3 Keys from Google on the UnSkippable Future of Storytelling 

Do you think advertising is all about brand awareness? Creative Director of Google’s Unskippable Labs, Ben Jones, would argue that you’re wrong.

Ben had spent decades creating advertising campaigns when, on a hunch, he created UnSkippable Labs from within Google to perform a series of experiments. The bottom line results of these where that no one really understands viewing habits anymore – not even Google.

I caught up with Ben to talk about what they found when they started getting forensic about where, what and why we consume the content we consume. In one hour he shared a guide to marketing in a new age of storytelling, how Netflix has become the master of our attention and why recognising ‘choice points’ is now the most vital tool vital in creating compelling content. CLICK HERE for the full interview. Here also are my three top take aways from our conversation.

How the rise of mobile has changed the game of storytelling

The unlimited access to content that mobile has provided us has fanned the flame – in fact, we’ve never been hungrier for content. In particular, for stories. That means advertising which focuses on the old best practice of just providing brand awareness, doesn’t engage with us anymore.

According to Ben, we consume one billion hours of screen time every day. In the hunt to know how that screen time could be most effectively used for advertising, his team conducted a live experiment, running three versions of a Mountain Dew advertisement on mobile. The highest engagement was with the ‘pure fun’ execution. An advert that didn’t look like a advert – and that barely mentioned the brand. In other words where the agenda was to provide value – in this case entertainment – rather than to sell.

Why content length is the wrong metric for capturing (and keeping) attention

The traditional viewpoint is the shorter the better, when it comes to creating content for a technology savvy and attention deficient world. But it turns out it’s not about length, it’s about choice. Because attention spans are fluid, people make up their minds quickly – however once they’re in, they are prepared to consume HUGE amounts. Think of the last time you binge watched an entire season of House of Cards in one day.

According to Ben, advertisers need to jump into the action fast – by recognising that viewers will quickly reach a ‘choice point’ where they decide whether to continue. For Youtube it’s literally 5 seconds until the ‘Skip’ button appears. However, once we’re hooked, the content can actually be much longer than anyone originally thought.

What makes a compelling online video – and why it’s not what you think

Traditionally, highly produced and glamorous content saw one result – persuasion. And yet, with the rise of online video, bloggers, influencers and a new generation that values authenticity more than any other. There has been a huge demographic split when it comes to the level of production that actually persuades.

Ben and the Unskippable team discovered this when running a series of ads for L’Oréal. While older viewers preferred highly-produced content – beautiful sets, celebrity names and plenty of air-brushing. A raw and authentic version of the ad (basically a teenager sat talking casually in a supply closet) was more persuasive to younger generations. This led him to the conclusion that the best results for advertising campaigns can be found – not in creating different content for different platforms – but instead by creating different content for different target demographics.

This new digital landscape has enabled us to immerse ourselves in our passions – after all, it’s never been easier or faster to learn more about what interests us. However, when it comes to engagement in the long term, the findings of Google and the UnSkippable Labs team are clear – brands and advertisers now need to learn to tell a better story.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration of what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes, or juliemasters.com.

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