How to Make Mobile Video Shine in Spite of Constraints

Capturing the attention of social audiences in the first place isn’t always easy, but in the crowded field of social, keeping your audience’s attention—and winning their patronage—can be even more difficult, especially in the ever-changing social landscape. As audiences migrate to mobile, brands have to keep up, and doing so while remaining creative can be a challenge. Mobile video isn’t just a scaled-down version of video designed for larger screens—mobile video is a unique medium and digital marketers haven’t had a whole lot of time to get used to it. But at Smart Social Summit this fall, we heard from several brands who don’t let the constraints of mobile get in the way—brands that are actually using mobile innovations to create unique expressions of content.

“There’s a common thread that unites all digital marketers: disruption,” said Julia Steyn, VP of Urban Mobility and Maven at General Motors, during her Summit keynote presentation this fall. And cars, added Steyn, are on the forefront of disruption—think: the major shift to ridesharing and car sharing, and even driverless vehicles. GM’s campaign content must therefore match the creative and innovative places cars are headed and at Maven, the digital team is undoubtedly succeeding:

This spot is designed for mobile audiences, most of whom watch video with the sound off. The entire message is conveyed with little to no text and no words at all. Instead, the creative line drawings and animations themselves tell a story. Maven’s mobile video is designed with millennials—Maven’s target audience—in mind: the ad showcases Maven’s fleet as a service that connects people, makes everyday tasks and exploring easier, and gives people the freedom of transportation without the burden of ownership, Steyn explained.

Read on to see three more recent mobile videos that demonstrate how mobile’s constraints can lead to creativity.

Incorporating the Mobile Device

“I hear from marketers: ‘Ugh, mobile—I can't tell a story, I have a small space, it’s the death of creative,’ but I say: Think about the strengths of mobile as a way to harness creativity,” Kristine Segrist, Head of Consumer Media at Facebook said.

Segrist’s team works on distribution and media at Facebook where they spend a lot of time thinking about video for mobile feeds. From her experience she’s gathered effective techniques for building digital campaigns for the social mobile environment—a medium that’s becoming more important by the day.

“Short and powerful video holds up over time,” explained Segrist. Short is important when it comes to mobile: folks will spend an average of 2.5 seconds on video content, but that drops to 1.7 seconds with mobile, Segrist said. Still, Segrist shared that mobile audiences are consuming an astounding amount of video: 56% of social video impressions now come from mobile devices and the number is expected to climb to 75% in the next three years. As such, smart brands are reimagining video for a mobile environment, Segrist explained. Video works bc it conveys emotion quickly and can drive impact. Segrist offered a recent ad for Purina cat food in which a cat "licks" the material off the screen, revealing itself. This ad is custom-built for a mobile audience and because of that, leaves a lasting impact on viewers.


Choosing Mobile Quality Over Professional Quality

Mobile video is truly its own medium: it’s meant to be immediate and intimate and it promises viewers an “insider’s” peek into events to which they might not otherwise have access. Often then, video we might consider to be of lesser quality—video shot off-the-cuff with an iPhone, for instance—ends up performing better than polished, professional-quality video.

Charlie Grinnell, Head of Social Media at fashion retailer Aritzia, described just such an occurrence from his days leading strategy at Red Bull: his team shot two videos for Red Bull—one was professional, fancy, and yes, expensive—and the other was shot using an iPhone. Surprisingly, on social, the iPhone video performed much better:

“I paid a whopping $750 of my budget to send someone with an iPhone there, and they captured that,” Grinnell explains. “Which is “good”? It’s really interesting when you see the difference—it doesn’t always have to be fancy to be good.”

Social video doesn’t always have to be fancy to be good. — @charliegrinnell


The challenge now with social, said Grinnell, is reaching large groups of people one person at a time through content. And Grinnell’s experience demonstrates that the solution can often be found in sticking close to the intimate—and even unpolished—origins of mobile video.

Working with What You Have

Live Nation is the biggest producer of live events in the world: they support over 3200 artists in 40 countries at over 28,000 events each year—that’s one concert every 18 seconds. Their challenge is developing content that works for their brand and the brand of each of their artists.

“We are constantly collaborating, and testing, and changing formats, and it’s something that’s constantly evolving and we have a lot of fun with it,” Julia Heiser, EVP of Digital Marketing for US Concerts at Live Nation, said of her team. Heiser spoke of the sometimes-imperfect nature of the content they have to work with on social: sometimes, she said, all they have is an ad map for the tour, or a single live shot, so to make the content compelling, they get creative. “One of the things we do is we’ll take a still shot and add motion and graphics. It really helps bring a still shot to life and it can take a boring jpeg and really give it some spice.”

Limited content doesn’t have to discourage your social team: instead, let it inspire their creativity.

“It’s not that large companies don’t have innovative people, you just have to learn how to do it,” said Steyn, adding that companies must retrain their teams to embrace new opportunities. With Maven, GM did just that: Maven is independent within GM and thrives on a dynamic—even conflict-laden—environment. “More than half the team is millennials,” said Steyn. “Most CEOs don’t sit in meetings with 20-year-olds who tell them they’re dead wrong, but I do, and I love it.” Her team, says Steyn, is driven by the opportunity to change the future (of transportation)—something all forward-thinking digital teams can get behind as they embrace our increasingly mobile future.

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Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.