The first objective of any successful video campaign is to capture viewers’ attention. If viewers swipe out of your video within the first few seconds of viewing, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of it is.
We’re bombarded with more video content than ever before, and as such, convincing viewers not to swipe away is harder than ever. Each video has only precious seconds to convince us it’s worth our time. How do you capture and maintain viewers attention in this short time frame? Keep reading to learn the top three strategies you can use to hook your viewer right away.
#1 Open with an irresistible question or proposition.
Text is a fantastic way to communicate to your viewers that if they keep watching, they’re going to take something valuable away from your video. The best ways to do this are to come up with a question that virtually everyone wants answered, outline a valuable piece of knowledge that viewers will take away from your video, or make a statement that generates a lot of curiosity.
Take a look at this video from HubSpot as an example.
This video opens up with a text overlay that reads “How to convince your boss to let you work from home.” This tells viewers right away why they should keep watching. It’s also phrased in a way that addresses a very specific obstacle standing between viewers and their assumed goal—to work from home. Rather than saying “how to work from home,” or “how to ask for more work from home days,” HubSpot makes an honest statement about what viewers need to do if they want to work from home. Addressing viewers with this point blank honesty is much more effective at capturing attention since we’re so used to advertisers dancing around the point.
The custom business card company, Moo, is another great example of a company that uses text to convince viewers that sticking around past the first few seconds of their video will be worth their time. Moo does this by opening their video with green text on a blank background that reads “We asked four CEOs which piece of tech they absolutely, definitely, categorically couldn’t live without.”
There’s a reason why there’s entire sections in bookstores dedicated to business books that teach you how to become a CEO. In our cultural imagination, CEOs are borderline supernatural—masters of the universe and holders of the secrets of success. Even if you don’t want to be a CEO, surely you would at least be interested in learning what habits and strategies they used to become successful. That’s what makes Moo’s video opener so genius.
Try replicating this technique with an opener that’s aligned with your product and industry. Have a business that falls into the health and wellness category? Consider opening with a sentence like “We asked five pro athletes what daily health supplement they couldn’t live without.” Even if you don’t plan on becoming a pro athlete, virtually everyone is interested in being healthier. Who wouldn’t give 30 seconds of their time to learn what someone embodying the pinnacle of human health considers to be an important daily health supplement?
The last example of this strategy comes from a video by Moe’s Southwest Grill. The video opens up with white text in the centre of an all black background. “Do not try this at home,” appears on the screen. A second goes by and “in a field,” appears, followed by “or anywhere.” At this point, the first 5 seconds of the video have already gone by, and the sentence reads in full “Do not try this at home, in a field, or anywhere.” Would you still be watching? Of course you would. This is another great example of a video opener that uses text to create an irresistible curiosity in viewers. Who could read a sentence like that and not stick around at least a few more seconds to see what is going to happen next?
#2 Lead with a great character
Think about the best commercials you’ve seen in your lifetime. Surely Apple’s “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials will come to mind. How about the Old Spice commercials where an obscenely handsome man comes riding in on a horse and delivers an over the top monologue about smelling good? And we can’t forget about Dos Equis’s “Most interesting man in the world” commercials. What do all of these commercials have in common? They lead with an entertaining and often absurd character that viewers can connect with (and as an extension, with the brand.)
Even if you use Speed Stick and don’t plan on switching brands, when you see a new Old Spice commercial appear on TV, chances are you’ll happily dedicate the next 15 – 20 seconds of your life to hearing the handsome man’s latest monologue.
What these commercials demonstrate is the power of leading with a memorable character. Virtually nobody is going to connect on any sort of emotional level with a bar of deodorant. But by attaching an entertaining character to their brand, Old Spice successfully convinced millions of viewers that their brand deserved attention.
Even if hitting a home run like the Old Spice or Dos Equis commercials is unlikely, you can still get creative and create a character that will capture viewers’ attention. Take a look at the mattress company Purple’s “raw egg test” video as a great example of this. On Youtube, Purple’s ad currently has over 180 million views. That’s 180 million views…for a mattress commercial.
#3 Embrace the absurd
The commercials we talked about in the previous section don’t only highlight the importance of leading with a memorable character, but the power of absurdity in advertising. This rule is bedrock in video advertising, and no wonder why—it works.
One of the reasons why absurdity works so well isn’t just because it’s entertaining. Our brains actuallyremember the “peculiar” more easily than the mundane. Creating outrageous images in the mind and relating them to something you want to remember is a memory trick used by professionalmemory “athletes”, which dates back to ancient Greece. In other words, using absurdity in your video won’t just capture viewers’ attention—it will help them remember your brand.
Here’s another great advertisement by Purple that demonstrates the absurdity principle.
From the moment the commercial begins, viewers are sucked in by a barrage of colourful outfits, splashy video graphics, and the over-the-top scenario of two sumo-wrestlers fighting on top of a mattress. Chances are this video is more entertaining than whatever viewers were doing before (working, sitting on the bus, scrolling through social media etc.) and they will gladly watch the sumo-wrestler fight to the end. The proof is in the views—Purple’s “sumo approved” mattress commercial was viewed over 12 million times on YouTube.
Looking for more great examples of attention grabbing video ads?
Here is another ad that incorporated the techniques we discussed in this article and had astounding success.