Why your ads don't always need to be short and sweet

We know for a fact that user attention span is dwindling. With shorter attention spans, getting your ad enough screen time to enable sales conversions can prove to be challenging. However, a study by Ooyala has observed for the first time that longer-form content made up the majority of time watched on every screen. This included connected TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones and for video content longer than 20 minutes.

In Singapore, some brands which have already jumped on long-form content include government authorities such as the Land Transport Authority with their “Buses: Dawn to Dusk” series; and Ministry of Communications and Information’s foray into telemovies such as Gunting and  “The Provision Shop”.

Outside of Singapore, one notable example includes Visa with its #TokyoUnexpected spot featuring a heartbroken Thai girl exploring Japan. The video, which was around 15-minutes long, garnered over 10.6 million views on Facebook.

Ooyala’s study also found that Asia Pacific, together with Latin America, ranks one of the highest in terms of smartphone penetration rates among internet users. “Explosive growth” was also observed, with 61% of all video plays being on mobile, which was up from 46% one year ago.

In a conversation with Marketing, Miguel Bernas, VP of digital marketing at Mediacorp, said that the result of the study is no surprise. It is also consistent with changing audience behaviours across the globe as screens, both fixed and handheld, become more and more accessible. He said:

It is also a reflection of the new age of choice when it comes to content consumption.

Brands which embrace long form content are still in the early stages in the Asia Pacific market, Bernas explained. This is where most branded content remains short form (two to three minutes). This thus presents a tremendous opportunity for brands to stand out against the sea of mediocre, over-commercial content.

Agreeing with Bernas is Yeong Yee, senior consultant at Ogilvy & Mather Singapore, who added that the trend has been observed in more mature markets. In addition, long form content is something which has worked well for many B2B brands.

The trend is driven by an audience that is increasingly more tuned out by advertising, and who seek greater value from the content they consume online.

Although the smartphone format still favours “snackable” video content, Yeong added that consumer behaviours and attitudes regarding the acceptable amount of time on a phone, have shifted upwards as well. This helped to further buoy the consumption of long form content.

According to Ben Israel, general manager, Proximity Singapore, recent moves by large platforms also provide some evidence that there is growing interest in the area of long form video content. Both YouTube and Facebook are invested heavily into long-form video content.

Facebook for example, has gone beyond the distribution of long form content and is also looking at producing original long-form content. Meanwhile, Buzzfeed revealed that it will experiment with long-form content on its Tasty brand. Nearer to the region, TLC Southeast Asia recently aired the full pilot of The Kings via Facebook Live – primarily targeting audiences in the Philippines.

How can brands leverage on long form video content?

Long-form content should aim to give its viewer value: go beyond pure entertainment and seek to educate or inform your audience.

“It is also worth considering to break down the message and create episodic content, as this encourages the audience to invest in the characters and stories that you are building,” Yeong said.

Instead of interrupting the consumer’s viewing experience as they try to get to their content, Bernas is of the view that brands should instead, think like a publisher. This is where their message is the content the consumer wants to see in the first place. Hence, this will challenge the brand to revisit classical storytelling techniques and change its role in the narrative. Bernas added:

Where good content is concerned: the brand is no longer the ‘hero’, the audience is.

Another space that brands should be watching is live video, Proximity’s Israel said. However, the way people engage with live videos are different to how they consume a TV show. For example, they dip in and out of live videos depending on their interest, availability and where they are.

“We haven’t necessarily really seen brands rushing to jump on this bandwagon. I think there is a difference between how people are consuming general entertainment content and branded content. That doesn’t necessarily mean that brands shouldn’t create long form content,” Israel added.

Personally, I think there is an over emphasis on the science of how long a piece of content should be.

“Some brands have perfected the art of communicating in a six second video, and others have beautiful stories that will captivate audiences for 10 minutes,” Israel added.