The Smalls banks on short films to help brands tell better stories

Video content marketplace The Smalls is an online community with more than 16,000 filmmakers worldwide.

Long-form video content has proven to be a successful vehicle for some brands. For example, Toyota has taken been releasing short films for the Taiwanese market since 2015. Its Tale of Two Fathers, shot from a script that won a competition, was one of the most viewed branded videos in the country last year, with over 3.14 million views on YouTube.

While 60-second ads emphasise style over substance, longer-form videos blur the line between branded content and entertainment while giving brands room to tell a story that generates better emotional resonance among the audience, Kate Tancred, co-founder and managing director of London-based crowdsourced video agency The Smalls, told Campaign Asia-Pacific

Although it originated as a film festival in London's Covent Garden in 2006, The Smalls has signed up around 3,500 filmmakers from APAC. In fact, the company held an APAC version of the film festival in Singapore for the first time in February. Eighty percent of filmmakers signed up with the agency are available to work on commissioned projects.

Tancred said the expansion into APAC instead of North America felt like a natural choice due to the region’s vibrant digital advertising scene. 

The crowdsourced proposition's cost, compared with hiring a traditional production house, could be an important factor given the amount of content brands find themselves expected to produce.

“Budgets aren't increasing, and the internet is moving so fast that what is relevant one week may not be relevant the next," she said. "It is very rare for a content to be continuously used. We have to look for something appropriate and engaging.”

Longer-form content appeals to all ages, according to Tancred, and is likely to gain popularity. She noted Facebook's recent statement that it plans to rival television (with episodic content), which will further blur the entertainment/content lines. "If they move into the entertainment/TV space then I would predict that brands would significantly increase their creation of longer form content,” said Tancred.

Plan for impact

Rather than just connecting brands with creators, The Smalls takes a full-service approach to managing briefs. The team at the agency works to identify the intended emotional impact before the cameras start rolling.

“If the video calls for nostalgia, we make sure nostalgia is there at an intensity that would make the video shareable,” said Tancred.

Distribution mechanisms are important too, as content has to be structured in the best way for the channel, as Facebook and Instagram are very different media, for instance, Tancred explained. Filmmakers also want to tell as much of the story they can in the first three seconds to keep the audience engaged, she added.

Tancred cited Miu Miu’s short film on female skateboarders (at the top of this page) as her favourite work. Another top pick from her was the Instagram video for The Danish Girl film which was hand-drawn by an illustrator from Berlin produced by The Smalls.

“It is purely built for mobile, with the eye-grabbing content expanding into the screen. It is a perfect example on how to create a video that is optimised for its channel,” said Tancred.

Tancred (second, from right) at The Smalls Film Festival in Singapore

Eric Sawitoski, global creative director at Aon, a client of The Smalls, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the potential of videos is immense due to its ability to engage with the audience.

“Looking at our day-to-day activity, whether it is on your phone or desktop, you are constantly swiping or moving around,” said Sawitoski. “When we tend to stop, it is usually either on a photo or a video.” As the insurance company’s creative team is primarily based in Singapore, The Smalls was roped in for the production of videos for its sports partner Manchester United. He quipped that he had no qualms working with either a big agency or an boutique outfit like The Smalls as long as both parties are able to form a strategic partnership.

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