March 10, 2020

by Nigel Hollis

I am constantly amazed by the way people make assumptions based on data. In response to learning that people only watch online ads for an average of a few seconds what is the typical response? Make shorter ads. Maybe instead advertisers ought to invest more time and effort into creating better ads?

Faced with the fact that the average viewing length is measured in seconds most advertisers seem to throw up their hands and say, ‘Hey! What do you expect? Nobody wants to watch long videos on their phone’. Except, that people do watch video on their phone. They watch a lot and for long periods of time. Data from Ooyala’s Q1 2018 Global Video Index documents how long people watch videos of all sorts on different devices and finds that even content 40 minutes or longer gets viewed to completion on mobile by 45 percent of people. So perhaps the issue is not the medium, or the attention span, but the content?

Given the choice between watching a boring and irrelevant video and skipping after 5 seconds to view the content you really want to watch, what would you do? To my mind, the amazing thing is that 40 second ads designed to run on YouTube are predicted to be completed an average of 35 percent of people who start watching. To my mind this validates the viewpoint of Ben Shaw & Jack Colchester offered in their WARC Opinion article “People’s attention is out there – we just need to earn it, not buy it”, which is that faced with low completion rates you have two basic choices, go super-short or go super-engaging.

While their focus is on social, I think this statement can apply to any digital channel,

“The cardinal sin on social is dullness.”

Of course, going short does not mean you cannot have some fun and be engaging with it. There is an ad for Capitec bank in South Africa which acknowledges its own shortcomings when the spokesperson says,

“Ads, annoying, right? Almost as annoying as bank queues.”

He then suggests the Capitec mobile app is a good solution to queues and invites the viewer to skip the rest of the ad.

However, if you want to be super engaging you need to put some real thought into what will gain and hold people’s attention. At the risk of boosting Shaw and Colchester’s award-winning Dirty Louisiana campaign strategy for KFC more than they do in the WARC article, it is a good example of a campaign that effectively uses longer-form video to effectively engage an audience. It is a good example of using analysis, content and the sensible use of retargeting to generate increased engagement.

To cut a long story short, BBH identified a trend in so called ‘clean eating’ and decided to troll it to advertise KFC’s Dirty Louisiana burger, which was about as far away from the concept of clean eating as you can get. To do so, the team created their own clean eating influencer named Figgy Poppleton-Rice and then announced something called the KFC Clean Eating Burger, a poached and spiralized chicken breast on a cauliflower bun.

An initial announcement of the Clean Eating Burger reached 12 million people in the UK and started the conversation going. Five days later, the hero video was released on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, showing how the clean eating burger was made but closing with the introduction of the far more appealing Dirty Louisiana. This video was retargeted to the 12 million who had engaged with the original announcement and, to ensure the product message was landed, ads and gifs then retargeted the 20 million people who had watched some of the video but might not have seen the ending.

The paper “KFC: Dirty Louisiana – Don't make dirty good, make clean bad” by Jack Colchester and Tom Hargreves, won the WARC Awards Grand Prix for Effective Social Strategy in 2017, and I think it is well-deserved. The paper documents that the campaign reached over ⅓ of the UK audience and the Dirty Louisiana sold out of 70 percent of stores within 3 weeks, surpassing the sales mix target by 39 percent.

The only question is, if one brand can do that with a video on social media, why can’t more brands do it in other media channels? What do you think?



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