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The subject matter of my research will focus on the use of cinema graphs within advertising. I will look to explore their effectiveness across social media platforms, used by various brands and companies. Cinema graphs are still photographs in which a minor and repeated movement occurs, forming a video clip. The word “cinema graph” stands for part cinema, moving image, and part photograph, static image. It is a moment, both with and without time, that can create a lasting impression of brands. My aim is to determine whether there is an increase in cinema graphs use and also how they work in tandem with traditional advertising. I will also  be investigating how cinema graphs are being used more frequently in a storytelling capacity.

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My aim is to better understand the differences across various techniques, increase my knowledge and improve my experience to better inform future work. After gathering and evaluating my research I intend to be able to create a cinema graph to a professional standard. I also hope to be capable of determining the appropriate technique to advertise and communicate a clear message to a targeted audience. 

Research has found that cinema graph content tends to have more virality, with 71% higher organic reach than still photographs. – AdAge. This statement does raise questions on whether cinematography is the new trend to adopt to help brands and companies reach consumers.

It is slowly becoming the future of advertising without eliminating traditional print because there will always be a demand for it. Brands should associate themselves with the use of cinema graphs for visual storytelling because it brings the visual punch and immediacy of a video without the barrier to entry of a play button. With all these new programmes emerging making it faster and easier to advertise, it clearly seems to be the future especially with the mass increase of online use and work around us today.

From the research I have collected I believe cinema graphs are an other way for someone to express and reach the consumer with their story. It’s short, sweet and meaningful, most powerful when capturing a simple, precise moment. A quick loop that tells a story through a dress shifting in the breeze or wine being poured for a friend. The distinctive aspect of the cinema graph is that it allows the viewer to actually feel as if they are there when the wine is being poured. They work really well when used for adding luster to an already pretty picture. Fashion for example becomes extremely effective when delivered through a cinema graph having that slight movement and shine which wouldn’t come through in a simple photograph. Costs are a major factor when it comes to advertising campaigns and this unique format stands at a fraction of the cost of video and print. This attracts most brands especially with the substantial use of online platforms today. On the other hand, as effective as it is, they are not right for every circumstance. It is a trendy format being used to add on to give a greater effect but in some situations, awkward or odd motions add no value to deliver a meaningful message.

A cinema graph is technically just a GIF, but when well executed, it can deliver much more depth and impact than a purely static image or video clip. Brands have been increasing their use of cinema graphs as social channels such as Facebook and Instagram have renewed their auto-play abilities. As mentioned before, research has found that there is a 71% higher reach to consumers using cinema graph content in comparison to still imagery. 

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have expressed a fair amount of ads and promotion posts using living photos to share their unique story. During a recent social campaign for Microsoft’s latest line of Surface products, they discovered the impact of cinema graphs in their social media advertising. Both cinema graphs and static images were used in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter advertisements to target small businesses as well as consumers. Microsoft then compared the costs, brand awareness and how much they engaged. There were 1.92 million impressions during an eight day campaign and the results were very one sided. Social ads that used cinema graphs led to a significant increase in engagement on social media. Microsoft saw a 110% increase in engagement rate that featured cinema graphs on Twitter compared to 1.96% on still images. On Facebook there was an 85% increase in engagement rate versus a 0.83% generated by advertisements using still photos. Least to say, Microsoft was impressed. “I’m astounded by the results we have seen with cinema graph ads,” said Linda Chep, Demand Gen Marketing Manager at Microsoft.  “The engagement rates were through the roof and it shows how more brands can benefit from adopting this new medium.” With ad campaigns, keeping your costs low is very important. They also found that the cost per engagement decreased by 45% on Instagram with the use of cinema graphs in comparison to a $0.81 for still images among consumers.

2017 has been the year of micro video content. Marketers have embraced video more than ever before realising that with only a couple of seconds available to capture the consumers attention, short, perfectly looped video content proves to be the answer. Top brands have shared branded cinema graphs as organic content. Stranger Things on Netflix, is one of the biggest television outbreaks of 2016. The series has millions of viewers and for the fans who awaited a sneak peak into the second season, Netflix released a time lapse cinema graph which would reveal the new creature that would be terrorising the town of Hawkins. The four main characters are frozen as the clouds roll by, when lightning strikes, the new creature emerges in the sky. 

Puma implemented the use of a time lapse video, using R superstar, The Weeknd,  beside a busy flow of traffic. It shared both the classic cool story associated with Puma athleisure wear whilst expressing the value of individuality.

Apple Music are known to use video content every week to create posts that highlight new artists, engaging with the use of Swipe Up Saturdays for Instagram stories and are also familiar with the world of cinema graphs. In 2017, Apple Music used the technique to put a new twist on forgotten album covers. They showed that cinema graphs achieved three things. It extended the story of the artist, it created more context for the song lyrics and teased music video visuals. It also refreshes the manner in which audiences look at an album cover. Very few people will absorb the album cover art on a CD because it is now more about the visual experience you receive whilst subscribing to music streaming. 

Adidas uses cinema graphs on a regular basis across their social media platforms to express how their brand incorporates a healthy lifestyle. One of their examples is a woman doing yoga on the beach dressed in Adidas products. She is completely still whilst the gentle waves are looped giving you a sense of relaxation. It reflects the need to find moments for yourself in your busy life.

Sprite, owned by Coca-Cola, is a brand who value those in-between seconds. With a very clever tag line, ‘Your Thirst Comes First’ they created a loop of a model endlessly drinking a cool, refreshing Sprite. You can almost savour it and that is the add on effect a cinema graph brings to the marketing world. A user even commented, “Wow! The bottle doesn’t even empty”, indicating the engagement and how the audience become mesmerised by the story. 

Another top brand to use the technique is high-end retailer Nordstrom, which focuses on beauty, fashion and lifestyle. Cinema graphs and fashion go hand-in-hand because of the many directions they can take. In this case, came the skirt that sparkles where the model is completely still and the skirt is sparkling. It creates fashion envy and is very appealing especially towards the millennial audience.

PepsiCo is an international brand known around the globe and are expanding their food and beverage product lines. With their new lemon-lime product called Mist Twist they decided to generate a new approach in Facebook advertising with the use of a cinema graph. It would need to be a top positioning amongst their consumers. They decided to compare cinema graphs against still photo ads on Facebook in a split A/B test to see the impact and contribution to their larger brand awareness story. Their digital team identified close to 1.1 million individuals in the U.S who fit their profile and served ads on desktop and mobile news feeds on Facebook. The campaign budget was evenly split between a still add and a cinema graph which spanned a total of 5.62 million impressions throughout 8 days. PepsiCo saw incredible results with their cinema graph ad. There was a 75% lift in overall click through rates compared to the image based ads. The still photo ad saw a 0.27% CTR (Click Through Rate) vs a 0.47% CTR on the cinema graph. Facebook measures engagement in a way which also accounts for video views as well as likes, comments and shares. They saw an outstanding 51X lift in engagement. 22% of the people who chose to watch the video had watched the full 12 second cinema graph pointing to the advantage of longer dwell times found in living photos.

On the other hand, people have been questioning whether print advertising is still relevant when new digital formats such as cinema graphs and video have emerged. Digital content tends to be scanned quickly, whilst reading a print based ad is slower and more deliberate which leads to a better understanding of what is being read. In this case, this means still advertising is more likely to make a lasting impression, therefore more sales and engagement. 

Print advertising will always have advantages over digital formats. The fact that it has been around since the beginning of advertising gives it prestige. With its long rich history, it appears to be taken much more seriously. According to an October 2016 survey by MarketingSherpa, 82% of U.S. internet users trust print ads when making a purchase decision, more than any other medium. A healthy ROI (return on investment) is very important when it comes to advertising and although theres a higher chance of reaching a greater amount of people online, print ads allow relevant positioning and the ability to target readers effectively. Through the use of digital formats you can never be quite sure that your message will reach your target audience at the right time. We have become very good at modern multi-tasking when it comes down to checking our emails whilst texting a friend and watching a video on our phones and computers. In other words, we do not tend to give our full attention when it comes down to digital content. On the other hand, when we are reading a print ad, we really focus and engage on the information that is being given. If you have the same piece of text put into both a still ad and a cinema graph for example, because of the moving qualities that the cinema graph brings, it is more likely you will give less attention to the information being given on the moving image only because it is more visually satisfying, and will automatically give more attention to what is moving around rather than the important text. 

Although there is a higher potential of reaching a large market using digital advertising, it also has its
disadvantages. Online advertising is now everywhere, even when you are playing a downloaded game 
you will experience a 25 second break where there is a forced pop-up advertisement and can only continue playing once it has finished. This forms a dislike towards advertisements to the point where people, including myself at times, start to ignore all advertising because it is simply just annoying. Browser complications happen every once in a while where video loading takes very long or websites lagging have an effect on both the company and consumer. When these types of technical issues occur, potential sales can be lost because of the failure to upload the advertisement or consumers just backing out and not watching the advert due to slow connections. This also affects pay-per-click campaigns which would yield very little return on investment. Another disadvantage is the fact that many consumers get distracted because of the amount of links and pages you can go to whilst visiting an online article or website. Viewers are presented with various options which can easily pull their attention towards other online advertisements.

According to a study sponsored by Canada Post, performed by Canadian neuro-marketing firm TrueImpact, neuroscience has proven, on a chemistry level, people process print content with a higher level of engagement and a deeper emotional response. The technologies used were eye-tracking and brain wave measurement. In the study they evaluated cognitive load, how easy it was to understand the content, motivation and attention, how long the viewer looked at the content. They found that direct mail required 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media. When asked to cite the brand of an advertisement they had just seen, there was a 70% higher recall amongst participants who were exposed to a direct mail than a digital ad. When measuring the “motivation-to-cognitive load ratio” where values greater than 1.0 are “most predictive of in-market success”, they calculated a score of 1.31 on direct mail compared to a 0.87 for digital media.

A 2009 study conducted by Bangor University used fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) to study the effects of paper and digital media. Their conclusions were that having a physical piece of material to read from was more “real” to the brain meaning a better connection memory because of the higher engagement with the spatial memory networks in the brain. When working with physical material there was also a higher emotional process which allows your memory to collect and remember things easier. 

Science clearly seems to show that print advertising can be more impactful and memorable than digital. Although digital offers many advantages, print is still and will always be relevant as it too comes with its many advantages. It looks to be more effective in communicating detailed information.

As part of my research I created a short questionnaire which I sent to local design agencies in Manchester as well as some back in Gibraltar and other agencies who I already knew were working with cinemagraphs. It was a straight forward questionnaire asking whether they had ever worked with the medium, how often and an opinion on whether they agreed it had a bigger impact than still advertising. Unfortunately, I only got one reply limiting me on how much I could examine the results. The reply came from a London advertising photographer, Joe Giacomet. Although some questions were not particularly relevant to him he made an effort in giving his own opinion. He mentioned, ” I do think cinemagraphs seem to get more engagement from what I’ve seen in comments and likes on social media.” When asked on how often he was using cinemagraphs he replied that he was working with about 5 or 6 a year. I also asked about the impact comparison between cinemagraphs and still and whether he thought it was the future of advertising. He agreed that cinemagraphs do have a greater impact and that it will be a key part of the digital and digital outdoor campaigns in the future. From what I gathered it is clear that he supports the view in which cinemagraphs are impacting the advertising world greatly, it seems to be part of the future for advertising campaigns. I would have liked to have received some more replies on the matter but unfortunately, results don’t always come back the way you expect it to and you need to work with what you have. 

I also created a survey on Typeform, a company who specialises in online form building. A very easy and nicely structured software to create your survey the way you want it. I created the questionnair to get a professional response on the subject matter whilst the survey was intended for a response from the public,  a cinemagraph consumer. Typeform did not let me import videos so I first wrote a short description of what a cinemagraph is. I then created a cinemagraph which I posted on social media beside a screenshot of the cinemagraph in order to compare both the still and moving image. Using Typeform I conducted a very simple survey asking the basics, if they knew what they are before me giving them a description, ratings out of 5 on how much each one impacted them and whether they agreed that the cinemagraph was more engaging. I received a much better response on my survey. The obvious reason being that I posted this on social media, directed to a much larger audience. I had a couple of people sharing which surprised me, it showed that people did engage with the post. Most of the responses were done through mobile phones whilst some were filled in using laptops and just one response made through a tablet. The results were in favour of the cinemagraph. I gathered a total of 122 responses. 80% of them did not know what a cinemagraph was before my quick description. There was also a 91% against 9% of people who said that the cinemagraph grabbed their attention most. This clearly shows a differentiation between the use of both mediums and which one clearly has more engagement rates. However, when asked on how much each ad impacted the consumer on a scale of 0-5, the average for the still image was 2.73, whilst the cinemagraph had an average of 4.16. I expected the still image to have had a lower average. My last finding was a clear 94% of people agreeing that a larger audience would engage more with the cinemagraph. 

From the information I have gathered, I can conclude by saying that cinemagraphs are significantly impacting the advertising world. Its easy to make and adds a dimension to engaging photography. After analysing the information it is clear that engagement rates have remarkably increased when brands have used cinemagraphs as well as substantial rates decreasing on costs per engagement. It seems to be a win win situation for companies applying this trending format. We can thank Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, the creators of cinemagraphs. As designers, we are always seeking new methods, technologies and mediums to further develop our process in the visual storytelling community to achieve greater heights. As the hybrid medium continues to evolve I am sure it will only grow within the advertising society and will be seen more and more often. This being said, it does not mean that still ads are not impacting advertising. Print and online still ads are still influencing the advertising community and will always be relevant because cinema graphs are not always right for every condition. I found out it is scientifically proven that a print based ad has a greater impact towards an individual than a digital ad. As visually satisfying as a cinema graph can be, it still falls short from reaching the effect a print ad transmits to the consumer. All in all I think it is a matter of trending formats being used today which is on an increase because of the increase in use of social and digital applications today. Will print advertising still be used in the future? Will a cheeky Mc Donald’s still taste the same after a night out?