Top Creative Minds Share How Visual Content On Digital Evolved In 2015

Chief Creative Officers and Senior Creative Directors of the industry talk about the evolution of visual content: videos, GIFs, forms of storytelling, cinema graphs and more

2015 can be safely renamed as the year of content for the marketer. Ask any marketer and he will definitely say that Video played the major role. With product taking backstage and storytelling playing the lead, we also found long format digital films becoming the norm. As if suddenly we found a new safe ground on digital but that isn’t true.

Along with video content, digital marketers and their agencies focused on creating real time visuals and GIFs. Not only has the quality of visual content improved but brand connect has been interesting too.

“I find it fascinating that early man’s first attempt at communication was visual, remember cave drawings? We seem to have come a full circle, all that has changed are the tools. From stick and stone etchings on cave walls to styli and touch sensitive screens,” points out Vinayak Upadhyay, CCO, Digital Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi in an email conversation with Lighthouse Insights.

Further he adds: “The reason is simple. We think ‘visual’ as a species. Our brains apparently are able to process visuals far quicker than text.  Approximately 60,000 times faster. Small wonder visual based content in the digital space is booming. It’s a platform that supports bite sized communication as well as long formats. It’s a boon for today’s social and commercial storytellers who are no longer restricted by the constructs of television formats.  And also, unlike TV, the visual medium in the online space is interactive allowing you to participate, tweak, share and do so much more.”

Today we prefer to view content at a glance using images, infographics and videos. “Our brains decode visual information much faster than text. It is not surprising then, that YouTube has become the second largest search engine,” shared Behzad Gazder, Creative Director at LIQVD Asia.

To understand how visual content has evolved in 2015, Lighthouse Insights spoke to the Creative Directors, Senior Creative Directors and Chief Creative Officers of the industry. Shared below are their edited excerpts:

Prashant Kohli, The Glitch

Video content in 2015: There are two words that I would use to encapsulate this – Customisation & Innovation.

Customisation: Video content is no more generic across all platforms. Brands/content makers alike have realized the offering of various platforms that natively host video – YT, FB, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and while a 15 second product/brand centric approach has ruled Instagram, 5 second Pre roll tags are what interest brands the most on YouTube. This might hint towards content getting shorter, and that’s something none of us can deny.

While long format storytelling ruled digital in 2014, there is a definite shift towards short snack-able content keeping in tune with the consumer’s content consumption habits. They have also shown a significant shift from desktops to mobile devices.

Some examples that hint towards the above trend: Good-day revamped packaging reveal, Lacoste Winter Croc Series, Lakme Fashion Week Instagram content (Glitch), Kurkure Festival Video series (Glitch), Kit Kat’s take a break video series, etc.

Innovation: While interactive videos ruled the roost a couple of years back, they were up for a facelift. Boom came the 360 videos, Dubsmashes, Honda R campaign, Mini Cooper’s pre roll game and most importantly Volvo’s winning video strategy turning YouTube into a hub for content. This is something brands have tried in the past but without a real vision.

Volvo really understood the difference between formats and genres. While the auto world was busy doing showcase and test drives, Volvo went ahead and did Van Dam, Truck Stunt, Casino, Reality road and the most recent Look Who’s driving: Sophie.

At Glitch we have tried to be the first movers in the space of customization by creating a service we are calling “Content Engine”. You can read about it here.

Abhishake Das, ibs

The communication landscape has been steadily changing. This year we saw the emergence of motion through film content, cinemagraphs or the 8-bit animation. Mostly due to autoplay option on Facebook, I think it’s finally why brands have warmed up to the motion graphics, and it’s a good thing.

Anadi Sah, Isobar

Visual content has evolved at multiple aspects in 2015. While we saw the shift from textual to visually-rich content, over the second half of the year storytelling pumped life into it. The media channels also fostered this trend by offering numerous opportunities to explore it further. The opportunities ranged from carousal ads on Facebook to native-based visual content on Instagram, which are a visual delight for the audience and go beyond hard selling of the product. E.g. PaperboatOreo.

There have been interesting formats like cinemagraph that have also taken visual storytelling to the next level by giving a twist to GIF based content. The year also saw the evolution of the short-form video sharing platforms, Vine, Dubmash and Boomerang has found itself in the wish-list of brands. Talking about content we can’t miss messenger services, who not only helped content go viral but also introduced a funny visual dialect of its own called emojis. E.g. Durex, Coke.

In terms of videos, we saw long-format storytelling by many brands in this year. There were enough reasons and occasions, which gave brands fantastic opportunities to weave and narrate a story capitalizing on the micro-moment in the consumer’s life. Philips India leveraged this chance by busting the myth, ‘Snoring is a sign of a sound sleep’; the story is currently being showcased in cinemas and will soon release online. The truck brand Eicher also produced an interesting video during Diwali around drinking responsibly targeted to truck drivers. E.g. EicherRedBull.

Anita Rajagopalan, BC Web Wise

2015 has seen a rapid upsurge in compelling visual content. With video content being permitted on FB, Twitter and Instagram the creative boundaries have been pushed further. Every day we see new innovations to make the brands stand apart from the competition.

Brands are in a better position to move away from the standard visual associations of a particular industry to newer ways of communicating the same idea. One such excellent viral was Shisheido’s Makeup Ad With High School Girls. While on one hand it showcases the power of Shiseido products to transform, it also deals very elegantly with sensitive transgender issues.

Kv Sridhar, SapientNitro

There is a lot of focus on use of graphic design and impactful cinema graphs. Visual storytelling is gaining traction. Typography too is becoming part of visual story. Never before designers are valued as much as today. Check out some cool cinema graphs. One of the great examples of using graphic design and stylish typography – Boone Selections.

Boondoggle/ Return to hope Afghan stories are great examples of visual storytelling that use both static pictures and rich videos.

Vinayak Upadhyay, Digital Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi

In the last couple of years, photo and video friendly social networks such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr and Vine apart from the mother hub YouTube have seen ginormous growth all across the world. It’s a trend that’s going to influence how humans communicate going forward. People will go beyond watching movies, playing games, shopping, sharing, flirting (or having virtual sex), learning, doing business and so much more, all on their screens.

Most brands in the advertising space have cottoned on to this truth and are devising strategies to stay ahead of the curve. Aiming to catch people at their most receptive.

Behzad Gazder, LIQVD Asia

Pinterest and Instagram have gained popularity and are being used as primary image sharing/editing apps (for end users). Storytelling as the most effective branding strategy is gaining momentum and all signs point to – visual content growing bigger, and that’s where the future of content marketing is headed.

In 2015, we saw, YouTube cementing itself as a brand-marketing channel. Brands have been falling over themselves trying to have a presence on YouTube. This means that brands now can take their influencer campaigns to a whole new level. Content like infographics and data visualisation have become alternatives to data-rich text.  These days memes are everywhere. As trending hashtags like #BreakTheInternet sensationalized the web, memes have become Internet’s latest obsession.

George Kovoor, OgilvyOne Worldwide

Video has always been one of THE most popular choice of consumption for consumers be it for entertainment or information. And this is completely device agnostic- from big movie screens to the smallest mobile screens the consumer’s hunger for video content just seems to keep growing.

In the last few years, brands have been quick to embrace video as medium of digital storytelling. Digital storytelling was one of the biggest buzz words in 2015 and several brands created compelling and engaging stories.

In India too brands created TV commercials with one eye on trending on social media. The Tata Sky Daily Recharge Daily Romance, Nescafe Stammer, Fortune Mother Exchange broke the traditional mould of TV commercials and built a great fan following online.

Carlton D’Silva, Hungama Digital Services

I believe the biggest evolution we saw in 2015 was the rediscovery of GIFs. This was also attributed to the same becoming Facebook compatible. Dubsmash also made Indian content consumers more participative from the voyeurs that we were.

All in all visual content had a surge of activity from a brand stand point too. Brands became a bit more innovative in their content marketing strategy and were not just simply making longer versions of their TVCs for the medium.

Ashwin Dutt, Tonic Media

Visual trumps text. Visual content has been around for a long time, but it’s back in business with a bang particularly due to mobile. GIFs have been the flavour of the year. Booking.com did an interesting campaign where they converted users summer holiday pics into GIFs. Ruffles created a first-of-its-kind series of GIF comic books.

Last year saw the rise of immersive 360 videos. Facebook partnered with Star Wars to create an inventive 360 video which went viral instantly. Check out targets Halloween 360 video.

Also with AIB launching Vigyapanti – an agency that claims to be a campaign enabler for startups – is proof that content marketing is key.