Advertising campaigns for video streaming services often lack clear and obvious branding, writes Kantar UK’s Zoe Denny.
Video on-demand (VOD) brands are under pressure. After record numbers of people signed up to subscription services during the pandemic, we’ve seen demand fall as restrictions have eased. Against this backdrop, the spectre of inflation is now looming. People are looking at their monthly budgets and searching for ways to make savings.
Streaming services have been on the chopping block for many. In the first three months of 2022 alone, Kantar Worldpanel data shows that 1.5 million VOD subscriptions were cancelled, with cancellations outnumbering new sign-ups by 300,000. Amid this battle for customers, the way that platforms promote and advertise themselves has never been so important to convince consumers why their brand is the one they simply can’t do without.
Entertainment brands are investing significantly in content and advertising – they were the biggest advertising spenders in the UK last year. But this investment isn’t working as hard as it could be. Crucially, our analysis shows that VOD brands aren’t reaping the commercial rewards from their ad campaigns.
Lights, camera, action!
So what makes great streaming advertising? There is a lot that VOD brands can learn from wider creative techniques, and some are already successfully putting these into practice.
The first thing to recognise is that people like adverts that get them to feel something – and that’s particularly the case for VOD marketing. We know that humour is the most powerful way of making consumers more receptive to an ad, across all age groups. In fact, people’s engagement with funny ads increases by half compared with non-humorous content.
For streaming services, however, it doesn’t just have to be about people feeling good. Consumers still react positively about VOD trailers even when they provoke negative emotions like fear or sadness. What’s most important in trailers is that they sell the story, and get people hooked – without giving away the entire plot.
Getting celebrity faces on screen is also a good way to boost consumer engagement. Our use of facial coding analysis, which tracks consumers’ emotional reactions as they watch adverts, shows peaks in audience expressiveness when they see a famous person. Streaming services should therefore use the recognisable faces from their shows front and centre in ads, getting them into clips early to get people hooked.
Wielding brand power
Streaming services are getting a lot right when it comes to advertising, but there is one major area where they are falling down: clear and obvious branding.
Prominent branding is the most important predictor of whether an ad will translate into commercial success. Yet our testing found that consumers struggle to identify which brand a streaming ad is for. Streaming service adverts score 13 percentage points lower for their branding than the average base line for all adverts in the UK.
In most VOD ads, the brand assets tend to appear at the beginning and end of a clip as a ‘bookend’. This approach is not strong enough. As services invest more and more into high quality content to attract viewers, they need to make sure they close the loop on that investment by helping consumers associate content directly with their platform.
There’s undoubtedly a tricky balance that advertisers must grapple with. Overt branding shouldn’t come at the expense of the overall ad experience. Some streaming services have done this successfully by weaving the brand creatively into the content. Disney+, for example, has blended its logo with the iconic lightsabre for the new Obi Wan Kenobi series. Doing so helps to build associations between the Star Wars franchise and the Disney brand.
It's also important for services to demonstrate difference and make themselves stand out. Film franchises or longer running series can be valuable for this – most people know that shows like Stranger Things or Bridgerton are Netflix programmes, or that Line of Duty is BBC. By leaning on and encouraging these associations streaming platforms can make sure people recognise their individual offer.
VOD services should also think about balancing trailers with ‘showreel’ ads, which highlight different content available on the platform. These demonstrate the unique selling point of the streaming business, and help to attract a wider audience with just one ad.
Boost your brand power
It’s a challenging market for VOD services at the moment. Streaming platforms are competing for the same space, but the room to accommodate them all is getting smaller. In this context, their investment in content and ads has got to work harder to pay commercial dividends. Focusing on branding adverts to help consumers connect the great content with the service hosting it is critical if VOD services want to weather this inflation storm.