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Is Your Audience Satisfied?

What is ASMR? It's the sensory-disrupting and often weirdly satisfying trend that's dominating ad land. It's young and budding, but there's already a lot we can learn from this exciting and creative form of advertising.


Charlie Foster

16 Apr 2020

When we say the word ‘satisfaction’, what comes to mind? Is it Netflix and chilling, being surrounded by puppies, or Benny Benassi’s hit song from the late noughties?

Satisfaction, in short, can be anything. An event, a person, a feeling, a moment that in all conjures a concoction of chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline or as most commonly known ‘feel-good endorphins’. As a species, we have been curious as to how we can tap into this goldmine of goodness. Asking ourselves, 'What satisfies our minds and how can we find that feeling more frequently?'. With COVID-19 looming over everyone, our search to keep our minds satisfied has become more prominent than ever. Whether that’s yoga, reading or working out to a live IGTV; we are learning about genuine ways that satisfy and calm our mind. And as advertisers, we therefore have an obligation to fulfil this cultural need.

Over the next few hundred words, we’ll be taking you through some of Ad Land’s content that we believe is 'satisfying'. We’ll be boiling down the basics as to what makes this creative so satisfactory and what we can learn from it. But where do we start? Well, over the last couple of decades, the rise and dominance of social media has broadened our understanding of how we as individuals spend our time within the online world. Social is completely different to other mediums. It’s a place of comfort, a place we introvertedly spend our time looking at things we like, from dancing dogs, endless memes to group challenges. But before all this, it’s a place of discovery, where we find things we didn’t even know we liked, often realising we’re into some... pretty odd stuff.

Enter ASMR. A buzz abbreviation floating around most creative brainstorms, and one of the many pillars that fall into Social-First content. ASMR stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’, which is your body physically responding to a sound or sight, such as a ‘tingling’ sensation around the head, neck or arms. In all honesty, how it works is unknown. Some people react to it, some people don’t. But the overall consensus is that it has the capacity to relax you. As with all new trends, a lot of people question whether it's all just hype, but the numbers don’t lie. Take Gibi ASMR for example, she alone has over 2.5 million subscribers and over 780 million views across her videos... clearly not a fad. So how do brands tap into this growing trend? Well as it’s still young and budding, there is no rule book (yet). But there are a number of brands who have done a good job. Strap in; it’s going to get weird.

KFC paid homage to mindfulness day, by creating KFChill, ASMR videos of rain falling and wood crackling but using a bait and switch to show chicken frying and bacon sizzling. Comically playing to what is expected from a traditional ASMR video whilst actually creating an ASMR video; pure genius. What KFC did fantastically well was to apply their own brand tone; witty, a little bit odd and also culturally relevant by posting it on mindfulness day. Whilst KFC’s ASMR content is based on the effect the sound is having, a repeated factor from an executional level is the long consistent visuals. The close-ups of bubbling oil and sizzling fat work hand in hand with the emitted sound to create this autonomous sensory meridian response. Therefore the type of visual is necessary when creating satisfying content.

After realising this, we pondered at other pieces of content where the visuals have the ability to create a deeper response. Take time-lapses for example. A video where events unfold over a long period of time. There is something oddly satisfying about them, but what? Perhaps it’s because we’re inquisitive animals, always wanting to know the end result. So watching something that builds suspense can feel very rewarding. Prime example would be Burger King Mould - the ad that split the industry in half, but it’s the ad of 2020 for many. Some might be thinking, how is a mouldy burger satisfying? Well we believe it is. It’s a piece of creative that is so simple yet so powerful. Proving their burgers are fresh by letting them stand the test of time (or not in this case) whilst giving a subtle two fingers to McDonald’s after anthropologist, Hjörtur Smárason, kept a Big Mac mould free for 6 years. But what is satisfying about it? Simply put, it is the visuals. The mould spurting out of the burger, the green and white multicellular fungus growing over the space of a month. A sight we never see in our day to day life but are inquisitive to stare at it, a single shot over the space of 45 seconds.

This leads us onto the length of content. For some reason *cough, cough Facebook*, we all believe that humans have the attention span of a goldfish and content needs to be as quick as possible. Specifically speaking if we don't have the message across in the first 3 seconds, then there’s no point. If you create great content, people will watch it, regardless of how long it is. Need proof, look no further than one of the most accredited adverts of all time; Honda Cog. An advert that has paved the way for satisfying long form content 17 years after creation, with hints of it being mimicked on today's platforms. There are many reasons why this ad is satisfying, but one factor is that it’s done in a single shot. Having a piece of video content over a single shot is incredibly satisfying. Take Rains, for example. A bohemian clothing brand from Amsterdam who use Cinema 4D to produce long, simple but satisfying shots of their coats. Their collection of Ultralight coats were edited to be floating, hanging in suspension, bringing to life their weightlessness. The content could be considered art, not advertising.


So as advertisers what does this mean for us? Well, we’re sure we can all remember being told that we see over 5000 ads a day. This has pushed brands and agencies to create ‘shouty’ content; content that doesn’t take into consideration what the consumer would like to see. Instead, it forces messaging past the oesophagus in a bid to latch onto a fraction of attention.

We’ve got to shift away from this. In today's current climate and situation, agencies and brands need to create content that consumers will genuinely enjoy and gain satisfaction from. Of course, there is a place for all types of content, long-form, short-form, mid-form, brand and product. What we’re specifically talking about is content that satisfies the senses, goes a little bit deeper and literally makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. We’ve boiled this down into three points; simplicity, suspense and sound.


As with the Burger King and Rains examples, single but beautiful shots create the most simple and yet satisfying content. No need to overcomplicate content with multiple angles etc. If you can boil down your message into a simple execution, your brand will reap the rewards.


We are inquisitive creatures; you may recall how TikTok superstars wait till the last second to reveal their point/trick/subject. If you’re able to build suspense as Honda did with ‘Cog’ then your audience will continue watching the content.


We have been brainwashed to think visuals come before sound (thank you Instagram). Never, ever, underestimate the power of sound. ASMR is proof that sound is equally able to engage audiences as much as sight.