Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Psychology of Viral Advertising

In an article from the  Harvard Business Review written by Thales Teixeira.  Teixeria an assistant professor at Harvard Business School.  Used infrared eye-tracking scanners to determine where people look  when watching video ads, along with analysing their facial expressions.
These technologies make it possible to isolate elements that cause people to stop watching and to find ones that keep them engaged. In addition, they make it possible to determine what kinds of ads are most likely to be shared and what types of people are most likely to share them.
From the research, five large problems that online advertisers might face surfaced. They are as follows:
Problem 1: Prominent Branding Puts Off Viewers.
Eye-tracking showed that people focus on a few things, such as the actors’ mouths and eyes. Also, logos. But, they found out that the more prominent or intrusive the logo, the more likely viewers are to stop watching (even if they know and like the brand).
Teixeira offers an explanation for the phenomenon, 
“people seem to have an unconscious aversion to being persuaded, so when they see a logo, they resist.”
Solution: Through something that Teixeira calls “brand pulsing”, ie, unobtrusively weaving the brand image throughout the ad – which can increase viewership by as much as 20%.
A good example is Coca-Cola’s “Happiness Factory"

Problem 2: People Get Bored Right Away
This research found that keeping viewers engaged with an ad depends on two emotions:

 joy and surprise. If you want your video to be spread, then you need  to be able to convey at least one of these reactions and early on in the video – or else people will move on to the next one.

That’s what happens with big ads that escalate to the finish and leave the best to the end. If you don’t engage the viewers early on, by the end they may all be gone.

Solution: it’s rather obvious, create joy or surprise on the first moments of the ad. The example given here is Bud Light’s “Swear Jar”:
Problem 3: People Watch for a While but Then Stop.
This one goes hand in hand with the 2nd one: if people are not interested or engaged in the first moments, then they will stop watching and move to the next thing on their browser. They found that “ads that produce stable emotional states generally aren’t effective at engaging viewers for very long.”
Solution: “Build an emotional roller coaster. Viewers are most likely to continue watching a video ad if they experience emotional ups and downs. This fits with psychological-research findings about human adaptability. When we come into a warm home on a cold winter day, or when we receive a pay raise, we experience pleasure, but the feeling is transitory; the novelty soon wears off. So advertisers need to briefly terminate viewers’ feelings of joy or surprise and then quickly restore them, creating an emotional roller coaster—much the way a movie generates suspense by alternating tension and relief.”
Problem 4: People Like an Ad but Won’t Share It.
Another interesting bit coming from this research is that getting many people to watch a video doesn’t mean they will necessarily make it viral or share it. Experiments from Teixeira show that “even though people may enjoy an ad themselves, they won’t always send it to others. In particular, I found that although shock may get people to watch an ad privately, it often works against their desire to share the spot.”
The author states that with this problem, Bud Light’s “Clothing Drive” is a good example, as it was similar in viewing with “Swear Jar”, but not as much shared as the previous Bud ad – “The nudity was too shocking.”
That is  a good point to keep in mind when producing  a viral ad. 
Solution; Surprise but don't shock, "Roller Babies" an add
that uses all three strategies mentioned above;
unobtrusive brand;
strong hook in first seconds;
several non-continuous emotional sequences.

Problem 5: People Still Won’t Share the Ad.
As much as people like the ad, only a small ammount of people who watch the ad will share it. Teixeira’s research shows that “whether or not an ad is shared depends as much on the personality types of viewers as on the ad itself.”
Solution: Would be to target the viewers who will share the ad.  By  identifying  “two attributes of people who frequently share ads: Extroversion and egocentricity“!