The Periodic. Fall 2016. | Hydrogen Advertising


Are You Getting the Most from Your Digital Video?
by Rick Peterson, President

One of the great things about videos posted on digital and social channels is how easy it is to measure engagement. Views, shares, likes, reposts, you get the instant gratification of knowing what’s working and what’s not. But the truth is, there’s more to video than just putting it out there. Idiosyncrasies unique to various digital environments often hide or hinder the message you’re attempting to convey. Avoid these three common pitfalls and your digital video results can improve dramatically.

1. A World Without Sound

Welcome back to the era of silent movies. Studies show that 85–90 percent of “branded videos” on Facebook are viewed without sound. Facebook isn’t alone in defaulting to video with the sound off. Nearly every social media platform requires a click or a tap to turn it on. Which means if your videos are not communicating everything visually, chances are good your messaging is muted.

As a test, watch some of the videos you’ve posted to Facebook with the sound turned off. If your videos weave striking titles and infographics in between the other elements, viewers will be more likely to discern your key selling points even without sound. In fact, if they can quickly absorb the key selling points, they might be more likely to turn the sound on and hear your whole story.

2. A Three-Second Audition

Your Instagram video has 14,000 “views,” but only 15 “likes.” What’s up?

Instagram and Facebook both autoplay videos (without sound) every time a user scrolls past and count a video “view” as just three seconds. On Twitter, a view is two seconds. It’s easy to see why your ad dollars may be paying for a lot of skips and scroll-bys.

What you really want on any platform is a large number of complete views. (You invested effort to make a good video, right?) This means it’s incredibly important to consider how your video looks in the first few seconds. If viewers aren’t sufficiently hooked by their initial impression, metrics may indicate you’re getting a lot of views, but few are seeing the full message.

To overcome this, consider the environment. In Instagram your video is embedded with nothing but photos and videos. Your thumbnail has to pop. On Twitter, you have the ability to fire off a snappy caption and add some relevant searchable hashtags to increase the chance folks will stop and view. In general, take special care to assure the imagery and titles in the first three seconds of your videos are high impact, meaningful and on brand. Attention spans are short; dress to impress.

3. “Skip This Ad in 15 Seconds”

A lot of advertisers include “pre-roll video ads” in their digital media plans, because it can be a great way to leverage or repurpose existing TV. These pre-roll videos play right before the videos that users are selecting to view, often accompanied by a message such as, “Skip this ad in 15 seconds.”

The problem is a lot of existing TV spots withhold the name of the advertiser and even the product being advertised until well into the commercial—often not until the last five or ten seconds. Since many pre-roll video ads simply pick up and repurpose existing TV spots without re-tuning or re-editing for pre-roll conditions, a lot of folks will skip the ads before even seeing a brand’s name.

These ads need to be conceived or re-edited to effectively communicate core messaging within the “skip this ad” time constraint. Sure, it might be a 30-second spot, but if the important stuff isn’t revealed until the last five or ten seconds, it can be a big waste of an otherwise smart digital media buy.

Change or Get Left Behind

As more and more social channels jump on the video advertising train (as Pinterest just did in August), the rules of the game continue to change. Those producing videos have to roll with the constraints or miss the mark. Getting digital video in front of eager eyes can seem like a big puzzle, but don’t worry. When you get the hang of it, the true views come through.

If our overview of social media video ads sparks your interest, this recent article by The New York Times is worth a read. Check it out.



Three Things I Wish I’d Known Before Teaching Grown-Ups
by Hillary Miller, VP of Strategy

I wish my future self were able to travel back in time and warn me about a few things before I began my journey teaching courses at the School of Visual Concepts (also known as SVC).

Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching and I love the students at SVC. It’s sort of a de facto “technical college” to enhance the marketing skills of working folks. These are people already employed at numerous agencies and brands like Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft and REI.

I love teaching about strategy and the essential tools to develop great strategy–like the seemingly simple, but oh-so-hard-to-write creative brief.

But there are a few things I’ve learned through my own school of hard knocks about teaching grown-ups:

There’s No Right Way to Teach
Similar to the adage that the best manager adapts her style to what each employee needs, the best teaching method for me has been to adapt to the class itself. Every class I’ve taught over the past five years has been different in composition. Sometimes it’s a room full of fully-caffeinated, MBA-bearing questioners. Sometimes it’s laconic creatives. Or jaded executives mixed in with newly-minted graduates. The fun in those first 15 minutes of class is measuring what everyone is bringing to the table and what they want to get out of our session together. It keeps me on my toes because I’ve got to tailor my content and delivery style to the tempo of the group that day.

“Eat Your Guide”
No, I’m not advocating some form of cannibalism. “Eat your guide” is a phrase I learned when I became certified as a qualitative moderator. The idea is to know your discussion guide so well that if you were to eat your notes, you’d still be able to run the entire focus group. When you’re teaching a full-day class, it pays to know your material so well that you can jump to any portion of your content to answer a question. It also means that if you encounter the dreaded but inevitable technology failure, you can still teach–because you have completely internalized your ideas.

Feedback Is Fuel
After teaching a seven-hour course, the last thing you might want to look at is your class surveys. But I can’t wait to get mine and get to the last question: What can we improve? I revise at least 20 percent of my course every time based on the thoughtful feedback of students. It’s easy to get locked in your own head. Feedback in real time or on paper helps get you out of your thoughts and see how your content is, or isn’t, landing. Sometimes you can just tell what you need to fix by the questions asked or the perplexed expressions. But it never hurts to ask directly. And quickly. I force myself to write out what I’ll change within 48 hours of finishing a course.

The only other thing I’ve learned is never to take DayQuil™ with a double Americano before teaching a seven-hour class. But that’s a different life lesson!



The Interactive Storyboard
by Brian McCartney, Senior Designer

Imagine describing the way the iPhone works to a room full of people who have never used it before and want to build for it. Start with something as basic as the swipe-to-unlock feature. Tempted to draw some pictures, right? In those pictures, are you able to show the feel of the swipe? How the buttons light up when you press them? Or what happens when you put the passcode in wrong? Or, on a successful unlock, exactly how the app icons swoop in? Now imagine you are in the room, listening. Confused?

Storyboards Leave Too Much Room for Error

In the past when you, our client, wanted a website, app or interactive ad made for you, it was hard to know exactly what you were going to get. Early prototypes were complicated for creatives to communicate and confusing for you to envision—especially as technology went the way of swipe, hover and zoom. Traditionally, creatives sketched each state of an animation or interaction, adding wordy descriptions to express complex motions and ideas. “Imagine if you will, that when you press this, this other screen pops up!” This method left too much guesswork, too much filling in the gaps trying to understand what was going on between the artist’s ears. While imagination is a powerful tool for creativity, you shouldn’t have to use it in a meeting to guess what your product will look like.

New Technology Means Less Guesswork

Fortunately, in recent years, digital tools have emerged that take the head-scratching out of the interaction design prototyping process. Despite complicated programs early on that only the most tech-savvy designer could master, recently applications like FramerJS and the soon-to-be-released Adobe XD have become much more intuitive and learnable. Now with just a little training, a designer can be comfortable making digital prototypes for mobile and web that actually work. The benefits passed along to you are huge. Now, you are able to hold the prototype in your hand, play with it and give immediate feedback. You are able to gain a clear understanding of the designer’s vision. And most importantly, you understand what you are buying.

For interaction design, the analog storyboard is going the way of the dinosaurs, making way for a new generation of interactive storyboarding that provides much-needed clarity and saves valuable project time. That’s bad news for the pencil and great news for you and your bottom line.



Rick’s Summer Swim Update

As of Labor Day, our president, Rick Peterson, logged 103 miles in Lake Washington. Congratulations on another 100-mile summer, Rick!



Happy Birthday, Hydrogen!
by Matt Swecker, Copywriting Intern

This year, Hydrogen celebrates a decade and a half in the biz. Watch out, we’re old enough to get our learner’s permit! A lot has happened over the past 15 years. Enjoy a look at some of the milestones that have shaped our world and your world alike.