How cinemagraphs disrupt audience’s expectations

It’s the violation of the audience’s expectations of a photograph that make the cinemagraph so powerful.

Brands have a limited amount of time to captivate audiences, and competition for their attention is fierce. Facebook timelines are littered with images, videos, and quizzes, making one more ad a small part of a large, busy background. Likewise, banners begin to run together into a blur of anti-climatic hero images as consumers move between sites to determine which product or service has the most compelling call to action.

To drastically increase viewer engagement, creative directors want a visual element that has more interactivity than a still photo. However, videos are time-consuming and can be costly to produce, narrowing the potential scope of an ad campaign.

The cinemagraph provides an answer to a marketing team seeking a more accessible alternative. A synthesis of cinematography and still photography, cinemagraphs have slowly worked their way from the domain of luxury marketing to native advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Larger companies have begun to experiment with cinemagraphs to extraordinary success. Cinemagraph by Kenny Morrison with Peter Mayer for Asheville Tourism.

Though the technology has been in use sparingly since 2011, it only began to gain wider popularity in 2015, when these social channels began to see its full potential. When Facebook and other platforms began encouraging the use of the medium to marketers, the viral potential became obvious as cinemagraph ads achieved 71% higher organic reach than ads employing static photographs.

Larger companies have begun to experiment with cinemagraphs to extraordinary success. Panasonic ran a cinemagraph banner ad alongside a traditional static ad, and the cinemagraph was clicked 60% more than the static version. Likewise, email marketers have seen 72% higher transaction-to-click rates when including cinemagraphs.


The cinemagraph provides an answer to a marketing team seeking a more accessible alternative. Cinemagraph by Kenny Morrison for Dell.

The cinemagraph technology has reached maturity, which means that more brands will begin to adopt its use in 2016. However, the most effective campaigns will be those created by professionals photographers and cinematographers who take the time to carefully style the images because the magic of cinemagraphs is in their intricacy.  

What hypnotizes viewers is the subtle movement of selected elements within the image. Too much motion, and the image become disconcerting or obviously looped, disrupting the dream-like quality of the captured moment. Focus on the wrong details will undermine marketers’ efforts to attract viewers’ curiosity about the subject.

It’s the violation of the audience’s expectations of a photograph that make the cinemagraph so powerful. We’ve become trained to take in with a cursory glance the many images that inundate us, and so the delicate ripples of water in an otherwise paused moment in time, disrupt our expectations, forcing us to look more carefully at the image and make meaning from it.

It’s the violation of the audience’s expectations of a photograph that make the cinemagraph so powerful. Cinemagraph by Kenny Morrison for Amanda DeLeon.

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