Kantar Millward Brown

Point of View

Breaking Out of the 30-Second Box

The 30-second ad was once the gold standard of television marketing. However, in today's multi-screen world, content is often shorter than 15 seconds and longer than 60. To succeed in the digital media environment, marketers must learn to engage viewers differently for different video lengths. Each length and format offers a unique set of opportunities and challenges, and learning how to leverage each effectively is key to optimizing both spend and impact.

The Way We Were

TV advertising has long relied on the 30-second format to launch brands, present new variants, and support brand equity with relatively complex messaging. The ideal TV advertising mix also incorporated supporting 15- and 60-second formats. Fifteen second ads were ideal for stretching budget and reinforcing simple communication; 60s were events in themselves that could tell more complex stories and involve consumers more emotionally.

Of course, the world that relied solely on TV advertising is long-gone. In today's multi-screen and digital world, advertisers are now media owners, consumers with smartphones are constantly connected and have more autonomy over their media exposure, and ads range from six seconds to six minutes. Even with such changes, much of today's digital marketing merely repurposes TV advertising, which is often ill-suited to its new media environment and often proves ineffective. The mobile environment allows for a far more intimate and immersive brand experience, and smart marketing approaches should leverage the unique opportunities of new formats to develop stronger consumer engagement.

The Long and Short of It

While the 30-second ad is still a useful tool for persuading consumers, long-form ads have become increasingly popular; in fact, the most popular ads on YouTube average two minutes, and one in eight are over five minutes long.

At the other end of the scale, six-second vines are championing and popularizing the micro-video format.

Millward Brown recently examined four videos from each of five brands: two vines, one medium-length ad (typically 30–60s), and one longer ad (from 2:45–6:00 minutes) to determine which creative practices led to the most powerful video advertising. The findings should not be surprising—advertisers must identify the format best suited to their goals and then engage viewers on different terms for each format.

The Long Form

Ads over 60 seconds offer superb potential for engagement, but just because you have more time to deliver more messages doesn't mean that you should. Maintaining interest after 60 or 90 seconds is hard—even for non-branded videos that are purely for entertainment. However, smart long-form videos reinforce core ideas and enhance brand associations that can influence future purchase occasions. How can advertisers tap into this potential and avoid the pitfalls? There are a few solid rules of thumb:

  • Inspire: There's no such thing as a captive six minute audience—unless you captivate them. Long-form ads must inspire, surprise, or excite to maintain viewer attention and interest.
  • Know your audience: Long-form advertising presents a greater chance of polarization. Marketers should embrace the opportunity to develop an ardent following or build buzz.
  • Brand wisely: Branding is not the enemy of success; even sponsored content need not be overly subtle if the partnerships works.
  • Focus: Resist the temptation to overload your ad; too many messages/graphics/functions confuse consumers and dilute your brand.
  • Incentivize: Deliver some kind of reward—unusual access, useful information, or an emotional payoff.
  • Make the most of your time: Don't demand an immediate response—viewers are online anyway, and they'll click if they want to.

Micro Video

Micro videos, like vines, have good potential to engage in a social media context, but, as with long-form video, engagement is not guaranteed. Smart short-form videos have to find the right balance on the creative continuum—neither too simple nor too complex—and brand integration in a micro video can be a challenge. Good micro ads can deliver a strong impression—that the brand is stylish, cool, fast, modern, etc. So while vines may offer a limited ability to persuade new consumers, they can be a very cost-effective way to support equity. Nissan's "Who Needs 6 Seconds" vine cleverly utilized the format to demonstrate the speed of their GTR. The vine garnered some of their strongest consumer response to date on social video platforms.

Our research suggests that the rules for micro video are similar to those for digital display. If done well, Vine's high social potential provides a unique platform for building resonance with consumers. There are several guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Celebrate the format: Make the most of what's currently unique about the format—but don't expect too much of the viewer.
  • Don't overproduce: Surprise and delight your viewers. Keep vines simple and authentic.
  • Brand appropriately: Integrate your brand into the action of the video; don't rely on the logo to do the branding.
  • Keep it simple: Vines can reinforce a single-minded impression of the brand, though they can build and reinforce a number of implicit associations.
  • Hurry: Start now while the format is still young so you can maximize return when Twitter begins to monetize.

Different Lengths, Different Strengths

Strategically employing a variety of video formats can help build strong brands and maximize consumer response, but remember: even though the platforms and formats are evolving, the principles of good marketing remain sound. Effective advertising elicits an emotional response, and marketers would do well to take advantage of consumers' physical and emotional attachment to their mobile devices. Smart approaches to these new formats will employ consistent, creative messaging while leveraging the unique opportunities of each. Finding the perfect combination in a six- to 360-second advertising world can be tricky, but if done well it provides an exceptional opportunity to entice, intrigue, and engage.

Duncan Southgate
Global Brand Director, Digital
Millward Brown Digital
duncan.southgate@millwardbrown.com
Daren Poole
Global Brand Director, Creative Development
Millward Brown
daren.poole@millwardbrown.com