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From six seconds to six minutes


TV advertising has historically revolved around the 30 second format.  The 30 has been able to perform a multitude of roles: from driving persuasion for new products to relaunching brands seeking new market difference, to supporting the equity of the most loved brands, without a hint of rational messaging.

The 30 has been supported by longer and shorter forms, each with their own merits. 15s are well suited to supporting simple communication and extending the life of more expensive 30s.  60s have allowed advertisers to tell more complex, more emotional stories, in a way that makes the execution more of an event.

Of course, the world has changed with

  • Advertisers as media owners not just media buyers
  • Smartphones putting video in people’s hands whenever and wherever they are
  • If we are to believe what is written, increasingly short attention spans

In this context, we are seeing more and more long form video: the most popular ads on YouTube average two minutes and one in eight are over five minutes.  At the other end of the scale, Vine is championing and popularising the micro-video format.

What is clear is that not all branded Vines and branded long form videos are created equal.  We set out to develop some learning on what is best creative practice.  We have examined four videos for five brands: two Vines, one medium length ad (typically 30-60s), and one longer video (from 2 mins 45 to 6 mins).  Our research included quantitative surveys, facial coding and qualitative depth interviews.  We have complemented this with learning for work conducted for YouTube on their ‘leaderboard’.


Long form video has superb potential for engagement, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Consumers will only give a brand so long, which has implications for the creative approach.

Long form is also clearly able to build rich brand associations.  It offers the opportunity to build and reinforce rational messages but also to develop and enhance emotional associations that frame brand well in the next decision window.

This results in powerful equity building potential and with the right news, the ability to persuade.

Vines have good potential to engage in a social media context, but as with long form video, this is not guaranteed.  There is a creative continuum from too simple to too complex and brands need to find the right balance.

Brand integration can be a challenge and our research suggests that the ‘rules’ for Vine may be similar to those for digital display.

Vines do have the ability to build single-minded rational associations or reinforce existing rational and emotional ones.

This delivers limited ability to persuade but could be a very cost effective way to support equity.


Long form

  • Recognise that there’s no such thing as a captive 6 minute audience unless you captivate them.  Inspire, surprise or excite.
  • Be aware of and embrace greater likely polarisation.
  • Branding is not the enemy of success; even sponsored content does not need to be overly subtle if the partnerships works.  Brand with confidence.
  • A larger canvas gives you more creative freedom, but you still need to retain focus; people still unlikely to take away more than two messages.  Keep your canvas clean.
  • Deliver some kind of reward (whether that’s unusual access, useful information or an emotional payoff).
  • Don’t worry about a call to action – just make the most of the time you are generating.  Viewers are online anyway, they’ll click if they want to.  Don’t demand immediate response.


  • Make the most of what’s currently unique about the format – 6 seconds, stop/start, ease of creation of consumer – but don’t expect too much of the viewer.  Celebrate the format.
  • Keep it simple but not simplistic.
  • Make it authentic but not polished.
  • Brand – or cue brand – throughout the Vine and as part of the video, not just the real estate.
  • One explicit message max: though can build/reinforce a number of explicit associations.
  • Play now while the format is still young and not a brand format so you can maximise return when Twitter starts to monetise.  Play now, learn now.

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