Captivating your audience

Written by Duncan Brown on 1 August 2014 in Features

L&D has huge advantages over the advertising industry - and that needs to be made to count when engaging viewers, Duncan Brown says

As L&D professionals you know huge amounts about your audience. You know what jobs they do; you can discover the skills they need to do their jobs and those they need to improve. You sometimes even know their socio-economic group and age profiles and crucially, you know how to reach them. You have a captive audience.

Just imagine now that you had to estimate who your audience is and what they needed and were interested in. Imagine you had to reach, entertain and engage with this nebulous mass - now that's a challenge.

That's precisely what advertisers have to do, they are groping in the dark and the dark areas are getting larger and less easy to measure and define. Traditional advertising platforms are in long-term decline.

Although TV advertising still accounts for nearly half of all advertising budgets TV audiences are much smaller than they used to be and, with multiple channels and on-demand services, much more fragmented. TV advertising is now most effective supported by social media. Campaigns have to be multi-platform and have to work across mobile devices because they are so much more personal and accessible than desktops.

Print has been languishing for a while with local newspapers in crisis, circulations for national titles are static or declining forcing publishers to chase online audiences some are even attempting to make readers pay for digital subscriptions. In response, companies such as IPC & Bauer innovated with augmented editorial apps for smartphones while magazines such as Grazia created specific iPad versions. Well known publishers like Time Out, Dennis and Future are creating in-house ad agencies in the battle for ad revenues.

The publishers own internal creative hubs are managing to produce better-targeted and more engaging content but digital ad revenues are still several years away from those once generated in print. Media owners are already investing significantly in their online capability and according to Comscore, online video ads have increased by 205 per cent over the last year.

In common with L&D professionals, publishers have to cater for multiple devices and deliver their content in an engaging way. Innovative organisations such as Adnostic, part of the Dennis publishing group are using interactivity as part of online advertising, as they attempt to engage their audiences. This still relies on filmed elements being taken to a freeze-frame before the viewer can interact but it’s a start. Publishers already know that static interactive features online produce three times the response of simple text and photo/illustrations and that linear non-interactive videos, increase web site dwell by a factor of five. That's why the BBC & The Guardian include video as a category in their most popular/top readership lists. 

The effectiveness of interactions in film online can also be seen in the response to the interactive trailer for the third series of BBC One’s Sherlock. In the first hour after the trailer launched in December 2013, there were more than 300 views per second, with more than 500,000 views recorded in 48 hours and nearly one million hotspot interactions. The trailer was only 60 seconds long but the total average time spent in the experience was over 5 minutes with an average 4.5 interactions per viewer.

The technology to create an interactive trailer with clickable hotspots embedded throughout, that created ‘rabbit holes’ seamlessly linking to new pieces of video and exclusive content is now available in eLearning. In Sherlock, the hotspots are linked to text on the screen. In eLearning you can even attach the hotspots to moving people or objects and every interaction will be recorded on your learning management system (LMS).

L&D has huge advantages over the advertising industry. We should know our target audience much better and if we design our interactive video content to work through a learning management system we can measure engagement very precisely. Advertisers have to juggle measurements such as impressions, engagements & events. Their current definition of whether an ad has been viewed is just two seconds! In a LMS interactive hotspot engagement, visible or invisible, can add to a viewer’s score to give very precise data so we know exactly what they have and haven't seen.

By phasing out the default of 'click next' and multiple-choice based on text & graphics you can produce a much better and more memorable learning experience. Imagine if people actually looked forward to their eLearning courses...


About the author

Duncan Brown was the publisher of New Scientists and is the director of Outtakes. He can be contacted via

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