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When to use slow vs fast ads

Ad speed influences which type of message works best. Slow ads work best to communicate benefits and quality. Fast ads are best for features and prices.

Topics: Ads | Social Media | Website/App
For: B2C, B2B Friendly
Research date: May 2020
Universities: Bryant University & Kookmin University

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📝 Intro

Picture a cheetah running full speed towards its prey.

Imagine an alligator slowly inching towards the same.

They are both at the same exact distance from their victim.

Which one feels closer?

The cheetah.

Speed of movement changes how close - or far - we perceive things to be.

So how does this influence the effectiveness of ads?

📈 Recommendation

Use slower video ads when highlighting product benefits and quality (e.g. “Volvo, go on the dream holiday with your family - safely”).

Use faster video ads when highlighting product features and price (e.g. “Volvo, now with automatic collision avoidance, lease for $535 per month”).

People will be more attracted to your ad message.

🎓 Findings

  • When people watch ads with a slow-moving product or played in slow motion, they prefer messages focused on product benefits and quality.

  • When people watch ads with a fast-moving product or played in fast motion, they prefer messages focused on product features and prices.

  • For example, as part of a series of 4 experiments, people rated:

    • 32.8% higher a benefit-focused ad message for a metronome (“LumBeat. Enjoy a perfect helper to improve your inner sense of rhythm”) when an ad showed the metronome playing slowly (30 beats per minute; BPM) rather than fast (60 BPM)

    • 24.7% better a price-focused ad message for a camera (“A new Nikon D3100, the most affordable DSLR”) when the ad was sped up to 15 seconds rather than slowed down to 45 seconds. The opposite happened for a quality-focused message (see image below)

People liked a quality-focused ad message more (“Amazing picture quality”) when a Nikon ad was slowed down. They preferred a price-focused message (“The most affordable DSLR”) when the same ad was sped up

🧠 Why it works

  • When something moves slowly we perceive it as further away, when it moves fast it feels closer.

  • We tend to judge objects that are further away in more abstract terms and at a higher level (the benefits and the “why” of the product). We judge objects that are closer in more practical, lower level terms (whether it’s actually achievable and “how”).

  • Product quality makes the benefits more desirable, while a focus on price and its features make it easier to imagine using it in practice.

  • In addition, we are fast at processing characteristics of products (e.g. price, features), but slower at processing the meaning of them (the benefits, the “why”). For example, we are faster at realizing that something is a good deal (“50% off”) than thinking about what we would use it for (“I would be happy to use that because…”).

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  • The study focused on video ads. The same principle might apply to radio or podcast ads, or even in-store music, but this was not tested. For example, it’s possible that fast-paced music in a store will make people more attracted to promotions, and slow-paced music makes people more focused on quality.

  • How fast or slow an ad feels, and how much this effect works, probably depends on the context. A fast ad shown during a fast-paced sports program might not feel particularly fast - but it might feel very fast when shown during a soap opera.

🏢 Companies using this

  • High-end brands, which focus on quality, sometimes use slower-paced ads since they’re more likely to highlight quality or higher level benefits (e.g. Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle ad).

  • Value-focused brands, which are more likely to promote their prices or specific features, tend to mostly use faster-paced ads (e.g. Burger King’s 2 for $6 ad)

⚡ Steps to implement

  • Consider the purpose of your ad and the type of product you are promoting. Is it a branding ad for a high quality product? Or a special price promotion?

  • Make ads slow by showing slow movement (of actors or the product) and using relaxed music or speech. Consider making the ad emotional to make it even more effective.

  • Fast ads typically include fast-changing shots, scene changes, and fast-paced music. If you can keep the energy high, you will have the added advantage that more people will probably watch it.

🔍 Study type

Lab experiments

📖 Research

🏫 Researchers

Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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