Devra Prywes is the US vice president for marketing and insight at Unruly, a video ad tech company which taps emotional metrics to create highly impactful, shareable ads. This fall, Unruly has been turning their eye toward political ads as the US presidential campaign heats up.
Although political ads and brand campaigns operate differently, both are affected by trends in advertising (like the rise of live-streaming video). And in today’s highly politicized climate, the line between brands and politics is becoming thinner than ever. What can today’s brands learn from political ads? Below, Devra shares her thoughts.
How has video changed things for brands over the last couple of years?
In 2015, over a million ads launched. This year, we’re ready to see far more than that launch online. When you look at the role of video, all these different video formats are having an impact, even live-streaming—Periscope, and Meerkat. Live-streaming really came into its own with Facebook Live, but it was the Chewbacca Mom phenomenon that put it on the map.
Those million ads that launched online last year, that’s in addition to personal videos and photos, pictures of people’s birthday parties. There’s just such a glut of content that people are drowning. So the savvy brands that are able to be successful here are making content that people want to watch. The power dynamic has shifted. And no longer is it forcing ads on people, creating this really interruptive experience.
The consumer has more choice than ever before. There’s so much content out there that if something is interrupting their experience, they’ll just bounce. They can find similar articles somewhere else, they can talk to different social networks. And all of this consumer choice is really putting them in the driver’s seat.
Let’s pivot to politics. Are you seeing stronger user response to video related to politics and political issues, compared to in the past?
It’s been really interesting. Even just looking at this campaign—it’s been going on for two years. Even if we just look at this campaign season, we see giant shifts where the old rules don’t apply. It used to be about fundraising to blast people on TV. There have been models—a certain number of TV views, TV exposure or media spend that can correlate to polls.
But even in the course of this campaign, that’s shifted. Hillary, at this point, has outspent Trump by a factor of 7 to 1. With the shock value of everything he was saying, he was getting so much free media airtime that he really didn’t have to invest in ads. In April it was estimated that he had gotten about 2 billion dollars in free airtime. In May, that number was up to 3 billion.
What’s also really interesting is the types of ads that we’re seeing. Usually, you would see ads of various candidates talking about their platforms and their various messages, their platforms that they want to get out there. The fact that Hillary is having such success by using Trump’s words against him, that’s been a big tactic. You can think of it as brand hijacking.
Do you see a lot of parallels between political campaigns and brand campaigns?
We track over 100 different social variables, but the number one thing that provides ad sharing—whether it’s a political ad, whether it’s a brand ad—is intensity of emotional response. So we always tell advertisers, pick the emotions that make sense for you. Take Coke—their platform is Happiness. Pick the emotions that make sense for you, and then hit them with intensity—like a 9 or 10 on the scale of intensity.
With political ads, we’re seeing a lot of different emotions rise to the top. We tested, just to get a flavor, one ad for the Trump campaign and one ad for the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Trump ad was a “
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