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Long-form video: Your secret weapon

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Long-form video: Your secret weapon

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Hey, can you give me a second?

There’s a lot of people talking about viewer attention spans getting shorter and as a result, marketers often feel pressured to use short-format videos to connect with customers. There’s the continuous search to create the perfect 30 second spot, 15 second cutdown or six second billboard that’ll capture the essence of a brand and rise above competing video content.

But the reality is, long-form video can be a better strategic decision.

First, let’s bust the attention-span myth. 

Now I know we all tend to think we are turning into a society with attention spans of distracted goldfish. As it turns out that’s not necessarily the case. A study by heavy-hitters Google and Ipsos found that people can – and do – still pay attention. In the analysis of customer behaviour, 81 percent of video viewing sessions capture people’s attention.

In recent years, research has also shown that long-form video makes up the majority of time watched across all devices. And, the pandemic has only served to strengthen the rise of long-form content.

Why? 

Because long-form video puts emphasis on entertainment and storytelling. With more time, there’s room for subtly like this fantastic piece for Burberry.

Or humour like this for General Motors during this year’s Super Bowl.

Or a narrative that engages viewers in a deeper and more meaningful way like the well known Colin Kaepernick spot by Nike.

Long-form also allows brands time to show off their creativity, values and puts their product in context. 

I read that advertising legend Howard Luck Gossage said:

“Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them; and sometimes it’s an ad.” 

I totally agree with him, and if you were to switch out ‘reads’ for ‘watches’, it nails how people feel about video content today.

Relevance rules

We’re all becoming better at avoiding ads. ‘Banner blindness’ is real, and we’re pretty much immune to anything that isn’t personally relevant or engaging.

But there is good news for marketers. More people are seeking out genuinely entertaining long-form content that’s personally relevant to them. 

Whether it’s educational (like a TED talk), aspirational (a tour through the Loire Valley in that new prestige car), entertaining (what will that coffee drinking couple do next?) or even an amusing look at the evolution of their favourite beer. 

It’s all about strategically targeting your audience and engaging with them over time. 

We all know the more time someone spends with a brand, the more primed they are for purchase. Now, I’m no mathematician, but a memorable four-minute long-form video is eight times more up-close-and-personal time with your brand than a 30 second ad. Yeah, I know, it’s not as simple as that, but you get the idea

Whiskey – with a splash of controversy

Elastic teamed up with Patrick Whitnall, Irene Sarris and Kaga Bryan at Publicis Content to produce a long-form piece that celebrated Jack Daniels 150 anniversary. It was irreverent, controversial and totally relevant to a fiercely loyal JD audience.

Jack Daniels // 150 Years from Elastic on Vimeo.

The Publicis Team, with the help of the client, artfully weaved events and inventions through Jack Daniels 150-year history into one bar scene. Then, cleverly added some fun – and somewhat questionable – historical facts into the mix to get the very active JD Facebook community talking.

The content did the job brilliantly. It received over one million views in its first week live, and the JD Facebook group lit up like a Christmas tree, with over 70,750 new fans joining in the discussion, showing just how much people were engaging with the video.

Emotional Connection

“Vicks – Touch of Care’ is an emotive docu-drama series by P&G that looks at social issues in different communities around the world, focussing on people who aren’t family, looking after others as if they’re their own. 

We had the opportunity to work with Prodigious and Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore, travelling to the Philippines to tell the story of Jason and Pamela, who unite in the most unfortunate circumstances.

It was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever been involved in as it really connected with a wide range of people and became one of our most successful.

The video received over eight million views on YouTube within weeks of its release… it even sparked reaction videos.

A beautiful idea that genuinely connects on an emotional level, P&G has seen very high engagement in local communities and found significant audiences worldwide for these long-form videos.

Laughing all the way to relatability

People love a good laugh! Light-hearted, amusing videos are a perennial favourite – they’re easy to consume, often highly sharable and ‘sticky’. 

When Prodigious Singapore brought the Head & Shoulders ‘Duderuff’ campaign to us last year, it was time to stretch our comedy muscles with the help of Director, Yvette Paxinos otherwise known as PAXI.

In this fun mini-mockumentary, Mark, our loveable protagonist, suffers “duderuff”. With a light-hearted approach we could address what can be a sensitive topic. And, because we had time in the long-form video, writers were also able to incorporate accurate scientific information in an amusing way, making the piece highly engaging and relatable.

Head & Shoulders // Duderuff from Elastic on Vimeo.

Long-form video is so good for comedy because it allows time to pace for laughs, and play out a whole comedy scenario. And – like all long-form video – once the premise is established it’s easy to do 30, 15 & 6 sec cutdowns for digital, VOD & TVC that ‘call back’ to the hero piece.

Education & inspiration 

Long-form gives us the opportunity to tackle complex concepts in ways that that are more metaphorical and nuanced. It’s where brands can educate and inspire audiences… and hopefully create change.

This is true of the ‘Discovery Series’ that we produced for biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie. The series of short documentaries highlights the importance of medical research to transform the lives of people living with chronic illness..

AbbVie // Discovery Series – Psoriasis from Elastic on Vimeo.

Episode four in the series focuses on Psoriasis. It’s a skin disease that can be debilitating and life-altering for people living with it. 

For almost eight minutes, this difficult subject matter is explained to audiences in a way that’s relatable and highly engaging. The film explores the juxtaposition between advancements in technology changing the way we live our lives online, with how advancements in medical research has given patients a new lease on life.  The film educates audiences and gives an insight into the transformational impact of medical research on the lives of people living with psoriasis. 

Long-form love affair

Now, here’s the caveat… the most outstanding long-form piece in the world won’t get any views if no one knows it’s there.

To truly harness its power, long-form needs to be wrapped in a holistic campaign strategy. This includes research, insights and a continually optimised omnichannel distribution strategy that uses the best platforms paired with best practices to truly connect with your audience.

But used strategically, there’s no end to the possibilities to make highly engaging content, relevant content that truly connects with your audience. And hey, that thing about shrinking attention span? If you’ve read this far, you just helped prove it’s a myth!

Nathan Richman is the managing partner at Elastic.

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