Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Creating Thumb-Stopping Content

Published in Nov-Dec 2021

If you want your profits to go vertical, adapt to vertical storytelling in your mobile campaigns, advises Tay Guan Hin.

Just look around – everyone is glued to their mobile devices. 24/7. Even during the pandemic, mobile data traffic increased. All of us are guilty of spending time playing with apps, scrolling through social feeds and searching on Google. If we had to narrow it down to a primary cause, this significant jump in data usage is because of mobile video. Cisco in its latest Whitepaper reports that mobile video traffic now accounts for two-thirds (63%) of all mobile data traffic and will grow to account for nearly four-fifths (79%) of all mobile data traffic by 2022 – representing a nine-fold increase since 2017.

Yet, not many brands are taking advantage of their consumer’s mobile behaviour. Why is content still created horizontally when 94% of us hold our phones vertically? Why would we even bother to flip it around to watch a video from a brand horizontally? Aren’t most of us lazy? Shouldn’t we be making our content more accessible for customers to watch? To engage customers today, you have to be creative in your approach. Try not to think outside the box – instead, start thinking within the 9:16 box. By utilising the vertical format, you will create content that maximises the full potential of the mobile screen and increases your brand’s online presence. If your mobile content is not presented in the correct format, it will not effectively engage your consumers. 

We scroll through 300 feet of content every single day. We are currently living in an online world of massive information. People are continually fed attention-seeking content from social media posts as well as news and entertainment promotions. It has become easy to swipe away information deemed irrelevant. 

So, how can brands effectively grab people’s attention with online content, be it our social circle, business network, or customers? Do you have what it takes to create thumb-stopping vertical content? If your content is terrible, the thumb will scroll, swipe or delete immediately. If your content is good, the only action you want is a thumbs up to get the “likes.” 

To help brands get their vertical storytelling right, here are three tips that will set you on your way to creating thumb-stopping content.

1 Frame Your Story

Crop your content to maximise the full mobile 9:16 frame size for a more immersive experience. Landscape visuals work best on a giant movie screen, where you can sit back and relax. However, with a vertical format, it’s up close and personal, so it is essential to frame your shots in a way that holds viewers’ attention and keeps them engaged at arm’s length. Try to tell stories from a different perspective. 

BBDO Singapore worked with Visa on a mobile-first campaign to support small businesses. The campaign, ‘Visa Supports Small Businesses’, extends the global initiative ‘Where You Shop Matters’ across to Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The capsule campaign for smartphones includes three vertical videos, which BBDO created and produced (remotely via live stream due to social distancing). It highlights three different merchants, symbolic of the small businesses market in Singapore – a florist, a tailoring shop and a convenience store. The attention-grabbing vertical storytelling effects and portrait aspect immediately stop the viewer from scrolling. And this is the goal – to encourage small business owners to watch and be inspired to take up Visa’s offer to help with their e-commerce kit. To leverage various digital capabilities, Visa has offered free tools to help small businesses digitise and sell online, accept digital payments and connect to more shoppers. A total of 138 small businesses signed up to redeem the Visa eCommerce Starter Kit, exceeding their internal target for new leads.

2 Split-Screen Your Story

Experiment by splitting your screen into halves, thirds, or quarters to tell your story. Hijack static formats and templates to give the illusion of objects flying off the screen, creating a 3D effect. You can even include multi-product shots at the same time.

BBDO Singapore launched a campaign for hygiene and home care brand Walch® to boost hygiene practices and bring Walch® Speed Foaming Automatic Hand Wash into the homes of Singaporeans.

The big idea was to promote a joyous, healthy and safe Chinese New Year celebration. The new normal has impacted everyone – daily lives, rituals and gatherings have changed drastically and the virus remains a risk to many, so people have adapted their habits. This Chinese New Year will be different. Due to travel and large group restrictions, it will be a challenge for friends and family to gather to celebrate the Chinese New Year. BBDO Singapore cut through the clutter of Chinese New Year marketing. We split screen a series of vertical videos for families to communicate, even if they were not in the same location. By hacking Facebook’s design template, we created the illusion of people appearing in 3D, magically in the same space, and creating a desire to be with their families. Hence the tagline, “Gift Health. Gift Wealth.” was developed from the belief that there is no greater wealth than health.

3 Visualise Your Story

We live in a visual world. In business, it is important to communicate visually. If you don’t, you lose your audience’s attention. Research shows that visual online content garners 94% more views than content without. Images help people to convert, increasing sign-ups by as much as 329%. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. No wonder a picture is worth a thousand words. Visuals can help boost a customer’s memory and retention, providing a 60% returning customer rate in some cases. Visualising your story in a way to communicate ideas using images, such as photos, graphics, illustrations or typography. It is faster to communicate visually. It is also more efficient than words; visuals convey more meaning and are a critical element of any content marketing strategy. Visuals help evoke emotions and provide a stronger recall of the message in a meaningful way. To change the way we think, we need to change the way we see things. By looking at things differently, we go beyond the predictable and open our eyes to seeing things from a different angle.

Starburst launched its Best Enjoyed Vertically creative platform to support the launch of Swirlers – the brand’s first vertically shaped sweet. The campaign was designed exclusively for mobile and vertical media – it leans into the ever-popular mobile-first vertical content, by creatively showing strange scenes unless viewed vertically. The content shows people at a hairdresser’s behaving strangely, as if gravity is taking a weird turn. Once the set is flipped 90 degrees, consumers realise that the content is designed to be viewed vertically rather than in the traditional horizontal format — just like Starburst Swirlers!

It’s time to relook at your mobile content strategy and make it vertically friendly to improve the brand experience. Remember to create work to suit your customer’s mobile behaviour. Don’t stick a horizontal video on a mobile screen. Design with different formats for different platforms. Within the next two years, four out of five mobile-based content will be videos. So it’s essential to create content that is thumb-stopping. Go vertical with your content – and your profits will also go vertical.

Tay Guan Hin is Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Singapore.