Stories are the earliest form of communication known to man. We connect through stories, sharing lessons, morals, beliefs and emotions as we tell them in our own unique ways. Advert-isers are our modern-day story tellers. Today as we adopt the digital space, we are experiencing the next level of storytelling, which industry calls long format advertising, usually 1-5 minutes duration.
The change is welcome; it is encouraging to seeadvertisers keep purpose and emotion at the heart of the narrative and let products make up the background. This reflects the maturity that society and the advertisingcommunity is undergoing. But I hope we don’t fall into the trap of creating long format ads for the sake of it.
The guiding principle here must be to tell a good story. The skills needed are no different from a good short ad or a good film. The power of such a format does not depend on the duration of the commercial, but on the content of the message and the ability to convey it.
The first thing to do is to ensure that storytelling is not confused with duration, social cause and style alone. It is not about creating an extended TVC by just changing the duration from 30 seconds to three minutes. It must reflect the brand’s determination to bring about change; it’s not about the number of hits, it’s about the number of hearts touched; it’s not just about ‘likes’, it’s about love; and it’s not about product selling, but story-telling.
At present about ten per cent of the long format ads that work are conceived, written and directed to do justice to the duration and the space. The Fortune Oil’s Daddi ad, Nestle’s stammering stand-up comedian and cartoonist ads, Lifebuoy’s Gundappa, Google’s reunion and such others show that people go for authenticity. But an ad for Wagh Bakri tea that has a husband realising how much he loves his wife is beautifully told until the last 1.5 minutes of the 4-minute video pan in on clichéd underwater shots of tea leaves.
Long format advertising has to acknowledge the different nature of the audiences it is reaching out to too. Unlike the passive audiences sitting in front of a TV set, people can engage with the purpose, with the brand. They can comment, create more content and we should invite them to be a part of the story.
There are some myths about the format that need busting. It is believed that long format ads cost next to nothing and that length is not an issue, but the reality is that maximum people drop off after 15-20 seconds, so it is better to aim for depth of engagement. A good story is not about the money spent nor is it about how long you keep the reel running. And finally, we should work on the Inspire-Interact-Amplify framework; to start with viewers should be able to click on products they see in the video, donate for a cause and interact with the people. A lot more can be done in this space but it all starts with a relevant story that is well told.