Thirsty for Engagement: Why Long-Form Content Works

Stop-motion animation about magic flying tacos? A Pixar-caliber animation about love, beans, and what matters most? What’s happening to YouTube ads?

A recent AdWeek article detailed a fun trend of companies rolling out longer animated features for their ad campaigns. In the hectic, cluttered world of social media, these attention-getting spots are, above all, reminding us of one of the key things media is meant to do: entertain us.

For those using video production in Orange County, this brings up a question: is short out and long in?

As the article suggests, brands are experimenting with longer, higher-quality content for a few reasons. First, on social, the competition isn’t just limited to other brands. To get your voice heard online, you’ve also got to compete with the content that people are actually there to consume. Next, and importantly, more and more people are increasing the time they spend on social media, and are thus increasingly comfortable consuming media on their mobile devices—even if it’s longer. In short, the markets are primed and conditioned to cozy up to a longer spot, if it has the power to hold our attention.

(Quality) Content is King

That IF is the crucial point…The reason longer ads work is part of the same principle that gave us short ads. If people get antsy and bored with your ad, make it shorter, to get the same marketing message across in fewer seconds, to avoid the SKIP button. Long form approaches the problem differently. If our audience gets antsy with our advertising, deliver the marketing message, but give them more and better content, which they’ll actually want to see.

In a sense, the 6-second YouTube bumper ads—those ones you can’t skip—use sleight of hand to almost slip their calling card into your pocket. By contrast, the transaction of these longer, higher-quality advertisements is a bit more wholesome. In exchange for your valuable time, we’ll give you what everyone wants: quality, engaging entertainment.

This may just be my take, but short ads rose became so common not because the current smart phone-wielding generation has a shorter attention span. If that were true across the board, motion pictures would be getting shorter and shorter each year. No, businesses are forced to use short ads because, with more and more companies jockeying for our attention, the average individual is far less willing to care about what some brand wants to tell them—or sell them. We’re far more equipped to see through insincerity. The longer animated ads we mentioned are successful not because they are longer, but because they are more sincere in their efforts to entertain us.

This isn’t to say that short-form is losing its grip. Those hyper-weird 6-second YouTube bumper ads that run just long enough to make you uncomfortable (I’m talking to you, Old Spice…) do somehow speak to our generation. But as Geico’ genius YouTube bumper ads spoof illustrates, it’s not about the length of ad—it’s how you use it.

So for the company who is considering video production in Orange County, in the end, if you’re sincere, and if your work is clever, or beautiful, or awesome enough to stand out, you’ve got a successful ad on your hands. So if you have the resources, dig deep and make the ground-breaking 3-minute epic you’ve always wanted to. If not, go ahead and use six seconds to make your message short and sweet. The secret sauce to both formats is a brand that’s sincere—and content that engages.

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