Arthur Policarpio
Sep 24, 2018

Storytelling in six seconds or less

Simple tips for winning with content snacking in the mobile era

Storytelling in six seconds or less

For those readers old enough to have practiced the brand marketing profession during early years of the 21st century, the flagship component of the marketing plan was the iconic 30-second television commercial.  Did people really 'love' the 30-second length of television ads? In reality, the 30-second length was driven not so much by best practice, nor by consumer preference, but by the dictates of the television channel behemoths.

While the 30-second television spot still lives on, mobile has undoubtedly changed the video consumption behaviour of digital users.  Whereas before, in the largely television-driven era, people sat down on very specific time schedules to catch a show and where then interrupted with ads, in the era of Youtube and Facebook, people largely snack on mobile content.  'Content snacking' happens all throughout the day, in micromoments of just a few minutes - or even seconds - each. People snack on mobile content during their mobile commutes, during micro-breaks from work, sometimes even in the middle of a meeting, during dinner, etc.

How can brands succeed in this new era of mobile video content snacking?  There are three critical success factors:

Tell a story in six seconds or less

In a study that involved 1,000 Facebook pages with over 291 million page likes, 5,800 videos, and 182 million views, data shows that there was a great mismatch between the length of videos that content creators produce, and the actual average view time.  The average length of videos on Facebook in the study was around 55 seconds, however the average view duration was only 18 seconds. That means, on the average, only 1/3 of the videos were being watched by Facebook users.

Over at rival Youtube, data shows that only around 30% of users actually watch pre-roll ads, which means that around 70% of users skip pre-roll ads. This is perhaps the reason why last year, Youtube introduced a new ad format: the “bumper ad”.  Bumper ads are unskippable, six second ads. Given the short span, it is important to include in the ad a short and snappy product and brand showcase, as in this bumper ad by Renault:

Marketers, therefore, need to deal with this new reality: brand stories now need to be told in much, much shorter formats.  The ideal length based on data? Between six and 18 seconds.

But the question needs to be asked: Is it really possible for a six second ad to have meaningful impact on brand metrics? Based on research done by Google, the answer is yes.

According to Google, across 489 bumpers campaigns they analysed globally last year, they found that 61% drove a significant lift in brand awareness, with an average lift of 9% across all campaigns. On ad recall, they performed even better, with analysis of 605 studies showing that 9 out of 10 achieved an uplift, with an average increase of 38% across all campaigns.

This is not to say that long-form videos do not work. There are lots of great cases and examples of long-form videos that work really well. The point I am trying to make here, though, is that in general, at this stage, people generally watch shorter form videos, particularly on Facebook. And as such, brands need to consider adding short-form videos to their marketing mix, aside from longer-form videos.

Tell a story with no sound

Based on the same study, only 21.8% of Facebook videos were clicked to play. This means that majority of videos on Facebook, or close to 80%, are watched without sound.

As such, it is imperative to consider adding text in your videos. Whether it’s captions, text overlay, subtitles, or some other creative way of including language, including text let’s you tell the story without sound. Based on Facebook data, captioned video ads were watched an average of 12 percent longer than uncaptioned ads.  

A great example of a brand or publisher that successfully uses silent video is Buzzfeed’s Tasty channels.  The silent video clips of Tasty show all the steps required to execute the recipe, while text overlays list the ingredients used in the video.  You can completely understand everything about the videos even without clicking on the video to turn on sound.

Here’s an example:

Go Vertical!

Since the television was invented in 1927, video has always been horizontal in orientation. With the growth of mobile, however, that horizontal orientation will forever change after close to 100 years. Based on research, 70-80% of consumers watch videos on their phones vertically. 

Here’s a short video that shows the difference between horizontal videos, and a “true vertical video” - video that was purposely created with a vertical orientation.

It is important to remember that video is by far the fastest growing content format on mobile. People are consuming more and more videos, and as such, social platforms like Facebook are prioritising videos in their algorithms. It is imperative, therefore, for brands to master this new genre of mobile videos. Follow the these three critical factors to achieve lasting success in mobile video: tell your story in six seconds or less, tell a story with no sound, and make sure you go vertical!

Arthur Policarpio is chief executive officer of Mobext Philippines

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