Camera apps that consumers use to enhance and share personal photos accounted for more than 26 per cent of downloaded content on mobile phones in China during 2013. And 60 per cent of the photos people produced with those apps showed up on either Weixin or Sina Weibo, according to stats from China’s popular selfie application, Meitu Xiu Xiu. But while photo sharing is likely to remain a mainstay of mobile, social networking, there is a growing craze for more creative formats.
Animated GIF pictures for example have become integral to China’s social feeds and instant messaging conversations. Tencent’s recent release of Weishi (微视), a twist on the popular Vine app from Twitter, is another milestone in Chinese consumer adoption of short-form video.
But video recording has long been available on smartphones; what makes the short-form version so popular now?
Essentially, social platforms serve as a cornerstone for rapid expansion of bite-sized video. And in China, when you say social, you really imply mobile, with over 75 per cent of social network engagement occurring on a mobile device. From a purely practical perspective, short videos are perfect for mobile infrastructures and people on the go. To some extent, shareability and data-starved phone plans dictate a short, light-weight format for video. But short also gears content to be highly relevant culturally; digital generations binge on content and bite size formats fit that profile. They are built for watching on a smartphone’s social feed.
From a content-creation perspective, videos have undeniably strong emotional resonance and appeal, given the visual motion as well as sound incorporation. Yet, the limited recording length makes them immediate and to-the point, forcing content producers to capture the defining elements of a story or concept. It’s also enticing for content producers, professional or not, to explore new ways to tell a story, bringing in aspects of inspiration and novelty that a whole generation can make its own.
How can brands use short-form video for name or product awareness?
Companies like Samsung, Dove and the GAP all have great examples of leveraging short videos to build product awareness, either through designing an “interactive” catalogue, telling a brand story or showcasing a product’s uniqueness. Combining the common “infinite loop” feature available in many apps offers opportunity to use innovative design to create an appealing creative identity and make a brand appear lively and more approachable to its audience.
What about driving viewers to larger format video?
In China, short-form videos make sense as an enticing initial online touch point to drive viewership to longer-form video content. Advertisers should however pursue seamless correlation, both in terms of creative production and content angle for optimal user experiences.
Is it possible to aggregate user generated content for a broader engagement play?
A recent example from AirBnB and the online room-booking firm’s “Hollywood & Vines” campaign, had netizens all over the world submit short videos on the theme of Air Travel. This campaign successfully crowd sourced over 750 videos that the brand later integrated and released as a movie clip.
While the advertising applications of short-form are vast, the rules for advertisers looking to leverage bite-sized video are far fewer and to the point:
1. Be entertaining: short-form videos are essentially about social currency. Content should be intended to be viewed and shared on social platforms – never underestimate the power of humour to get your message across in a few seconds.
Oreo, Doritos and Dunkin’ Donuts are often top of mind when it comes to branded, yet entertaining short form video production. Smart, non-intrusive product placement, at the service of a larger entertainment purpose, drives their appeal. As such, it is worth noting that Dunkin’ Donuts premiered the first ever Vine-produced ad on television. The campaign’s success flows from both a timely release as well as strong creative identity, as the spot re-enacted a defining moment of American football history using the brand’s recognizable coffee cups.
2. Be true to the format: with short-form video being primarily intended for social networks, advertisers should be very considerate of the type of content they are looking to communicate. Simply cutting down a 15 second pre roll into a shorter video would not be a best practice. Make the effort to create genuine short-form videos that follow the code and language of this new form of content.
For instance, American home improvement retailer Lowe’s was successful in leveraging short form video beyond brand or product promotional content. Their “Fix-in-six” series was a hit while simply sharing practical improvement tips around home for consumers. Similarly, General Electric, with the aim of rejuvenating its brand image, has been broadcasting a “6 seconds science” series to appeal to younger audiences on social platforms
3. Be mobile: both from a creative format and user engagement stand point, advertisers should deliver content that people can engage with anytime, anywhere, and short form video should first and foremost be published on your mobile channel.
4. Be engaging: AirBnB, as well as other campaigns, have demonstrated success in calling out to netizens creativity in using short videos as part of a broader engagement play. Involving your audience is a step towards higher brand acceptance, as well as content that will genuinely speak to the broader consumer comparatively to more traditional corporate content.
Hubert Renucci is associate digital planning director at ZenithOptimedia