With consumer attention spans rivaling that of your average goldfish, it seems the only way to reach them in advertising is to present messages in short, quick bursts. But is it really an attention span issue, or rather that consumers have marketing fatigue? Creatives wonder does this frustration with being overloaded by marketing messages contribute to the success of long-form content marketing? As well as a well crafted story and smart visuals, voice over can be a critical element in long-form advertising. Whether the vocal style is inspirational, a mantra, ventures into documentary, aka Ken Burns territory, or leverages the timing and rhythm of stand-up comedy the narration heightens the message. But no matter the style, consumers are proving regularly that we love long video ads.
Engaging Consumers Without Selling
With so much information at their fingertips these days, people routinely research new products before buying. Consumers are willing to go out of their way to find information on what interests them. Since most people use Google or other search engines to find answers to their questions, the more complete the information they find, the happier they are with the company providing the information, and the more willing they are to evangelize the content.
Enter brand films and long-form ads. These ads are not about immediate sales. They’re about brand awareness. They engage consumers without selling. Longer lengths allow these brand image videos to go into much more substantive detail about the product or service and its impact on our lives. Long-form ads are good for products or services or brand ideas that are new and or complicated.
Our previous experience with long from ads have been in pharmaceuticals where so much of the copy is warning and precautions and legalese. The more the product needs explaining before people will buy it, the better served with a long-form ad.
While not intended to be purely entertainment, the more recent long form ad films do more than inform and educate. Think Patagonia’s Treeline video. This long-form ad tells a story. Like its counterparts, it’s a piece of art. Long form has time to tap into emotion. Values. They are statements. In these ad-sponsored stories, hard sell is not a part of it. The story is the central focus, the brand (ad) is the window-dressing (or frame).
How Long Is Long?
So how long IS long? Depending on who you ask, opinions vary about what constitutes “long-form”. According to HootSuite, Google considers 10 minutes the minimum, but the Shorty Awards start the clock at the 2-minute mark. Other sources quote anywhere from 4 minutes 11 seconds to 2 minutes 53 seconds to a whopping 9 minutes 15 seconds. Proving “long” is likely a reaction to quality as much as quantity
But no matter the degree of “long”, these ads offer opportunities for brands to produce engaging stories that connect brands to consumers. Brands that do it well don’t battle for a few seconds of consumers’ attention, but rather engage more deeply for minutes at a time to earn love and loyalty. So it’s important that the quality factor is high.
As far back as 2010, Ad Age posted about the need for engagement and entertainment in advertising – “The video-slash-short film is easily one of the most-popular pieces of longer-form content in recent times, boosting visibility for brands like Miracle Whip and dating site PlentyofFish.com that made appearances in the video. But it’s also just one in a growing batch of examples that signal marketers’ desire to engage with consumers for longer than the standard 30 seconds.”
The post also notes that consumers are just as onboard with this type of advertising as the brands. “When Hulu did an experiment about 18 months ago, giving consumers the choice of ad to watch, either a two-minute ad before an online program or a couple of 30-second ads in the midst of a program, a whopping 88% of Hulu viewers opted for the two-minute ad. A bevy of marketers bought the long-form opt-in ads on Hulu, including Sprint, Capital One, Hyatt, Paramount Pictures, American Express and Columbia TriStar. The high opt-in rates suggested that because consumers are selecting the ads, they are more likely to be engaged with them. ‘The opt-in rate is proving longer messaging is something people want,’ Hulu told Ad Age at the time.”
Rebecca Sykes, CEO at MoFilm, notes, “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 leads you to 20 more minutes of content”.
Tips For Long-Form Advertising Narrators
Long-form ads can be juicy work for a voiceover narrator. For long ads, the content dictates the artistic approach and delivery. The voice actor’s prep is similar to that for other kinds of work, including purposeful review of the content to intensely grasp meaning, and looking for ways to connect to that meaning. Bring out your inner storyteller, being certain to let the tone do justice to the story. I always like to try a few different approaches, summoning different “character” narrators and points of view to assess which approach results in the best combination of authenticity and entertainment.