How visual storytelling improves native ad performance

Laura Montoya | Int'l Client Success Manager, BrandForge, DDM | @c_lauramontoya | February 1, 2017

Would you rather I tell you about an astronaut squeezing water out of a towel, or would you rather I show you? Certainly, show you! Nothing I could say would do the above gif justice.

"Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images," according to kissmetrics.

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than plain ol’ text, according to LivePlan. If this statistic seems like hyperbole, let me remind you of that time when you sat down through that 30-minute, 10-point font, no-images PowerPoint presentation. How was it? Tiring and boring, I’m sure, because your brain was on overdrive trying to process the information presented in plain (small) text. That, or you just gave up and tuned out.

How much better would that presentation have been if the visual aid (the PowerPoint) had actually been visual?

Your audience expects the same from the content you produce. And if that content happens to be native advertising, your clients should expect it too because ultimately your goal and their goal is to reach audience.

We’ve been seeing a positive impact with infographics and videos on our own native advertising campaigns, and we wanted to accommodate the increased demand we’ve had from our publishing partners. We’ve also begun offering these visual elements as part of our BrandForge service.

You should aim to give information to audiences in an appealing, entertaining and efficient way by adding visual elements to your native advertising stories. It takes only a tenth of a second to process visual information versus 50 seconds to read 250 words, according to NeoMan Studios (and with the average person’s attention span at 8 seconds, well, you do the math).

Infographics: data made accessible, beautiful

Infographics are a great tool. If they are executed right, they can enhance an article and give ample exposure to a brand. An infographic can give a brand high engagement, broad reach, significant shares (that can yield important demographic data), and social multi-platform exposure. Plus, they can be enough reason for readers to stop doing the Facebook or Insta scroll.

To get the visuals just right, I’d encourage you to think in images up front while you’re brainstorming the campaign, as opposed to adding them as an afterthought.

Here you can see a Halloween candy infographic the DDM’s Story Lab did for the Deseret News (yum!). See how potentially boring numbers were turned into visually appealing storytelling with easily digestible data?

This infographic happens to accompany an editorial piece, but it just as easily could have been sponsored (which is one sign of an effective native ad campaign).

Exercise:
1. Did this infographic spark enough curiosity for you to stop scrolling on this article?

2. Would you share it? From what you know of your audience, would they share it on FB?

3. Who can sponsor it? (I’d say grocery stores, convenience stores, dentists, local sweet shops, maybe some national brands.)

Let’s switch gears and talk about videos.

People, Google and Facebook love videos

You do too. Videos are incredibly useful for presenting common problems and then showing the solutions that a product/service can offer, which can be advantageous for a brand. Hacks and video explainers are great ways for brands to get traction with potential clients, do product placement, or get their target audience emotionally connected. Videos are a very effective storytelling medium. Plus, they are a phenomenal tool for conveying emotions (joy, fear, trust, sadness, happiness) all of which can increase shareability.

Let’s get a bit scientific. Simple Story Videos says:

"Seeing is Believing! The Fusiform Facial area is a brain function, which makes us prioritize the face as a crucial point of information. When we see people have emotional experiences (versus when we read about them) we are more likely to feel connected. ... People are more likely to remember information when it was received in an emotional state."

Boom! Empathy is the foundation of storytelling, and it also creates connection. Perhaps it is this emotional connection that feeds our need to share videos and images that we connect with. We want others to feel what we feel — and that can translate into social shares for a brand, even virality. Here’s a video we produced for FamilyShare’s FB page I Love My Family.

Exercise:
1. What did you feel while watching this video?

2. If you saw it on FB, would you tag your significant other?
If you’re the type who wouldn’t tag, share or like no matter how compelling the content is, consider that more than 11K people commented/tagged this video and 8K shared it. This combined engagement helped fuel the 6.3 million views, as of this writing.

3. Who can sponsor it? (Perhaps a jeweler, financial adviser, wedding planning service, hospital, lawyer, florist, reception center, an insurance company or Procter & Gamble.)

Reach mobile audiences wherever they are

Lastly, visual stories will enable you to reach the brand’s target audience where they actually are: on their mobile devices and “on-the-go.” Think of your own patterns of media consumption. Most people read stories on the train, on the bus, waiting for their table and as they walk from one place to another.

For more than three years, we’ve touted native advertising as a great mobile advertising solution because, like editorial articles, it displays well on mobile and isn’t subject to ad blockers or right-rail blindness. When enhanced with compelling visuals, the case is even stronger.