How will big brands exercise their voices in the crowded content landscape of 2019? And what’s going to be soaking up the attention of audiences around the world?

One thing that particularly caught my eye is the struggle brands are having to entertain, inspire and inform their audiences within the restrictive parameters set by social media giants.

No sound? Vertical only? Under 10 seconds?

We’re questioning how many pieces of content can fit into these parameters and be truly engaging. Although snackable content definitely has a vital role in building brand awareness and prompting audiences along the sales journey – how much of it is just content for content’s sake, cut and repurposed from other channels?

Building the brand

And how much content misses the mark when it comes to building a lasting association and brand love?

YouTube recently announced the re-classification of a view on TrueView to 10 seconds, likely fuelled by marketers’ ongoing obsession with using views as a proxy for ROI. Brands will see an immediate uplift in the performance of their campaigns, but this race to the bottom in pursuit of vanity metrics isn’t helping to truly build brands.

Econsultancy’s Online Video Best Practice Guide

The brands that will win in 2019 will not be those who just battle it out for a few seconds of someone’s attention, but rather those who also earn love and loyalty by deepening engagement with their audience for minutes at a time.

In a society where most morning conversations involve sharing opinions on what you streamed the night before on Netflix, or what new BBC drama is hotting up, there’s a lot brands can learn about the power of long-form content to excite, move and connect audiences across the world.

I asked a few people from our London and US offices about the most memorable branded content of 2018 and not one of the pieces mentioned were below 60 seconds. The Nike London ad featured heavily, along with Adidas’ long-term Tango Squad and Patagonia’s impressive anthology of inspirational documentaries (check out their latest release Treeline, below). All great examples of content that is engaging, culturally on point, great for building brand loyalty and longer than 3 minutes.

I’m the first to admit that all these brands have something in common that makes it relatively easy for them to create long-form content that reaches the right people – they are all deeply connected with their purpose and are pushing messaging beyond their products.

Snackable, bitesize content works wonderfully for short product prompts, for less established brands or for brands who have more functional and tactical messaging. But for brands who want to connect with their purpose, long form content is your friend. That isn’t to say these two types of content can’t work in perfect unison. Creating a short-form ecosystem sprinkled across social can be a great way to promote long-form content and direct audiences to watch regularly.

So with this in mind, here are two things to note when thinking about long-form content:

Algorithms are here to help you

A recent study from Pew Research Center demonstrates that YouTube has been quietly shifting its recommendation system to favour longer videos. After watching 300,000 unique videos, the pattern they saw emerge was that YouTube’s recommendations consistently increased in length each time they recommended new content. This is no surprise, considering the multiple revenue opportunities longer form video presents to the platform, which can pepper this content with pre-, post- and mid-roll ads.

It’s tricky to make viewers sit through a 10 second ad on a 30 second video, but the value exchange is different when this small investment will lead you to 20 more minutes of content. However, it’s not just the platforms pulling the strings, the audiences are also responding positively. 54% of smartphone viewers’ video-viewing time is spent on videos that are over 20 minutes long – which is an increase from just 29% in 2016.

Don’t be afraid to take the bull by the horns, and make the most of the favourable opportunities these platform changes offer your brand.

Take inspiration from the world around you

The online landscape is full of social and cultural cues. Whether it’s the sense of calm prompted by slow-motion cooking cinematography from Chef’s Table, or the popular rise of the ‘Slow TV’ phenomenon dedicated to an undemanding, hypnotising experience of things that are just, well… slow. These popular content themes reflect the growing counter movement to today’s fast-paced, always-on world of connectivity.

If brands can tap into these content pockets, the opportunities are endless.  For inspiration, it’s good to look to the editorial, unbranded space – watching short films on Vimeo or viewing longer docs on Nowness. These platforms are full of beautiful, engaging and timely content that is already capturing the attention of audiences worldwide – and can be a much needed source of inspiration for innovative ways to cut through the clutter of short-form ads and interruptive online experiences.

In summary

Bitesize content is undeniably powerful in the fast-paced world we live in today, but long form content cannot be ignored. It is crucial for brands to understand which length content can maximise ROI as it will change depending on a number of variables. Both forms are equally important.

Platforms and audiences are good indicators of what works where, as well as making it clear what is in demand. All brands have to do now is take advantage and act. Keep an eye out for more long-form content appearing on your screen soon!

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