We’re seeing themes from homosexuality to bold statements on body size in online videos. Is long-format video expanding creative horizons?
Abhijit Avasthi (AA): In some ways, yes. You can tell a story in many ways; long format allows you to tell a long story. The advantage of that is enhancing or coming up with more varied solutions. But, if you tell a long story in a boring way it’ll still be as bad.
KV Sridhar (KS): I don’t know. The length of the film does not determine the quality of it or the connection or the story. So it really does not matter if it is 40 seconds or three minutes or three hours long. It all depends on the content. If the content is bad, even if the film is only 20 seconds long, people will only see for two seconds. If the content is good, even if the film is four hours long, people will see it. Previously we had television ads going up to 60 sends and cinema going up to two minutes. On YouTube, you are not paying any broadcaster, so there are no restrictions. Because of this people tend to make longer and longer films and people are losing focus. You have to overcome that entire fallacy of, “The longer the film is, the more people will watch.” The average length of commercial views on YouTube is less than five seconds.
Are brands trying too hard to be disruptive? If yes, could this be because of the content deluge?
AA: In some ways, yes. When you are on the net, your competition is a lot and people’s attention span is a lot shorter. So yes, people are trying harder. But having said that, those who manage to do disruptive stuff effortlessly, get away with it and get public admiration. There are a lot of examples out there where the effort looks obvious and forced and staged… where it’s like, “I have a format. Let me write a long story.” The important thing is that one has a great idea and gives the idea the time it deserves. You don’t have to tell a joke over an hour. Similarly, you can’t tell a nice emotional story in 30 seconds. One has to get the right length for the right story.
KS: Yes, they are trying too hard to be disruptive. At the same time, this disruption in social media and the internet is completely different from that on television. There is a deluge of content because you are not only competing against your competitors’ content but also against every individual in the world who is facebooking or Tweeting; they’re also content creators. Unless the content is great, no one will consume you or look at you.
Are long format films more challenging when it comes to conveying the brand message? Are some of them lacking in establishing a relevant connect to the brand?
AA: I don’t think so. What one needs is clarity on the task for that long format film. Is it salient? Is it explaining the benefits of the product? I would say it all depends on what the client and the agency have decided the purpose of the long format video is.
KS: Yes and no. Yes because we are used to writing 20-second commercials. If somebody gives you more time, you don’t know what to do. And you end up putting all the shots and expanding all the points you’re making. On the other hand if you’re talking about feature filmmakers, they are used to long format content. If you ask them to do something that is three, five or 10 minutes long, they’ll be able to do a much tighter job.
The real challenge on the internet isn’t dealing with passive content, which is what movie theatres or television gives you. If we use YouTube the way we use the other mediums, content isn’t going to fly. YouTube allows for you to interact with the content and then become part of the content. If you do this, only then will it take off.
When/why should a brand look to create a long format film?
AA: One is, there is a certain audience that you reach out to via the net and secondly if you have a longer story to tell, I’d suggest you use only long format. These are the two reasons to use it.
KS: It has nothing to do with whether it is 30 seconds or 300 seconds. If the content is good, people will consume it. Every story you write for a brand is like a homeopathy brand. You have the medicine in the middle and the sugar coating on top. Have the message embedded in an entertainment capsule.
(This first appeared in the 26 June 2015 issue of Campaign India)