Brands are increasing trying to replicate the cultural authenticity of social media in their ad camapigns. While this is a good idea in theory, it is not what consumers are actually looking for, says Curtis Hougland, CEO of Crossmedia partner agency People First. It’s time for brands to get real.
Consumers don’t want overproduced social media imitations from brands. Watching an ad on TV these days feels strangely like scrolling through TikTok — but not in a good way. Recently, I’ve seen commercials where shoppers suddenly pop and lock it in front of an Old Navy store; a teen girl preps for her viral moment by taking a refreshing sip of Coca Cola; and luminary Addison Rae sparks an impromptu dance party to promote Samsung. Brands are clearly infatuated with trying to replicate the cultural authenticity of social media. But here’s the rub: Consumers don’t want overproduced imitations from brands.
Consumers prefer imperfect video content over beautifully shot campaigns
Instead, they are looking for brands to collaborate with their customers and fans in ways that feel less like a soundstage and more like a backyard. People actually prefer ads from real, imperfect people sharing real experiences about the products and issues that they care about.
The data backs this up. According to a 2021 study from Meta of more than one million ads with more than 10 thousand total impressions, lower production quality video resulted in a 1% increase in ad recall lift. In 2019, Meta found that self-recorded direct response ads outperformed studio-shot creative, resulting in a 63% likelihood to drive lower funnel outcomes such as purchases and installs.
Consumers have moved beyond over-edited, cinematically shot ads featuring actors mimicking real people. It’s time for brands to embrace the beauty of imperfection in advertising. The imperfection of a person, not a model, who speaks in their own voice to the members of their communities. This also means different body types, experiences and identities in ads.
Influencer content outperforms professional videos
A TikTok video about a brand from a micro influencer (two to 10 thousand followers) receives an average share rate of more than 10%, because the experience feels (and is!) real. Instagram posts and videos from micro influencers receive an average engagement rate of 6.5%, which is significantly higher than industry averages of 1.9%. Both organic and paid perform better.
These numbers make a clear argument for brands to lose the habit of costly spending on large-scale replications of social media campaigns and instead invest in sourcing personal, relatable, and, yes, less perfect advertising.
Campaigns from micro influencers average higher engagement and reach more than half of all consumers. We confirmed the persuasiveness of lo-fi content in politics as well as brands. In a study by the DGA, Virginians who followed micro influencers were 23% more likely to recall an ad from them than a control ad, which spiked to 43% among regular social media users.
Frankly, it should surprise no one that consumers and voters are more persuaded by members of their community than a campaign. Chanel spent $33 million on The Film, an ad with Nicole Kidman, and Chrysler spent $10 million on Imported from Detroit featuring Eminem. Teddy the Golden Retriever gets paid $350 to support the Peanuts brand.
Collapse in Trust
Underpinning this move to imperfect ads is the collapse in trust among American consumers . Salesforce has reported on the loss of trust with marketers over the issue of privacy. As purchase decisions are increasingly a click away in the feed, brand loyalty is understandably flagging too, according to OMD. People simply rely on each other to make decisions.
The answer isn’t celebrities or A-list influencers either. Brands can achieve greater results through peer-to-peer ads on channels ranging from TikTik to Nextdoor. Our data shows that micro influencers outperform macro/celebrity influencers in cost per engagement by 168%, engagement rate by 146%, and earned media value by 133%.
Real People sharing Real Experiences
In 2018, I was at a dinner with a creative director at Nike’s ad agency. He was understandably proud of their important social justice Dream Crazy campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. But, I had to ask: “Wouldn’t the campaign have been even more powerful if hundreds of Black men across the country shared their own parallel experiences alongside Colin?”
The room fell silent. I believed then (and now) that personal stories — even as ads — are more personal, powerful and impactful. There is no better advertising than real people sharing real experiences on behalf of what they support.
Instinctively, many brands are embracing imperfect ads from their communities. ASOS predominantly uses micro influencers for its Insiders Program. Pampers sources powerful, personal stories from new moms, eschewing experts and actors. Genexa launched a $50 million brand through healthcare providers espousing clean medicine.
Brands can recruit any consumer group to create ads – any geography, identity, profession, patient condition, ethnicity — across any digital channel — in any language. Putting people first is now the perfect choice for advertisers.
This article was first published on campaignlive.com on October 31, 2022.