like what they saw, they could just block it from ever appearing again.
Traditional channels, then, started to die as the digital space took over. Which brings us to today.
Where We’re At
Now, there is more content available than ever before, and this content is all digital. Instead of print ads, broadcast commercials, and billboards, it’s all going online with video, images, memes, 500-word blog posts, social media stories, GIFs, Google Ads, and on and on. And there’s a fuckton of it to compete against in the ad space.
On top of that, today everyone is a creator. So you’re not just competing with every brand on the planet - you’re also competing with HBO, influencer fuckboys and girls, EVERYONE. That’s why every attempt to advertise needs to be approached with the mindset that nobody cares what you, a brand trying to sell them something they probably don’t want, has to say. And just to rub it in, it’s only getting worse.
- Since 2013, the number of Tweets each minute has increased 58% to more than 474,000 tweets PER MINUTE in 2019!
- Instagram users upload over 100 million photos and videos everyday. That’s 69,444 million posts every minute!
- Over 3.5 billion Google searches are conducted worldwide each minute of everyday. That is 2 trillion searches per year worldwide, which translates to over 40,000 search queries per second!
- Facebook’s year over year advertising growth is 34%. To help you understand how big that is, in 2018 they made $54.4 billion. A decade before that they made $272 million. And people hate facebook now.
- 293 billion emails are sent daily in 2019, and this is expected to grow by 4.2% yearly to 347 billion in 2023.
- Offline spending that’s been influenced by some type of mobile experience has already exceeded $1 trillion.
Who has time to deal with that much shit? Literally no one, which is why customer interactions and expectations have also drastically changed (and why your job as an advertiser is so much harder than it was in the ‘90s and 2000s).
Today’s Audiences Are Oversaturated
At this point, people are basically doing everything they can not to be sucked into all this content Jumanji style, never to be heard from again. Ok, that may be a little dramatic, but expectations and interactions have changed in response to this digital content tsunami. And, with nearly 2 billion websites and the average adult spending 5.9 hours online a day, it’s really no surprise.
Customer Expectations are High, Patience is Short
So how do people cope? By expecting an amazing amount of personalization and precision, and running away from anything that sounds even remotely salesy. Think about it: with platforms like Amazon making online experiences easier than ever - and tools like retargeted ads and advanced chatbots practically reading people’s minds - the reality is that today’s audiences have come to expect relevant, intuitive, authentic and ultra-personalized online experiences across the board, and they have zero patience for anything less. In other words, they’re extremely picky, impatient, and easily turned off by brands and ads. How impatient? Well:
- On average, two seconds is all companies get when it comes to website load time - anything longer increases bounce rates by 50%.
- 56% of viewers are likely to skip online video ads as soon as they have the chance
- 83% of people (and likely more than that) are searching for a seamless website experience whether checking on a tablet, phone, or desktop
- Mobile ad blocking is increasing by 90% year-over-year.
- On average, in 2018 brands were losing about 20% of their Instagram stories audience before the second frame.
So they want fast, seamless, relevant interactions - or they’ll BLOCK you... This gif really has nothing to do with anything but I like it so I put it here.
Video and UGC Work Best
In this context, user-friendly visual and user-generated content reign supreme. In fact:
- Video content is 50 times more likely to drive organic search results than plain text will.
- Having a video thumbnail in the search results can double your search traffic.
- 71% of customers agree that user-generated reviews make them feel more secure in their decision to purchase a particular product over another.
- 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support (up from 86% in 2017).
- People are accessing 69% of their media on their smartphones
- Videos created by (and featuring) users get 10x more views on YouTube than content created by brands.
- 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.
The short version: today’s consumers trust people much more than brands - so brands need to make content that feels like it came from another human being.
There’s bad news, though. At this point, any marketer with half a brain already knows all this (or, at the very least, they’re grappling with these realities). Which means that every single company is trying to produce relevant, authentic, interesting, user-driven content to create the best advertisements. And most are wasting thousands of dollars to buy interaction with their ads, get experts in, etc etc.
Which brings us back to our original point.
You Must Be Provocative to Stand Out
Provocative messaging is the number one game-changer that is going to get you noticed over your competition. You must must must be willing to push the envelope in a way that’s culturally relevant, authentic, and that makes sense for what you’re selling.
Here’s How to Do It
So great, we’ve proven our point - but it doesn’t mean much if we don’t get into the nitty-gritty and explain the how. At Seven2Launch, we live by this reality and apply it every day - and you can absolutely do the same. Here are some of our best practices and the general process that we follow, all of which you can apply yourself:
1. Establish Cultural Relevance
We start by seeing what blogs are already reporting on in regard to your industry (a.k.a establishing cultural relevance). Imagine you’re a water company in Southern California that’s in business during the wildfires. Or in Michigan during the Flint water crisis. Even in Florida when there’s a bunch of alligators turning up in swimming pools. I mean - the content basically writes itself if you’re paying attention and have your finger on the pulse.
2. Be Timely
Then, we quickly create our own content to take advantage of this fleeting cultural moment (a.k.a we make sure it’s timely). Using the same example, you can’t make wildfire puns during a rainstorm - duh.
But DO NOT jump the shark here!
3. Ensure Authenticity
This has to be done in a way that makes sense for your brand and your voice (there’s the authenticity). Otherwise, you end up like Pepsi when they did that Kendall Jenner ad that tried - and failed epically - to touch on social reform and protests.
4. Be Provocative
Lastly, you have to create something that beats out the memes, videos, and tweets to catch people’s attention, hold it, and leave them with a positive impression of your brand (and that’s the provocation). It’s a fine line to walk, to be sure, but you can do this on your own. Just tap into your own humanity and your own sense of humor - and check your PC hat at the door. It’s the only way to finally get the social media attention you’ve been struggling to achieve for years. Score.