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5 Rules For Building Impactful Social Ads For Gen Z

Timothy Armoo

Guest Contributor

When it comes to creating content for Snapchat, brands stand in one of two camps. 

  1. They create content which is fairly amateur because they don't have the creative capabilities or proper understanding of a younger audience.
  2. They create re-purposed content.

Both camps take content created for Facebook or TV and shove it into Snapchat assuming that it'll work the same. Another thing brands often fail to think about is how the ad will be distributed. If you’re not familiar with ad distribution on Snapchat or even on Instagram Stories, essentially the ads randomly show up between people's stories. The other day someone from our own Fanbytes team was watching a makeup influencer and was just about to watch another one, when suddenly, a picture of Jeremy Clarkson's face showed up, instantly disrupting their consumption experience. More than 60 per cent of Snapchat users skip the ads on the platform, which is clearly a sign that brands, more than enriching the consumer experience, are actually proving to be a distraction.


Rule 1: Ideate with a Gen Z team and sandwich your ads

Young people resonate with content created by other young people, which then gets distributed through other young people. This idea comes to life through the Sandwich Ad Format.

"Fanbytes Influencers uses what Armoo describes as a “sandwich ad” format where video ads from clients are bookended by clips from its network of more than 1,000 Snapchat influencers. This approach to couching branded content within influencer content has led to impressive view through rates of 90%+.

Via Musically

An influencer introduces an ad, which is programmatically inserted. The influencer then reintroduces the ad, followed by a swipe up leading to the campaign destination. AdWeek had an article featured about this very idea of ads created by an 18-year-old, distributed by an 18-year-old, and then seen by an 18-year old. Hundreds of brands, including some of the world's biggest ones, have recognised that the young staff at FanBytes are well equipped to reach that younger audience.


Rule 2: Move away from invasive ad formats

You’re about to watch your favourite show either on the telly or on YouTube. You’ve got your cup of tea or hot chocolate, ready to go, ready to press play, when suddenly, a random ad just shows up. This is an experience that we can all relate to. You're stressed and thinking about why the hell you're waiting. 30 seconds often feels like so much longer, doesn’t it?

With this in mind, I've always thought of social ads within the context of a Hierarchy of Results. Sort of like Maslow's hierarchy of needs but applied to ads.

  • Reach is at the bottom of the pyramid,
  • followed by engagement,
  • with what we call advertainment, at the top.

So on a primary level, you have reach -  impressions and all that good stuff. But winning on reach essentially comes down to the person who has the biggest budget. When you are competing with a big global brand, and they have a 100x the budget that you do, you can pretty much guess who is going to win in the game of how many impressions you can get.

On a secondary level, you have engagement which translates to likes, comments, shares. But to some degree, this is still a subset of reach. The more people that you reach, the more people that should comment and share.

At the top, you have this big idea of advertainment. And this is the idea of advertising infused with entertainment, which touches on one single thing—emotion. When you tap into emotion, you are not only able to create more loyal customers, but more importantly, you stop playing the game of the race to the bottom. If you're able to really hone in on this idea of advertainment, you stop relying on invasive ad formats and thus stop competing with the other bigger brands who are just purely aiming for reaching as many eyeballs as possible.


Rule 3: Tap into culture instead of shouting about yourself

Gen Z and millennials are considered are some of the most culturally connected generations ever. They are people who can make content like Salt Bae, Idiot Sandwich and a Trump cat drawing go viral. They can make a guy who uses a knife to chop up a piece of beef go viral! Despite this, brands continue to act in silos and try to connect with an audience without really understanding the need to tap into the culture that they're communicating in.

Case study: YouGov

YouGov is an online market research company. They often target young people with their surveys, a recent one being “What do 18-to-25-year-old females think about Brexit?”, and then turn those into actionable insights which can then be used for policy change, amongst other things. YouGov came to FanBytes and said, “Hey, we have a perception problem. People don't think we're cool enough.” And to put it lightly, I wasn't exactly surprised. You don't exactly associate coolness with surveys.

One of the guys in the team came up with this really interesting idea of using Lil Wayne. Why? Well, more people have heard about Lil Wayne than has heard about YouGov. He had a song that came out 11 years ago called “A Milli” in which he is talking about how rich he is and how you're not, how many cars he has and how many you don't. It’s a song that, in a nutshell, says, “I’m rich! I’m rich! I’m rich! I’m rich!”

Our thinking was “Well, if YouGov is a way to get paid for taking surveys, is it possible to position YouGov as a way whereby if you take enough surveys, you may become as rich as Lil Wayne?” A completely crazy idea. But the reason it could potentially work was that it was tapping into a song in a cultural moment which really resonated with the younger audience they were looking to capture. That song “A Milli” was number one for several months and literally defined a certain period of a millennial’s life.

So rather than YouGov just broadcasting, “Hey, we’re YouGov! Use us!” they took a culturally relevant moment that defined parts of certain people's lives, and decided to insert themselves into it. It worked like a charm.

We did that by using a three-step Sandwich ad format. We started with pre-roll, followed by a 10-second ad, followed by post-roll where an influencer then urged the audience to go and check it out. That was pretty much it. Let's use Lil Wayne, let's figure out some way in which we can tie the brand into that, and let's see if that would then resonate.

People wrote to us saying that it was the first ad they didn’t skip, that they found it funny and that using Lil Wayne was a pleasant surprise. Some even called YouGov "the real Gs". And given this was a brand who was struggling with being perceived as 'cool', this feedback proves the power of a culturally relevant ad. By tapping into something which defines the younger generation, rather than trying to shove ads into their face, you can really create emotional engagement with them, which propels them to take action.


‍Rule 4: Obsess over context

This is similar to tapping into the culture but is even more specific to your target audience. You should ask yourself: How can I tell stories within an environment that my audience is already receptive to? Is there a way that I can insert my brand into a particular context that fits my product/service? Again, this is different from maximising for eyeballs, and hoping someone notices you. This approach requires you to obsess over the context of your ads.

Case study: Debut

Debut is a graduate recruitment app, offering graduate schemes, internships, and allowing companies to headhunt students. Debut do a bunch of paid ads on Facebook and Instagram that were kind of working, but they were continually shoving themselves into people's conversations without actually having some awareness of the context.

In working with them, part of our role was to think about context and create conversations. So we thought, “What if we got a graduate to promote a graduate job app on their graduation day?” This is the height of context because you have people watching her on her graduation day, who also might be graduating and may have the exact same fears and concerns about how to find a job.

So we ran a campaign where an influencer posted about Debut on her actual graduation day. We used Fresh Prince of Bel-Air creative partly because this resonated with our target audience - remember cultural relevance -  but also because there was a section in the intro where his mum is telling him to go and get a job. So you can see how it all fits in.

As for the results of the campaign: we achieved a 10.7% click-through rate. Meaning that, of every 100 people who saw it, 10 of them checked out Debut. This worked because they obsessed over context. They didn’t shove themselves into a random conversation. Instead, they inserted themselves into a conversation that was already happening, and in doing so created a new conversation. 

None of this—tapping into culture and obsessing over context—requires you to have a huge budget. It boils down to getting creative about how to outsmart the people with bigger budgets. How do you get more out of your marketing?

Rule 5: Allow for self-identification 

One of my fundamental beliefs is that social media isn’t anything new. It’s simply a web of personalised TV broadcasts. And so, as a consequence, your role as brands is to help people make the best broadcast ever. Your role is not to shout about your brand, but rather to help people make great content for themselves. And then, as a consequence, they would start to promote you as well.

Case study: Deezer

One example of this is a brand called Deezer, which is a music streaming brand. And let's be honest, in the world of music streaming, Deezer aren’t exactly the first or the second. Apple Music and Spotify occupy the first two places. So they were really trying to understand how to become a key part of a young person's day. “How do we actually get young people to think about us, rather than trying to compete either on price or on quality or on the typical functional things that Apple Music and Spotify do?

One of Deezer's key differentiators was their personalised music feature. They can personalise songs according to how you feel and what you're currently doing, and they wanted to make a big deal out of it. In keeping with this idea of helping people make the best broadcast ever, they created a boombox—an AR boombox.

The boombox danced according to the music in the background. The thinking was that the dancing boombox would help people create their best broadcast on Snapchat or Instagram. The Snapchat lens was created by a 16-year-old kid - again young people creating content for young people - and people started using it organically. People started creating their own videos, creating their own shows, and generally messing around with it. But in messing around with it, they started promoting Deezer as well.

Within 24 hours, with people sharing it with their friends etc, Deezer ended up getting over a million views on the lens, over 46,000 scans, and over 11,000 shares. In just 24 hours. It was such a hit, that a journalist whose daughter was actually using it, reached out to Deezer, wanting to do a story about it. They ended up getting into campaign magazine and other outlets. All from the idea that people should be empowered to create the best broadcast ever.

It goes back to this idea of helping people make the best broadcast ever. Thousands of videos were created. But because they were just kind of creating the best broadcast they possibly could, they didn't mind actually promoting Deezer.

This article was written by Timothy Armoo. Originally published on LinkedIn, edited for brevity for The Path Forward.

Timothy Armoo

Guest Contributor

Timothy Armoo is the CEO of FanBytes and a guest contributor for The Path Forward. FanBytes helps the world's most innovative brands win Gen Z hearts on social through our network of influencers on Tiktok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Whether it's making gaming brands the most popular brands on Snapchat or making an artist go viral on Tiktok and YouTube, their blockbuster campaigns have been featured in Forbes, Evening Standard, and the BBC as leading the new age of youth marketing. Clients include Apple, McDonald's, and the UK Government.

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