Americans viewed something like 5.6 billion video adverts during January of this year, with the average viewer seeing nearly 40 video adverts during that period.  Now I don't know about you all but whenever I encounter a video ad on YouTube I nearly always mute the content and do something else until the ad has gone and I can watch the content I actually wanted to watch.  The whole concept has about as much appeal to me as an advert on television, as both mediums get in the way of what we want to do.  The best ads actually help us do what we want to do.

Anyway, that mini rant over, it seems the format is still very popular, at least judging by the numbers mentioned earlier, so how can you go about making your video ad as effective as possible?  Some new research might go a way to helping you.  They used eye tracking technology and facial recognition detection to determine what kind of content really grabs users and what turns us off.

The results are perhaps not that surprising.  For decades now marketers have been told that the first goal of any piece of content is to grab the attention of the user (the A of AIDA).  This research confirms that basic principle, suggesting that the best video adverts begin by surprising the viewer, and then follow that up with something that prompts a joyful response from us.

"We found that surprise improved attention concentration more than joy did, and joy improved viewer retention more than surprise did, revealing the dual routes to ad effectiveness that these two related, but distinct, emotions play," say study authorsThales Teixeira of Harvard University, Michel Wedel of the University of Maryland and Rik Pieters of Tilburg University. The authors say marketers can use these research findings to help create video ads that get and keep consumers' attention while conveying the desired message.

How to grab attention

I think priming plays a big part here.  For ads like the Old Spice Guy for instance, the adverts were strong content pieces in their own right and were therefore widely discussed on the web.  In that instance grabbing attention wasn't as important because the community engagement had already done that before people had even hit the play button.

There are lots of ads like this that act as strong content pieces in their own right.  Many have proved so popular that videos have been produced showcasing how the ads were made.  For instance the video explaining how the Sony Bravia bouncing balls advert was made has been viewed nearly 700,000 times in its own right, in addition to the 3.7 million people that have watched the advert itself.

So I'm going to have to disagree that the key to success with a video advert is to surprise the user because I'm not at all convinced people want to be surprised.  They want to watch the content they'd clicked to see.  The key for a successful advert is to make your advert a piece of content that people would choose to click and see.  Do that and you're on to a winner.  Get in my way and you're just going to piss me off.