Skip to main content

If you have a Netflix account or are interested in high-concept films, you have probably heard about Black Mirror’s interactive film ‘Bandersnatch’. This is a psychological thriller in which you make choices along the way, and control the direction of the story. Whether this is a novelty or the future of film is up for speculation. If it’s a gimmick, however, it’s an incredibly engaging one and has led to watercooler conversations across the world.

But can this interactivity be applied to video commercials?

Well, it already has. In 2011, online streaming service Hulu introduced the ‘Ad Swap’ function. This allows the viewer to choose which advert to sit through, by giving them two or three others to pick from. This sounds like a pretty good idea, truth be told: a teenager, for instance, may be more interested in a gadget commercial than one for life insurance.

However, in practice, this didn’t work out as well as hoped. In their article ‘Commercials by Multiple Choice’, The New York Times reported that one of the problems connected with the Ad Swap option was that by the time users would select a different ad, they’d have already seen a lot of the default one. Hulu then tried delaying the start of the default ad to give users a chance to choose. This, however, proved frustrating, as the delay prolonged the ad break.

Still, this option doesn’t make the adverts, in and of themselves, interactive.

As shown in the video above, Mercedes tried something far closer to the ‘Choose-your-own-adventure’ nature of Bandersnatch. Back in 2012, they launched a campaign entitled #YOUDRIVE. This was something of an event, advertised much like a blockbuster with its own trailer and poster. The story depicted a suave musician and his female driver racing through a city to get to a secret gig, while authorities are in hot pursuit. It was divided into three parts, 60 seconds each, shown in the ad breaks of the X Factor UK. At the end of each part, the audience were given a choice of commands that they needed to tweet (for instance, #HIDE or #EVADE). The command with the majority of tweets dictated the next part.  The combination of storytelling and audience interaction was a hit: the campaign hashtag appeared 103 million times on Twitter and 30 Million times of Facebook.

BMW is another car company that embraced audience interactivity.  However, they used a different method: 360° video. The viewer is in control of the angle he or she views, but there’s also a game to play: the ad asks you to keep your eyes on the car that model Gigi Hadid is driving, a tricky task given she’s surrounded by four identical ones. A simple challenge like this keeps viewers engaged till the end and makes them need watch the commercial again and again.

Coca-Cola similarly pushed the envelope when it came to interactive ads: they created the first ever ‘drinkable advertisement’, done in collaboration with Shazam. The app detected the sound of a Coke pouring on TV, and a graphic of a filling Coke glass appeared on their smartphone screen. Viewers were then gifted with a voucher for free Coke Zero.

The increasing sophistication of online technology has opened up new storytelling doors for commercials. Interactivity is a new tool, one that is still being played and experimented with. You can decide to steer clear of this innovation or embrace it and see where it leads.

The choice is yours.

If you want to create your very own interactive video for your brand, drop us a line!


Bruce Micallef Eynaud