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Are long-format 'digital first' ads the way forward?

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Are long-format 'digital first' ads the way forward?

Remember the Google “Indo-Pak reunion” ad, or the ICICI “Bande acche hain” ad? These long-format ads went viral on social networking sites as soon as they were posted online. They struck a chord, and got embedded in our minds. As we progress through the "Digital First" age, India is witnessing a host of long-format ads, which would have otherwise not made the cut on television. These ads are finding audience in every corner of the world.

Shrinking attention spans are shrinking media segments too. And rather than having the brand talk about itself for a minute-and-a-half, advertisers have learned that hard sell can't be a component of something you watch for a long time.

At a time when marketers' ad budgets are shrinking and agencies are expected to work more for less, the cost proposition of digital-first long-format ads are becoming more favourable.

“Today our audience is spread across mediums, be it television, radio or online. In the age and era that we are, missing out on a chunk of audience sitting on digital platforms is not affordable. More than mere reach, the medium’s nature of two-way communication presents a great opportunity to enter into a conversation with consumers too. Hence you will see brands opting for a mix of media that will definitely include the digital platform,” said Vikram Mehra, Chief Commercial Officer at Tata Sky.

“With budgets shrinking, it is all the more convenient to opt for the digital platform as the cost per second (as applicable for media buying on television) is not applicable. The length of the communication is not the mode of measurement. It is ‘Pay-per-click’. This medium gives the brand freedom to lead the audience to some kind of Call-to-Action such as ‘click here’ to direct the user to the company website, or purchase the product or service. Also the digital platform beats the geographical boundaries of reach,” he pointed out.

Brands are learning that even though media segments are getting smaller and smaller, consumers enjoy engaging with long-form content--only when it's good, of course.

“More and more brands are realising that a brand is not just the product but more about the stories and legends you weave around it. Brands and agencies are now etching out the brand's character for the viewer. So instead of just product launches we are seeing stories being launched and stories are best told in long-format films,” said Nima Namchu, Chief Creative Officer, Cheil India.

“The fact that the digital medium is yet to become as unaffordable as television makes it the place to run long-format ads. What's more, if they connect with the audience and capture their imagination, they spread like wildfire. For free,” he quipped.

Creative heads say marketers today have more power and confidence to experiment with long ads because they are no longer dependant on TV alone for success. Take the Google reunion ad for example, which was released only on YouTube, and became the most talked about ad of 2013. “Platforms like Youtube are equally effective like TV and are available to marketers at a cheaper price tag,” said Vandana Katoch, Founder and Creative Chief, Clayground Communications.

According to Manish Vij, Founder of Vun Network and Smile Vun Group, digital advertising is changing constantly. Take the latest Honda Mobilio ad for example. The digital campaign, with its two online-first ads, is already viral online. 30-second ads are old news now. Long-format ads are reaching the masses with social media.

The first Mobilio ad has been viewed 1,339,824 times on YouTube, and the second ad has been viewed 793,658 times already.

According to Vikram Mehra, advertising is all about storytelling that has to be engaging, interesting and compelling. It made us choose a script of 210 seconds that grasped the audience’s attention and conveyed the desired message. While advertisers are looking for efficiencies in short-format/multiple platforms, they are also looking for new ways to engage consumers. One way to do that and stand out is long format films and fun pieces that create awareness for the brand, and reward consumers. At Tata Sky we have successfully experimented with ads ranging from 30 seconds spots to 210 seconds and delivered entertainment value to consumers.

Some of the ads that created a stir on social platforms are the Fortune Oil ad (being the latest). The four-minute video, which is viral online, builds up a story that doesn’t reveal the product until the end. The commercial is tugging at the viewers’ heartstrings, mostly because the love of home-cooked food is so relatable for most people living away from home.

Created by Ogilvy & Mather, Google’s 3-minute-30-second clip search engine ad became a hit in India and Pakistan by surprisingly invoking a searing and traumatic period in the shared history of the South Asian archrivals. It tells the story of reunion of two long lost friends in India and Pakistan. The commercial has been viewed over 12,000,124 times on YouTube.

The latest Always#likeagirl has had viewers taking their response to the streets of social media, applauding the company for using its platform towards social change. The campaign's hashtag is all over Twitter and Facebook, followed by the tweets/comments of young and old women who finally feel heard and understood -- by a feminine products company, nonetheless.

Similarly, Cornetto’s ‘Cupidity’ campaign featuring short films, inspired by teenager’s insights about love, was aimed at supporting the brand’s new tagline ‘Enjoy the ride, Love the ending’ and provided an outlet for fans of the brand--teenagers, to tell their stories. Some argue the product being an afterthought makes for bad advertising, but there's something to be said for its entertainment value and the consumer connection. Cornetto has done this before with a romantic three-minute video that's been viewed over 30 million times.

Another successful example is the Tata Sky “Prison Break” ad was the longest ad that aired on TV. Though not launched as digital-first, it went viral on social media as soon as was launched on TV. The story was conceived by Ogilvy & Mather who worked with Vivek Kakkad, Director – Curious Films to shoot the commercial with an international cast and crew in an actual prison in Hungary.

Likewise, the ICICI ad titled 'Bande achhe hai', was inspired by real life incidents. The 30-, 60- and 90-second TVC shows everyday simple situations, where men in various stages of family life, perform small, caring acts that are taken for granted. Even the men do these without making a fuss. More importantly, though it was not a digital-first launch, the video that aired on TV was the 30-second edition. The one that went viral online was the 90-seconder.


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