It’s time to write a suc­cess Story

More peo­ple than ever are watch­ing Sto­ries, but mar­keters are still ob­sessed with the Feed, writes

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

Ser­vi­ce­plan’s Rob McGovern says savvy mar­keters should be look­ing beyond the news feed to so­cial Sto­ries.

In the not-too-dis­tant past, the hum­ble News Feed was the cen­tre of all life on so­cial me­dia. Whether on Face­book, Twit­ter or In­sta­gram, this was where the ac­tion hap­pened. Snapchat shook up the scene with its van­ish­ing per­son-to-per­son pho­tos in 2012, but it wasn’t un­til the launch of the ‘Sto­ries’ fea­ture in Oc­to­ber 2013 that the fo­cus started shift­ing from scrol­lable feeds to more in­ti­mate and spon­ta­neous se­quences of videos that ef­fec­tively let every­one cul­ti­vate their own per­sonal re­al­ity TV chan­nel. In Au­gust 2016 this for­mat re­ally started to hit the main­stream when In­sta­gram in­tro­duced its ver­sion of Sto­ries. It proved so suc­cess­ful that its par­ent com­pany, Face­book, rolled it out across the Face­book and What­sApp apps six months later. Be­cause Sto­ries dis­ap­pear after 24 hours, they in­spire an ur­gency that most forms of so­cial shar­ing don’t. There’s noth­ing like a lit­tle FOMO to grab peo­ple’s at­ten­tion.

To­day, more than 1.2 bil­lion users share Sto­ries each day across In­sta­gram (400m+), Face­book/ Mes­sen­ger (300m+), What­sApp (450m+) and Snapchat (150m+). Peo­ple can’t get enough of them. Face­book chief prod­uct of­fi­cer Chris Cox has pre­dicted that Sto­ries will sur­pass feed posts as the top way to share by next year. Where eye­balls go, ad dol­lars are not usu­ally far be­hind. But it seems that mar­keters are a lit­tle slow on the up­take in shift­ing their spend to­wards Sto­ries from the News Feed. Mark Zucker­berg him­self has at­trib­uted some of the par­ent com­pany’s slow­ing rev­enue growth to an ex­plo­sion in In­sta­gram Sto­ries us­age. Ba­si­cally, pro­por­tion­ately fewer ads are be­ing seen in the Feed be­cause users are spend­ing more time watch­ing Sto­ries, but ad­ver­tis­ers haven’t yet made this leap them­selves.

The ads on Sto­ries are hard to ig­nore be­cause they take over the en­tire screen of the phone, of­fer­ing brands a large, in­ter­ac­tive can­vas to play with. Many brands that have taken the plunge with Sto­ries have re­ported a higher en­gage­ment over Feed ads, see­ing users swip­ing up to learn more about a prod­uct (as op­posed to clicking on an ad in the Feed) and gen­er­ally view­ing these ads for longer. While the Feed’s big­gest selling point has tra­di­tion­ally been a chance to reach more peo­ple, even this is about to change.

So why are ad­ver­tis­ers seem­ingly hes­i­tant to em­brace Sto­ries?

Ad­ver­tiser de­mand for new for­mats can typ­i­cally lag be­hind user en­gage­ment as mar­keters fig­ure out how to take ad­van­tage of them. Be­cause the way users con­sume Sto­ries is so dif­fer­ent from the way they con­sume con­tent in the Feed, ev­ery­thing from the cre­ative strat­egy to the story you want to tell needs a fresh con­sid­er­a­tion. Not to men­tion creat­ing the as­sets. The ver­ti­cal ad for­mat is still rel­a­tively un­com­mon out­side of Snapchat, so many ad­ver­tis­ers have a de­ci­sion to make over whether to adapt cur­rent as­sets for Sto­ries, or cre­ate them specif­i­cally from scratch – a po­ten­tially ex­pen­sive process. Ei­ther way, there is cer­tainly a learn­ing curve for brands to nav­i­gate to keep up with con­sumers’ evolv­ing dig­i­tal us­age.

For those first-mover brands, the ben­e­fits are real. In ad­di­tion to a po­ten­tial boost in viewa­bil­ity and en­gage­ment, a lack of ini­tial de­mand can lead to lower prices in the auc­tion-based ad en­vi­ron­ment, an op­por­tu­nity for savvy mar­keters that are quick to dive in. Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket­ing tech­nol­ogy com­pany 4C In­sights, the CPM (cost per 1,000 im­pres­sions) on Face­book Sto­ries, which only rolled out to the masses in Septem­ber, is cur­rently about 25 per cent cheaper than on the Feed, al­though this gap is ex­pected to di­min­ish over time.

As more and more plat­forms em­brace Sto­ries, and the ver­ti­cal ads that go with the ter­ri­tory, it will grad­u­ally be­come more worth­while for brands to cre­ate ver­ti­cal ad­ver­tis­ing con­tent. Both Net­flix and LinkedIn are plan­ning to in­tro­duce Sto­ries-style video for­mats over the com­ing months, while YouTube and What­sApp re­cently started rolling out ver­ti­cal video ads within their apps. Sim­i­larly, Snapchat has re­cently launched an­other new for­mat in the Mid­dle East that fea­tures lo­cally pro­duced con­tent, called Shows, which will also host ver­ti­cal ads

Face­book it­self has been try­ing to make ad­ver­tis­ing in Sto­ries sim­pler by al­low­ing ad­ver­tis­ers to eas­ily mod­ify their cur­rent as­sets for the ver­ti­cal for­mat, as well as si­mul­ta­ne­ously rolling them out on Sto­ries across both In­sta­gram and Face­book for max­i­mum reach. The com­pany has re­cently launched an ini­tia­tive to ed­u­cate SMEs and agen­cies on the ben­e­fits of Sto­ries.

The in­cred­i­ble pop­u­lar­ity of the Sto­ries for­mat is even fur­ther proof that we are well and truly in an era of vis­ual com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and Face­book knows how im­por­tant it is to get ads on Sto­ries right. Mark Zucker­berg ad­mit­ted as much back in April, when he said: “One of the in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges over the com­ing years will be mak­ing sure that ads are as good in Sto­ries as they are in Feeds. If we don’t do this well, then as more shar­ing shifts to Sto­ries, that could hurt our busi­ness.” With Face­book’s plat­forms ac­count­ing for more than 1 bil­lion of the 1.2 bil­lion daily Sto­ries users, they have more skin in the game than most.

As more and more plat­forms em­brace Sto­ries, and the ver­ti­cal ads that go with the ter­ri­tory, it will grad­u­ally be­come more worth­while for brands to cre­ate ver­ti­cal ad­ver­tis­ing con­tent.

Dig­i­tal project man­ager, Ser­vi­ce­plan Mid­dle East @ RobMcGov ROBERT MCGOVERN

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