Blog | October 19, 2017

The Art of Movement: Using Cinemagraphs to Increase Engagement

by Chad Lott in Digital Asset Management

Creative teams have a unique opportunity right now to use a type of asset that’s effective and not yet widely adopted: cinemagraphs. They were invented in 2011 by photographer Jamie Beck and web designer Kevin Burg for Fashion Week in New York. These digital images are mostly still, featuring subtle movements, like the otherworldly paintings in Harry Potter. Many viewers find them hypnotic.

More and more organizations, often higher-end lifestyle brands, taking advantage of cinemagraphs. They’re still somewhat challenging to do well, and novel enough to ring out over the steadily increasing noise we’re all contributing to as content marketers. Eventually technology will progress enough to put this tool in every marketer’s hands. For now, earlier adopters will have the advantage.

Movement makes marketing magic

Studies have shown a significant increase in engagement when rich media is included in digital marketing tactics. According to a study featured on MarketingProfs, “72% of email marketers who have used animated GIFs or cinemagraphs have recorded higher transaction-to-click rates, compared with bulk emails to the same customers.”

Cinemagraphs are particularly well-suited for advertisements featured on social media platforms that automatically start and repeat videos such as Instagram and Facebook. In fact, Flixel, a Shutterstock partner, did a compelling case study about a social media campaign one of their clients, Microsoft, ran.

Twitter ads featuring cinemagraphs targeted at small businesses, “saw an increase of 110% compared to the 1.96% increase in engagement generated by advertisements using still photos.” Over on Facebook, “engagement rates increased by 85% with cinemagraph social ads, versus the 0.83% increase on still image ads.”

If it was easy, everyone would do it

Unlike GIFs, which only need a clever edit to loop, cinemagraphs should be staged and shot in a way that makes the movement as seamless as possible. GIFs can certainly boost click rates, but good cinemagraphs have an aesthetic quality that can elevate your brand as well as intrigue your audience.

In the beginning, creating cinemagraphs required a decent level of comfort with Adobe products and a cinematographer’s eye. Many of the technical challenges of making cinemagraphs are quickly being solved. For example, Apple’s new iOS 11 upgrades the Live Photo tool. You can shoot, resize, edit and loop videos with nothing more than your iPhone.

We believe designers and photographers still have the best toolsets for creating excellent cinemagraphs. The pieces that really stand out are almost always well-planned. The lighting has to be just right. The action has to be choreographed. The concept needs to be strong. If it isn’t, you’re in for a hard time when you get to editing, no matter how slick the app you’re using is.

All of the above means creative teams have a bit of a head start. The longer you wait, the more cinemagraphs will be used, making it harder to stand out. As P.T. Barnum said, “If you hesitate, some bolder hand will stretch out before you and get the prize.”

Start using cinemagraphs now

Even with the added production expense associated with making top-shelf cinemagraphs, you’re likely to come out ahead. In the Microsoft case study mentioned above, the tech giant found “cost per engagement decreased by 45% when cinemagraphs were used in their social media ads.” They’re also much cheaper to produce than traditional video content.

Here are some ideas to help you get cinemagraphs into your content production pipeline and get them in front of your community:

  • Make your own with Adobe. As we mentioned above, the best cinemagraphs tend to be created by those who have an eye for photography and a feel for video editing. If that’s you, great. There are plenty of tutorials online and as demand grows for this kind of content, it will be a valuable skill to develop for your team.
  • Hire a freelance cinemagrapher. This can be the most expensive option, because, like anything, you get what you pay for. If you have a specific concept that can’t be satisfied with a stock cinemagraph or your own labor, and it needs to look polished, this is a solid option.
  • Use cinemagraph software tools. Flixel is the best software specifically to help non-designers create high-quality cinemagraphs. You still need to have a good visual sense, but the skill barrier is reduced, speeding up the process. You can use it on your desktop or iPhone.
  • Buy an off-the-shelf cinemagraph. Many creatives are very excited about the artistic possibilities offered by this relatively new medium. That means they’re becoming more available on stock content sites. They tend to be pricier than still images, but that can be an advantage because you won’t see the same image used over and over again.
  • Give Shutterstock Custom™ a try. Our new sister company combines a brand’s visual style and strategy with its global network of creatives to shoot high-quality, on-brand content. It’s cost-effective and scalable. One of the services they offer is cinemagraph creation.
  • Use a feature-loaded DAM. Digital asset management can solve many of the common challenges associated with using video assets, such as on-the-fly size conversion and formatting for social media platforms. Since cinemagraphs can be relatively expensive to make or acquire, you don’t want to misplace them or use them without appropriate licensing. Adding metadata to your cinemagraph assets will ensure they’re always easy to find.

Strike while the asset is hot

If you’re reading this, you’re probably working as a marketer in some capacity. The big takeaway from this piece should be urgency. We recommend starting your cinemagraph journey now if they sound like something you’d like to use.

Right now, cinemagraphs are intriguing. As more tools become available to make them, the cost of producing cinemagraphs should go down. When that happens, you’ll likely see a spike in their use. However, right now is the perfect time to add them to your content quiver.

And remember, you don’t have to go all in. Try a simple A/B test in an email. If cinemagraphs don’t seem to move the needle much, don’t sweat it. Afterall, there’s always the humble GIF.

The Author

Chad Lott

Chad Lott

Chad is the Senior Copywriter at Webdam. He spends all of his free time reading old books and watching cult films.

View all posts by Chad