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Digital Video Marketing 2 | Digital marketing for digital dinosaurs


Important Note: I will not talk about what story to tell here, you are the brand marketer, so you’re the most expert in what is the relevant message that will attract consumer attention for the right motives. Moreover we discussed key messages in other section of this manual.

I want to talk about something more specific to the problem we are facing here, how to tell the story in an online environment.

As we just learned then, whether a viral video, an advertising or a how to video, storytelling is crucial.

We saw in the Gillette example that we can take various approaches online, in that case two different ways to tell a similar story, both valid in different situations and different platforms, complementary one another.

First is a digital version of a TVC, that’s useful for digital advertising like unskippable ads on YT, where people are forced to watch something.

In all other channels, none is forced to watch your content online. They only do it if there’s something that is relevant for them. In this respect, the second example where Son Lux plays piano, has definitively better chances to be seen.

This brings me to the point that learning about the differences between a pure ad and a digital video it is an interesting exercise to learn if and how to adapt our content to the context (internet)

The TVC ad

Logic > Magic: be clear first

Start from product insight, match with consumer insight, develop the story When developing the story we stretch reality to emphasise the product benefit. We talk brain first.

When we talk about ONLINE VIDEOS

Magic > Logic: entertain first

Video: start with consumer insight, tell a story that contains a product insight When developing a story we stretch reality to entertain, mesmerize, fascinate, scare, make people happy, sad, thinking… We talk emotions first. It’s no surprise that from Google insights data “Across the board—whether we were looking for a lift in brand metrics or how long the viewer watched—humor took the cake. People are more likely to watch humorous ads, and those ads also see greater lifts in ad recall and brand awareness.

Let’s stay in the online videos a little more, as for what concerns TVC and its adaptations to online, we are experts already.

From all we discussed so far, we can derive some key ingredients: emotions, branding, storytelling and context.


Because of the environment, online digital videos must focus on storytelling even if they are carrying a very functional product message.

Emotions are a good trick, we have to think as film directors more than advertising producers.

Digital ads can work in the traditional way but we should be conscious of the different formats, a lot shorter and the different placements


The role of the brand in the video in a digital environment is quite unique.

If we are looking at a digital ads (the TVC kind), as we are pushing the message into people, it doesn’t really matter how strong and hard selling is the role of the brand.

That’s exactly how it should be, we pay for it and we want to maximise the chances that they will remember what we sell.

On the opposite side, in the case of online video, the line between storytelling and persuading is very fine and an overtly heavy role of brands can be putting off viewers.

We want to develop stories that are related to the brand or the product but not too much…hey that’s hard!

Coming from advertising world, at the beginning of the era of digital videos we were very excited with the creative opportunities coming from new and longer formats, so we didn’t want to create pure ads (as if it was a bad thing to do).

Results? we often exceeded in creating stories where there’s little to no connection between what the brand stands for and the story itself.

There are in fact many examples of digital videos that are very good and successful stories with lots of views and engagement. But they tell nothing about the brand or the product they’re supposed to promote. Unless this is a specific objective of the brand, we’re not interested in this.

Over time we learned to tackle this issue even though the topic is still quite difficult to crack.

Personally I think good branding happens when:

  • The brand has a point of view to share and the story is clearly built around it (Adidas, Sainsbury, Dove are great examples)

  • The product has a clear and unique benefit to sell and you’ve found a great, surprising and interesting way to sell it (Volvo trucks)

  • The story is built around some product or brand benefit and we are clearly overdoing it in an exaggerated, humorous and funny way (dollarshave, Geko).


In this section I want to discuss about some structural peculiarities of online video that can contribute to an interesting storytelling before examining some of the most used techniques. In the next posts we will look at some practical techniques that creative adopt.

A classic ad (TVC style), I assume experienced marketers are familiar with this, is built on the linear problem-solution approach. The ad highlight the problem people have and the brand proposes its unique solution. Often we use celebrities, experts or testimonials to convince people further.

Moreover we need to operate in the rigid framework of the format (30, 15 or 6 seconds)

In the case of online videos, the approach becomes a lot more complex and at the same time is free from many constraints.

Let’s start from the biggest complexity: everyone can skip everything online so we need to produce content with the mindset that we are asking people to watch, not forcing them to do it.

This means attention is by far more important than ever, let alone the storytelling. We need to grab their attention in the first 5 sec and hold it for the whole duration of the video.

Here is the magic of creative teams but some practical considerations are important.

Grab attention by getting immediately into the peak of our story. Start from the peak and work your way through the end. No build up. If you think it as a graph, a traditional ad will start low, have a peak somewhere in the middle and fade down.

When it comes to a digital video, we want it to have a peak at the beginning, and continuous peaks over time, valleys twists and turns. It’s like riding a motorbike on mountains, as opposite on a flat motorway.

Starting from the bang can be done in few ways, for example if we have a strong unexpected visual, a visual effect, a core scene, we can plan for it to come just at the right beginning.

Sound can be very important and grab attention, it should be used with a strategy considering for example that on YT 95% watches a video with sound on as opposite of other platforms like FB where majority of videos are watched sound off.

One last trick often used to grab attention is breaking the fourth wall and speak directly to public.


We talked a lot about content, emotions and storytelling but there is some more technical trick I would like to share with you that come again from the specific context where we place our vides.

First consideration, majority of those videos will be watched from mobile. That’s why we say, build the video with mobile in mind. Mobile first. This leads to couple of technical points to address.

First is the frame, think about tight framing optimised for mobile first.

Second think about brightness, most probably those videos will be watched in high light environment and sometimes with low brightness on mobile itself, so we should make sure brightness is good enough, perhaps playing with high contrast imageries.

Third, a lot of times, our videos carry copy headlines, in that cases we must make sure we plan right readable font types and font sizes.

Last, the power of sound, videos are watched in different ways in different platforms, on FB most of the times is sound off, the opposite happens on YT.

This is a crucial consideration to make because in one case you might need subtitles, in the other case you would have important opportunities in playing with sound effects.

Moreover, as a lot of the usage will be through mobile, we need to consider that they will listen to our stories in crowded noisy spaces or with headphones.

Easy to think about this when you spell out those considerations, uh?

Still you can’t imagine how many ads are not produced considering those factors!

Stay tuned for more!


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