Cannes Lions 2024: Creators spill the beans on grabbing audience attention

In a panel discussion hosted by the BBC at Cannes Lions 2024, content creators Drea Okeke, Josh Richards, and Steven He break down the process of telling a story that leaves the audience in awe

BuzzInContent Bureau
New Update
Cannes Lions, creators, audience attention, TikTok

Cannes: Forming a connection with your audience by understanding their opinions, tastes, and preferences plays a crucial role in driving higher engagement. This was the focal point of the session “A New Era of Entertainment” at Cannes Lions 2024. 

Steven He, a comedy sketch creator and actor with Viral Nation Talent, Josh Richards, Canadian social media creator, entrepreneur, and actor, and Drea Okeke, content creator, entertainer, comedian, storyteller, professional speaker, consultant, and host, discussed various ways to form deeper and more substantial relationships with the audience in a conversation with Helen O'Donnell, Head of Development at the BBC. 

Every day, approximately 271,330 hours of video content, with an average length of 4.4 minutes, are uploaded on YouTube alone. This vast array of content, spanning various categories, exposes viewers to a multitude of interests, leading to a general fragmentation of attention. 

Addressing the challenge of divided attention, Steven said, “A couple of years ago, we generally watched the same things, talked about the same shows, and used the same products. But today, I find it increasingly difficult to identify a trend that has global or even national interest.” 

Contributing to this thought, Okeke said, “Authenticity is the key. When people see me just living my truth, they relate to it. Hearing your audience out gives you insight into what they think about a particular video.” 

Okeke advised budding social media influencers to always read the comment section. 

The pandemic cultivated a new habit of scrolling through reels and TikTok, making people accustomed to continuous scrolling until something captured their attention. Therefore, grabbing the audience's attention in the first few seconds is crucial.

Highlighting the importance of an engaging opening frame, Richards said, “I found that it's essential to start the video with a focus on me, on my face, rather than opening with a scenic shot like a beach or the South of France. Ensuring that your audience can immediately recognise and connect with you is very important. Those first three to five seconds are probably the most critical part of your video to truly grab and hold the audience's attention.”

First, a hook, and then a compelling storyline—Steven deconstructed the process of grabbing attention using Dude Perfect, an American sports group known for performing trick shots, as an example. 

He explained, “They might have 50 trick shots, curated into an experience. In their first few shots, like the first three, they hit it and then take their time with another two or three shots until they hit another banger.” 

Think of your video as an experience. To ensure that people watch her videos until the end, Okeke employs a strategy she describes as “5% hook and 95% storytelling.”  

Providing an example, Okeke said, “When I was in Nigeria, there's this thing called palm wine. To get my audience to see this experience with me, I used a specific moment. When I was editing my video, there was a part where an elderly man, in his 70s, climbed a palm tree barefoot. Wow. He said that if he used shoes, he would fall off. This storyline hooked me, and I knew it needed to be my video hook. So, in my one-minute video, I started with him climbing barefoot. That was my visual hook. When I think about hooks, I consider visual, audio, and even the music used in the background. All these elements attract viewers, making them stop scrolling and watch your video.” 

On the neuroscience part of video creation, humans are naturally attracted by highly saturated primary colours and brightness. The human eye is seduced by contrast: contrast in bright and dark, contrast in sharp focus, contrasts in saturated colour, and dull hues.

Utilising this information to his benefit, Steven uses it to design his frame, costume, and set appearance. He goes the extra mile, employing a RED camera sensor to extract more colour than a DSLR camera sensor can. 

Steven asked the panel if they remembered how MTV used to show how their music video was made. Okeke replied to Steven by saying, “When I do sketch comedy, sometimes I like to leave that blooper in there because it also helps with the comment section. Oh my God, did you see this person tripped? They call it Easter eggs. Leave a little Easter egg so people can comment about it, right? Things are not supposed to be there, and then they notice it.”

Making a living from social media can be hard, time-consuming, and even emotionally draining. In many Asian cultures, parents often prefer their children to pursue careers as doctors, lawyers, or engineers.

Being born into an Asian family, Steven faced condescending remarks from friends and family when he decided to pursue content creation for a living.

Sharing his experience during the last leg of the session, he said, “Many of us have immigrant parents who aren’t very open to creative careers. I totally understand why they encourage us to become lawyers and doctors—they simply want us to have a better life. But my favourite quote on this topic is from Mr. Beast: ‘You're crazy until you're successful, then you're a genius.’”

TikTok creators audience attention Cannes Lions