In their Unskippable Labs, Google devised a sneaky strategy to test ad effectiveness. They created a fake pizza brand called “Doctor Fork,” and used the brand to explore ad practices considered taboo by the industry, such as looking at the camera while eating.

Using stock footage, they created 33 ads for YouTube, reaching 20 million impressions. The two main foci of the study were the effect of sensory cues and human presence in ads. Although the study was focused on food ads, it has important takeaways for every industry- here’s what they found:

  1. Immersive, multi-sensory experiences drive better recall than single sensory experiences.

Implications: Food ads should stimulate the full range of senses and use the full potential of audio, visual and text cues to do so.

  1. Separating visual input from text (voice and supers) increases both recall and favorability.

Implications: Brands making short-form ads should consider separating visual clips from audio/supers for maximum impact.

  1. Explicit instruction to imagine increases both recall and favorability.

Implications: Brands should use instruction to drive impact until they can prove more effective options.

  1. We want edge-to-edge food in our food ads.

Implications: Food ads should include super close shots of the food to drive favorability and recall.

  1. Bite and smile is not the only way to show a pleasurable food experience.

Implications: A range of human/food approaches are equally valid. Brands should feel there is freedom in how they present their food being enjoyed, not constrained by bite-and-smile.

  1. Younger audiences responded better to first-person perspectives (POV) than older audiences did.

When creating ads for your brand, you want to create experiences that appeal to all the senses – not just sight.  Give the “close-up” and showcase the full capabilities of your product. Encourage your audience to imagine how your product would improve their life.

But perhaps the most important takeaway from this study is don’t be afraid to try things that haven’t been done before. It’s easy for companies, and even entire industries, to be stuck in a rut with their advertising. Sometimes doing something that no one else does is just what a brand needs to have a greater impact.