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Advertising Has the Potential to Tell the Whole Story. Instead, it’s Addicted to Stunted Snapshots

The Influencers 175 Add to collection

Wij Travers, co-founder of Hot Icarus explores how brands and agencies should be pushing themselves to create video and film pieces that dive deeper to build connections

Advertising Has the Potential to Tell the Whole Story. Instead, it’s Addicted to Stunted Snapshots

I read an interesting perspective from a strategist at Google the other day. His argument? That humans don’t naturally have short attention spans as a result of consuming digital media. 

Need proof? I'd be confident in saying we've all indulged in at least one of the following...bingeing a Netflix series in a single weekend; getting lost for hours in podcasts or audiobooks; spending Saturdays glued to the sofa watching sports fixtures back-to-back; or tearing through whole books in an afternoon on our Kindles. 

So as entertainment, long-format has a place. But what about when it comes to brand work? In this space, it's understandable (perhaps…) that bite-size is king. There's a lot of science to say that short video is better for immediate brand recall. It's also cheaper (in theory) and more accessible for the wave of entry brands popping up everywhere we look. The new trend for client briefs is to put a high priority on short, snappy explainers that can be sliced and diced into multiple cuts and communicate key product drivers in impossibly tight timeframes. The lesson? Efficiency is important.

My argument, therefore, is not with the short format itself. It has and will continue to have an important place in branded media. My argument is that the true enemy is crappy content. Content that fails to captivate our attention or elicit an emotional response. And my belief? That the proliferation of the short-format has made it easier than ever for brands to get duped into that world of below-par content. An overcrowded and all too frequently unoriginal place to play in.

Ultimately, brand content has the potential to be a rich tapestry of storytelling. A space where brands are given a personality and relationships are built with customers by creating connections away from the product. But by constantly deferring to the short format, brands swim with the tide. And when you do this, it's easy to get lost.

So what does this all mean? To borrow an overused piece of advertising wisdom, it's the hope that more brands look to Zag, where others Zig! It's a desire for brands to be braver with their briefs and commit to original media that stretches beyond the 6s, 15s, 30s, 60s formats. 

And by the way, branded doesn’t mean just slapping a logo in the top and tail. That means getting their hands dirty. To involve themselves deeply in sourcing and crafting stories from the ground up. It means backing teams of talented writers, creatives and directors to sustain narratives that mean something. Narratives that require and deserve our attention.

And it seems a movement, of sorts, has started. And it’s being recognised in the places and institutions that counts too. At Sundance Film Festival, Clio, the international advertising awards competition, partnered with Brand Storytelling, a media company exclusively built to support and inspire investment in the practice of purposeful brand-funded content.

This year’s Cannes challenges us to create work that humanises brands and looks to build long lasting impact as opposed to short sharp hits on the ROI pipe. 

And according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Harris Poll for Participant Media, 36% of marketing executives surveyed projected increased spending in the development of impact entertainment. Long format, it would seem, is beginning to unlock brand purse strings.

So how about some long-format work that stands out? One of the best examples I've seen comes from a director I admire hugely, Jess Colquhon who is signed to Stept Studios in the USA Stept are renowned for creating "advertising that feels more like entertainment" and Jess' piece for Crown Royal - Sundays at the Triple Nickel - is testament to a brand, production company and director all working in sync to deliver something special.

Patagonia, of course, have been an authority in the space for years with a whole gamut of incredible documentaries relating to environmental and social causes.

Outdoors brand YETI have found a nice hybrid, favouring mid-length features that bind a product to a deeper message of community, adversity or opportunity.

So, whilst I don’t think anybody in Production should expect to see short-format briefs evaporate overnight, I for one am excited I’m excited to see braver brands come forwards,  with braver briefs. After all, why shouldn’t a brand sponsor a screenplay? By investing in media formats that go beyond their immediate brand sphere and grab our attention with powerful storytelling not stunted soundbites, certain businesses will make the most important step of all - the first one - that sticks their heads above the parapet and into new territory. And it’s that type of audacity that wins hearts and minds. 

After all, anyone can make a video. Not everyone can tell a story...

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Hot Icarus, Mon, 20 Jun 2022 09:50:26 GMT