Unruly / Blog / How To Create Videos For The 21st Century Content Stack

How To Create Videos For The 21st Century Content Stack

The digital video landscape is changing…and fast. No longer are marketers able to create one-size-fits-all content that can be used effectively to achieve campaign objectives across a variety of different formats.

With short-form, long-form, live-streaming and narrow-cast niche social platforms seemingly springing up every week, the opportunities for marketers to distribute video in different ways have never been more diverse.

The content stack, meanwhile, has yet to catch up. How can marketers create a whole stack of videos that is mobile-optimised, effective with the sound off and unlikely to be skipped by viewers? Well, here are some of our tips, as well as some advice from some content creators we interviewed at our recent Meet The Makers event:


1. Making Video for Skippable Pre-Roll

Even as traditional pre-roll video distribution continues to grow, we’re seeing an encouraging increase in use of the skippable pre-roll format, where users choose to watch or skip the content and advertisers are only charged when the viewer has watched the ad for 30 seconds.

So, how are the brightest and best content creators approaching the skippables format? Richard Beer, Creative Director at award-winning ad agency Don’t Panic, advises that the creative should be made to fit the platform.

He cites this trailer for The Internship as a good example of taking a standard output and tweaking it for skippable distribution, with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson urging viewers not to skip before the regular trailer starts. Yet it remains to be seen whether this approach will stand the test of time as more and more brands adopt this direct tactic.


Unruly has found that some of the most successful videos feature an opening scene that immediately evokes intense emotional responses among the audience. This serves to capture the attention and lower drop-out levels.

Rory also remarks that the skippable aspect can be turned to advertiser’s advantage, as with this tongue-in-cheek take on the format by GEICO.



2. Making Video for the Mobile Newsfeed:

Altogether 19.7 million people in the UK are now watching a video on their mobile at least once a month, and that number is predicted to rise to 26.1m by 2019 (source: eMarketer, Feb 2015).

Unruly has found the benefits of a strong mobile strategy are tangible, with mobile placements outperforming desktop on both interaction (22.1% vs. 15.0%) and completion rates (80.1% vs. 68.3%) (source: Unruly Activate).

When making content for mobile, a key consideration is how to persuade the viewer to engage with the video in the first place. Rory Ahern, Partner at specialist online video ad agency Rubber Republic, remarks that “thumbnail images will be even smaller on mobile devices, so make them clear and able to visually register at these sizes”.

Barney Worfolk-Smith, Director at social content agency That Lot, added, “people scroll through thumbfeeds even more quickly than standard feeds, so you need to get the point of the ad quickly”. He notes that, on Twitter, “images are significantly more likely to deliver earned media”, and cites this impactful Adobe ad as a great example of a visually striking creative likely to gain cut-through in a cluttered environment.

On a more basic but fundamental level, Worfolk-Smith also comments that images should be correctly sized for optimum viewability. “Brands should make use of the sizing feature in the recommendations sections of Facebook and Twitter. If an image looks fractured it’s less likely to draw attention and subsequent sharing”.

One curious change currently occurring in mobile video creation is the move of vertical (portrait) video from much-maligned amateurish mistake to an essential part of a marketer’s armoury. Newer platforms such as Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat are much more disposed to a vertical rather than a horizontal aspect. Indeed, vertical video can lead to better campaign results. Snapchat told the Daily Mail, a Snapchat Discover content partner, that vertical video ads have up to nine times more completed views than horizontal video ads.

One key criticism of vertical video is that vertical videos watched horizontally appear with ugly black bars on either side. While this is true when watched on a horizontal desktop or laptop screen, the same is true of a horizontal video watched on a vertical screen. Many mobile views (especially on the newer formats) occur with the screen held vertically, so vertical video is in fact a more natural format for mobile.

The second criticism of vertical video is the way humans see: our horizontal field of view is wider than our vertical field of view, so it’s more natural to watch a horizontal video. Yet this doesn’t apply to a small mobile screen in which the entire video sits comfortably within a viewer’s field of vision even when viewed vertically.

As vertical video becomes more mainstream, a number of advertisers, including Burger King have created content especially for Snapchat, while video streaming app Periscope was used by Mercedes, Nissan, Jaguar and Toyota to unveil their new cars during the New York International Auto Show.


3. Make Video for Audio/Sound Off

This type of content has become increasingly important over the last 12 months, with the rapid growth of Facebook video, where videos auto-play in users’ newsfeeds with the audio switched off.  Altogether 2.7m (19.4%) of monthly UK video views now occur on Facebook (source: ComScore), so brands and video makers are sitting up and taking notice.

Kate Tancred, MD at The Smalls, a content marketplace that connects its community of over 11,000 independent filmmakers and production companies with brands and agencies, notes that, “sound off content takes some planning from a production perspective. The script writer and the director need to make certain decisions very early on. The content needs to be visually engaging enough for the viewer to opt into the sound. This sounds obvious but it is so surprising how often this is ignored in content that has been built for purpose.”

Additionally, this opting in may not occur immediately. Tancred added, “When creating the script, brands also need to keep in mind that the viewer may opt into the sound at 5 or 10 seconds. Therefore the key message either needs to be able to be depicted without sound, or it shouldn’t come right at the top. The video also needs to make sense to the viewer without sound in the first few moments, so the director needs to ensure the scenes are simple and easily digested without the aid of voiceovers, music or sound effects.”

Using this as a framework, The Smalls have created content for many clients, including Greggs and Coca-Cola. Worfolk-Smith adds that That Lot’s experience has led to them using bright visually-driven creative. “Vines are a good example of content which needs to be expanded to have the sound come on.”


He advises that “key ad messages should be easily understood through visuals alone”, as in this Mastercard ad, and this Walkers creative.



Despite the prevalence and proliferation of platforms and formats, one message is constant from the content makers who shared their views – the creative idea comes first. The creative theme of a campaign should be consistent across all implementations, with that theme reworked for specific ad formats and screens.

It’s only with such a coherent thread that a campaign will have maximum impact. Ultimately, the emotional resonance of advertising is key; the intensity of emotional response to an ad correlates strongly with memorability and purchase intent.

Advertisers that are winning on digital are doing so by selecting a clear and authentic set of emotional responses for their brand and evoking these as intensely as possible across all the component parts of their campaign.