Commentary

Yawn! Instagram Video...Or Maybe I Just Bore Easily

Opinions about Facebook’s answer to Twitter’s Vine via Instagram video appear to be all over the map. Instagram purists are outraged by the new feature creep that they see invading the point, shoot and edit app. As if one more button will kill them and they can’t just ignore the video option altogether. Others complain that the video capture mechanism is sluggish. I didn’t find it so.

Still others seem to think that Facebook/Instagram has the throw weight to overwhelm the stand-alone Vine app with this more integrated solution. According to one count, more than 5 million videos were uploaded to the Instagram platform in the first 24 hours of the update. Well, we’ll see how long it takes Twitter to think integration as well. I would counter-argue that Twitter is more of a go-to app when people are making quick posts. On the other hand, some feel it is inspired to extend the video length from Vine’s 6 seconds to Instagram’s 15-second clips, which seems to invite more involved storytelling that brand marketers might embrace.

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Who knows for sure what format and app users will prefer in the end?

I am a little more interested in what the platform inspires people to do. If there is one lesson from Vine, it is that the constraints of the format spark creativity. Some of the stop-motion clips posted by brands to Vine have been truly energizing. The compression of the format seems to map so well against the device itself and the quick media consumption it invites.

Taking a quick tour of the top brands on Instagram (as tracked by Nitrogram 50), I am bored by the few initial stabs at this, event though everyone has had a number of months to play with Vine. Starbucks gives us a rapid-cut view of what I believe is their flagship store. A couple of others like Forever21 and Victoria’s Secret mimic the Vine montage or stop-motion techniques. Unfortunately, the 15-second length makes the motages without story arcs tedious. In the Instagram feed the videos do autostart just like Vine’s, but they don’t loop and lose that all-important munchability of Vine. There is a world of difference between scrolling through 6-second clips and 15-second clips.

Granted, some brands tried. Red Bull toasted the new Instagram feature with a video of staffers depicted via the new interface toasting with Red Bulls. Michael Kors posted an “#InstaKors” day-in-the-life montage. Victoria’s Secret did a stop-mo of briefs and tops match-ups. Playboy did clips of photo shoots.

None of this is bad per se, but it does remind us perhaps why Viddy, SocialCam and other first-gen mobile video apps seemed to peak early. They give too many marketers too much leash on which to be just barely interesting. Vine’s format forced everyone to rethink video. And more important, the format was so easily consumed and reviewed without much investment. 

Our worst fears about this format are realized at the feed from the most popular brand on Instagram. Nike repurposes a snippet from their new LeBron voicemail ad in which he gets congrats from Bill Russell. Perhaps the worst that can be said of the Instagram video feature is that it invites brands to be lazy and repurpose other media. That this format matches the format of the classic 15-second TV spot seems more than coincidental and a bit depressing.

Granted, it is too soon to tell -- but my snap judgment based on the first few days of branded content on Instagram video suggest that marketers are going to have to work against the worst temptations of this format in order to make it interesting.  

3 comments about "Yawn! Instagram Video...Or Maybe I Just Bore Easily".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, June 26, 2013 at 4:16 a.m.

    Instagram video is for teens. This is a problem for advertisers using it to target older demographics because those people will not be be building up a history of positive experiences with the channel and so will be very easily pissed off when they do receive short videos and these always turn out to be adverts. This already happens with SMS - as an older person, I get only a few texts each day from family and really close friends, which means when I get advertising texts they really stick out and irritate the heck out of me.

  2. Gene Keenan from TCF, June 26, 2013 at 1:21 p.m.

    Great post as usual Steve.

    6 seconds or 15 seconds? I find it a bit comical. Having parameters that drive creativity as we have seen in Vine is essential. That is the purpose of the brief in a creative agency: To create a parameters in which to answer a question. But Instagram saying 6 seconds is too short and 15 seconds is perfect is totally arbitrary. Instagram is trying to give the false sense that their solution is better by providing more; more time and thus providing the illusion of choice. 6 seconds or 15 seconds are both short parameters. The types of films made with each will be different but both will be good.

    One more thing... These are not new ideas. Nokia was running 15 second film competitions way back in 2003 on the Nokia 3650. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2003/oct/23/digitalmedia.shopping I recall seeing 6-10 second competitions produced by independent groups too but can't find them currently.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rlzDh27kio&list=PLDDD667A74CEE6952

    How short our memories are.

  3. Steve Smith from Mediapost, June 26, 2013 at 6:15 p.m.

    @Pete, I agree that the combination of poor creative and the expectations already set by Instagram in the feed will make the videos feel even more out of place. In Vine you know everything is supposed to move and end quickly. In an Instagram feed now it is unclear.

    @Gene. We're old. We remember these antediluvian but inspired mobile experiments. Back in the day when Nokia was driving mobile content innovation with labs and funding.

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