Unskippable Labs: The Creative Future Of Data

The ability to empower creativity is backed by science, as Billy Corbyn introduces in his lecture on Unskippable Labs. His fundamental desire is to understand how we can extract data-led learnings of consumer behaviour to inform creative direction.

Corbyn likens data to the Pokemon Go tagline “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”. Data is continually expanding- it’s a huge beast and this can be very overwhelming. Marketers know they have to have the elusive “data” but they don’t know what to do with it.

Google’s original 1998 mission statement was “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google learns what people like, what don’t like and what they could like. Your YouTube recommended playlist says everything about you. And when a really bad ad comes out, people hate it. As Corbyn forewarns, this is going to get worse. We’ve become so used to being instantaneously connected to everything at our own will that when we are forced to watch something, we hate it.

Corbyn, therefore, challenges the 2015 Microsoft Study that the human attention span has dropped from 12 to 8 seconds since the year 2000. It’s not that the human attention span is decreasing, it’s that we are actually making decisions quicker instead. Yes, it may seem we are being overloaded with so much content that we have lost the ability to concentrate on anything, however, entertainment tells a different story. Films have increased in time length and people are willing to wait a whole year for the next Game of Thrones series to come out.

So how can we use data to make content worth the user’s time?

Corbyn positions Unskippable Labs as providing a two-fold service:

  1. Consultant to Creativity – how to optimise creative pre-production or post-production using data.
  2. Experimentation to Learn – what about the creative do we want to learn? This involves forming a hypothesis based on 3 pillars: format and its role; the creative and its impact; and to employ new tech

However, Unskippable Labs didn’t always start in this way. It took 2 years to develop and began with Corbyn boldly telling a senior 20th Century Fox director “I don’t think you’re doing your trailers right”.  Indeed, at the time, they simply used the same TV ads for YouTube, which we all know isn’t always the best use of the platform. Corbyn wanted to understand the key question we still ask ourselves nowadays: what makes the platform tick?

Thus began a series of experiments on trailers that illustrate how Unskippable Labs challenges brands to think better. Is mobile being taken into account? How can we appeal to multiple audiences? Is it enough to just simply focus on the first 5 seconds and forget the rest of the ad? What if we used an actual clip from a new TV series as the promo trailer, rather than a montage overlayed with a cheesy soundtrack? Using data, Corbyn is able to unfold these questions by tracking how audiences respond to different versions of a trailer and whether performance is improved as a result.

Corbyn ends on a stat that puts his work into perspective: 74% of users skip ads because of habit. It’s a challenging environment and now more than ever, brands need evidence-based, factual data to help let their creativity flourish.


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