Science behind video & images

We’ve all been hearing about the great benefits of Video in digital and it seems to be a megatrend in terms of media consumption and common usage. YouTube a video platform has a vast user base of over 1 billion individuals amassing 500 million hours of video consumption every day. Social media too projecting similar numbers with 500 million hours of videos being uploaded on Facebook every day. These statistics are enough to impress anybody but are they relevant to all businesses? Is the sheer number of viewers a great way to classify media effectiveness? Is video the answer to all brand communications? And most importantly are videos an upgrade over images as a medium?

One wouldn’t advertise about a certain product on any platform just because there is a huge number of audience. The choice of every platform depends on various factors beyond just the quantity of audience, similarly, the medium of communication too depends upon varied factors. Videos may not be the ‘gospel truth’ of advertising media as neo-pundits of digital marketing claim it to be. To find the most appropriate medium to communicate brand messages, we must look at what goes on in the heads of a viewer while viewing and consuming visual media.

Research in neuroscience suggests that humans cannot multitask, and the popular misbelief that one can, stems from our ability to shift from one task to another quickly, but one thought at a time. The jump from one brain process to another is within a nanosecond and thus can go unnoticed, but truly Humans are not great at multi-tasking.

This helps us understand that when provided with multiple streams of information or cues, the brain will process only one while placing the other on the back burner.

This is a strong insight into how viewers consume media and process the information provided to them.

For instance; what would happen if you were to tell you to describe your mother’s face with every detail?

It is going to be difficult but while recalling her you will land up on a still image of your mother in your head & In order to best describe her facial details, you will have to closely see the details from that specific image in your head.

Now, observe the image below for exactly 10 seconds and try to take in as much information as you can.

Now cover the image.

What do you recall? And how did you gather information from the image?

You looked at the girls face first, tried scanning it for expressions you can detect, you looked for features determining ethnicity, you looked at her clothes and the way she has worn them. All these details were observed within a 10-second timer, but each detail was observed one at a time, in accordance with our previous understanding that we cannot multi-task. So to make up for our inability, our brain bounces between 2 tasks at large, Observing & Looking for a story.

You observe every detail available to you and create a big picture in your head by merging the current information with your pre-existing knowledge, thus creating your own story for the image you observe. Which is exactly why someone else looking at the same image could and most like will end up with a different conclusion and a story. This is due to the fact that each of us has had separate experiences in life thus shaping our views and opinions.

Now as another exercise;

Watch the video below.

Now try and describe the details from the video. What can you recollect? Do you remember the expressions on the peon’s face? Do you remember the face of the students? No right! But you remember the narrative of the video. How?

In viewing this video, your brain was jumping between 2 tasks, watching and listening, both of which tasks are done to gather information. You did not have enough time to create your own version of the story, because your brain was busy observing a story. It was hooked to every next motion in the frame, to gather more information on what was happening.

Videos of all kinds have similar effects on the viewer, as both the tasks of viewing and listening are important to how the narrative progresses. Even if one is missed out upon, information is lost and thus clarity is not achieved. But if both the tasks of viewing and listening are followed through a general story can be built, which not so surprisingly is common among all viewers. This points out to the fact that in videos the narrator of the story being told is not the viewer. It is the communicator. All the information given out in multiple frames culminates into a big picture that is common for almost all viewers. This is how videos are different from images as modes of communication.

Video allows for the brand to be the narrator of the story, while image empowers the viewer to create their own narrative. Both possess a very specific role and thus perform completely different in advertising.

Media strategies here play an important role in determining the conversion of a viewer to a consumer. Because at the end of the day, to narrate a story and to get a story narrated in your favour are completely different things. Both image and video have to be looked at oars in the sea of advertising and not boats themselves, they will take you somewhere, but without a complete strategy the boat, you wouldn’t be going anywhere.

It’s easy to make quick assumptions based on statistics available today, that video is the future of advertising, and that might very well be true. But what also stays true is that the ‘today’ of advertising is still full of images along with videos. One cannot be superior or inferior in terms of delivering information, because they are delivering different informations altogether. Comparing the two mediums would be like comparing tea and coffee, where a debate could go on for days about their merits and demerits, but the truth is that each has its time and its very own purpose.