Breaking Free Of The :30 Spot: Why Long-Form Content Works On The Smaller Screen

The :30 and :15 second standards for digital video ads were born, like many digital standards, before digital.

In the early 1960s, TV ads mostly ran for 60 seconds. Then, in 1971, the Nixon Administration banned cigarette advertising. After losing out on $150 million in advertising spend in 1971 dollars, the networks “recovered by offering cheaper, :30-second spots, although at more than half the cost of the old standard 60-second spot,” notes Ad Age.

Some 45 years later, the :30 second video format still predominates within digital platforms, though it has lost ground to the shorter :15 second spot; and now nipping at its heels is snackable :07 second Vine-inspired spot.

However, is going shorter the only alternative for marketers?  The facts suggest a different conclusion.

The banner-blind tuned-out consumer has not shut their eyes or ears to all branded messaging. What the tuned-out consumer is doing is selectively filtering the over-abundance of content and messages to fit their world of discovery. 



That filtering is generally based on one simple premise – good, compelling content gets watched. Consumers are discovering, curating, consuming and sharing branded content at a pace that was once unthinkable to marketers.

They are willing to dedicate a longer period of time to content – user-generated, professionally produced or branded, provided it’s entertaining.

Savvy marketers are taking note of consumers’ willingness to watch long-form video and are offering consumers longer, episodic and adventurous branded video experiences. They allow for deeper forms of brand storytelling — and ultimately provide a brand the opportunity to create and deepen their relationship with consumers.

Marketers Loving the Long Form

Dove’s Real Beauty vignettes – branded content - racked up more than 66 million views even though it ran for three minutes. Another monster hit, Always’ #likeagirl, also ran three minutes and drew 61 million views to date. One of last year’s biggest hits, Disney Parks’ “Disney Characters Surprise Shoppers,” clocked in at 2 minutes, 16 seconds. 

The number of video completions is a compelling statistic – now add to that shares, likes, posts, tweets and the impact of that content is magnified to a level that would make any marketer envious. 

These brands are unencumbered by the :30 second constraint, reaching new consumers and strengthen the relationship with existing customers and brand advocates.  Think of the outdoor enthusiasts who eagerly watch a Patagonia video that may run 30 minutes. Or the travel aficionado who watches Marriott Hotels’ mini-movies that run up to 17 minutes.

Why This is Happening Now

Driven by a tectonic shift in consumer media habits, the digital advertising ecosystem is in a period of massive disruption.  The response to this point has tended to focus on technology solutions to drive media efficiencies.  However, many of the solutions offered to date do not satisfy the essential marketing need to build the brand/consumer relationship.  

This lack of “upper-funnel” impact is one of the reasons we are seeing brands commit to more immersive solutions, like influencer marketing, experiential marketing and content creation and distribution.  These solutions shift away from interruptive advertising tactics toward an approach designed to foster meaningful consumer engagement.

Consumer engagement is the hallmark of long form video and is the full expression of advertising that is so good the consumer wants to watch it.  The challenge for brands is to understand that the consumer is in control.

To be a truly effective content marketer means looking beyond their own digital platforms and leveraging the many other content distribution avenues available.  Video platforms, social-media platforms, influencers/bloggers, targeted media buys – all give brands the opportunity to gain visibility and amplify the impact of their long-form content.





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