Most of my latter half of eighteen years of advertising has been spent debating about the shrinking ‘duration’. As years passed by, the good old 45 and 60 seconders mostly resided in the director’s showreel while the air waves saw snipped out shorties to grab eyeballs more frequently. How can we tell a story in twenty seconds - has been the frustrated refrain.
And then came digital. Redefining the very concept of duration. Determined by viewers and not by a media excel sheet.
The stories are back again. We call it content and they take various forms - starting from surreal to the very real.
The fraternity should be leaping in frenzied delight. Isn’t this what we have always craved for?
We can now write dream ideas. Stories or concepts that travel through the curve of dramatic highs and lows they are meant to. Without the ghost of the edit scissors and the media plan.
Yet, we see very few pieces of work that have really made us sit up. The content in most cases is simply a longer duration of the 30 second television commercial. Satisfying the creators more than the viewers at times.
Have been thinking about this.
Why are we still thinking just television? Where are our skills for those stories that make us watch and share? Is it actually difficult to cast the brand when it is a long format?
Writing a story without the duration leash seems to be harder than we imagined.
It needs reappraising the way we approach a creative piece.
Starting with understanding the power of brand storytelling, content creation, engagement drivers.
Not researching the content the same way we research commercials.
Being careful about not letting the story vampire the brand, while making it engaging.
Thinking ahead. Can the brand story impact culture? Can it spark a change?
Using television as a teaser, an invite to the long format digital story.
Writing for the audience and not just ourselves.
Understanding how to hold attention and generate interest in an age of impatience.
The biggest issue in my view is that we still consider digital as part of the integrated campaign AFTER we agree on the ‘duration’ led script. Most clients encourage this as well, as it is still a lead medium attracting the largest budget chunk and is therefore bound to make stakeholders risk averse.
Unless we take bold steps to break this barrier in our own thinking, long format will remain a showcase rather than mainstream engagement. With the pace of the other screens invading our lives, we may have to make this shift sooner than we imagined.
After all, consumers seem to embrace change faster than we do.
(The views expressed are the author's independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation's viewpoint.)