The challenge of long-form commercials
Long-form commercials span anything from two to 15 minutes in length and more brands are engaging with the form as audiences appear receptive. As Cannes Lions 2016 gets underway in the south of France, KFTV takes a closer look at the genre.
In the UK, long-form commercials were the most-viewed ads on YouTube in 2015, according to figures from Google. Retailer John Lewis’ Christmas campaign #ManOnTheMoon (see below) runs for two minutes and has now attracted 25 million views, while supermarket Sainsbury’s has hit the 30 million mark with its own Christmas 2015 offering (Mog’s Christmas Calamity - pictured) that runs to a full three and a half minutes.
“The most popular ads we saw in 2015 succeeded in entertaining and engaging people thanks to their creativity and consumer insights, and they held the viewer’s attention despite the average length of the top 10 being more than two minutes - more evidence that consumers will happily watch longer-form content,” said Alison Lomax, head of brand solutions at Google, when the report was released earlier this year.
Internationally, brands are pushing forward into short films that present a distinct lifestyle to associate with their product. Mediterranean beer Estrella Damm launched its 12-minute short Vale in June 2015, starring US actress Dakota Johnson as a tourist making new friends in Spain. The film has been an online success in Spain with 6.6 million views over the past year.
Estrella Damm released a new film, the 16-minute Those Little Things (see below), earlier this month, which stars French actor Jean Reno as a grumpy version of himself being given a tour of Mallorca by a guide played by Spanish actress Laia Costa. The film has been viewed nearly a million times in a week, again suggesting that online audiences are interested in longer-form branded content that offers humour, an appealing way of life and star names.
Nike’s online campaign Margot vs Lily (see below) experimented with a long-form miniseries idea earlier this year, offering an eight-part comedy drama, with each episode between about five and ten minutes long. The series presents a sibling rivalry, with two sisters trying to set up competing online fitness channels, a concept that plays easily into Nike Women’s sports clothing brand.
Margot vs Lily’s first episode stretched to nearly 10 minutes to introduce the likeable leads and drew nearly 20 million views on YouTube. The series couldn’t sustain its audience and shed millions of viewers with each episode launch, although the social media response, as looked at by analytics site Brandwatch earlier in the spring, suggests the experiment was a success overall.
The long-form style was an issue for some but Brandwatch found that 95% of Twitter mentions of the series were in fact positive as each episode was released. Viewing numbers may have fallen very quickly, but the creation of a dedicated fan base and the overall brand exposure will be considered positive results for Nike.
Long-form advertising is likely to grow in appeal in the coming years, but the next challenge is perhaps to improve the standard of writing to integrate the brand more effectively into a strong narrative. Google’s figures from 2015 show that audiences respond to an emotional hook and an everyday relatability, so the results for advertisers of a responsive audience could lead to a lucrative long-term relationship with new customers.
Cannes Lions doesn’t specifically recognise long-form content, but there’s considerable scope for innovative campaigns to make an impact in the various awards categories, alongside recognition for a meaningful impact on consumers and wider audiences.
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