Commentary

The Success Of The Social-Case-Study Creative

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, December 13, 2016
Social-case-study videos are a unique type of ad creative used by brands to communicate a more authentic and genuine message than traditional advertising techniques. In these ads, real people, as opposed to actors, are put into a unique test, such as a focus group-type setting, which challenges participants to be open to new situations, ideas, and perspectives.

These advertisements are often longer pieces of content and highlight how humans react naturally to new and sometimes uncomfortable situations, which allows viewers to connect and relate to the situations since they are real scenarios and reactions as opposed to an acted scene.

We’ve found that the combination of a documentary-style approach with creative storytelling aiming to address social issues relevant to the brand’s audience ultimately drives high viewership and social sharing.      

But what is the appeal of this format, and is it a sustainable method that will continue to capture viewer attention?

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Unilever’s Dove brand was one of the first major brands to use the social-case-study format, with its “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign in 2013. The campaign aimed to show women that they are more beautiful than they may perceive themselves when compared to the opinion of strangers. In total, this campaign received more than 218 million views and more than five million social interactions. Dove has since continued using this advertising technique, with additional social-case-study ads released over the past two years.

More recently, 2016 was a crucial year for these kinds of ads, as smaller brands began to use this strategy to increase share of attention, and bigger brands continued to use this method as a way to maintain their growing audience.

Online travel Web site Momondo published “The DNA Journey,” which has received more than 66 million views and more than two million social interactions to date. This campaign features a group of individuals expressing their own patriotism and ethnic pride, but also their disapproval of other nationalities. Each participant's DNA was individually tested, revealing that each has DNA markers from regions all over the world, including those ethnicities they previously belittled.

In the emotional ending of the video, it is revealed that the DNA test showed two participants are actually distant cousins. The results challenged the prejudices people have of different nationalities, and proved that humans are more interconnected than many would like to believe.

Another popular social-case-study campaign released this year was Knorr’s “#LoveAtFirstTaste” campaign, which received more than 64 million views and more than 90,000 social interactions. The video campaign pairs strangers for dates based on their food preferences. Participants are told they can only use their hands to feed their partner to see if “flavor can help you find love.” In the heartwarming conclusion, the pairs that were once strangers show amazing chemistry with one another, with some even showing signs of a genuine connection.

While brands that made the first big splash with these types of advertisements, such as Dove, may be moving on from this particular strategy, the social-case-study creative continues to dominate as a popular format with viewers.

In fact, the average number of views for non-social-case-study campaigns in 2016 so far was 6.7 million, and the average number of social interactions was 76,000. These numbers are both significantly less than “The DNA Journey” and “#LoveAtFirstTaste,” indicating this approach is more likely to result in higher views and social engagement.

The success of the social-case-study creative shows that viewers enjoy content with real people and situations, not actors. Additionally, with long-form content increasingly resulting in better completion rates online, brands have much to gain from utilizing this format. In fact, social-case-study ads in 2016 have received more than 543 million views so far.

Still, the key with this format is keep content consistent with a brand’s personality and products, while also innovating  with unique ideas and storylines to avoid becoming stale and repetitive.

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