In preparation for the event early in 2015, Justin Kirby, VP, Strategic Content Marketing at Tenthwave Digital LLC and BCMA Advisory Board member if conducting interviews on key trends and issues for the branded content industry…

So why hasn’t longer form branded content caught on more?

I have been seeking input from industry experts around the globe about key and emerging themes for a forthcoming Branded Content Marketing event that I’m helping put together in partnership with the BCMA. It follows on from the report on the future of the approach that I contributed to the latest edition of the Best of Branded Content Marketing ebook series.

To kick things off I caught up with Ogilvy Group UK’s Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland. I wanted to try and understand more about why clients and their agencies are seemingly reluctant to produce long-form branded content. I wasn’t sure whether this has something to do with the economic realities of creating longer formats, or whether it’s more about an industry mindset that sees creativity as being a function of brevity.

Rory explained that advertising working in lots of different ways, including: mere fame and recognition, positioning, factual information, social proof, adding display value to product, reputation, costly signaling, and so on.

Like many industries, Rory thinks that agencies can also become too reliant on having a single, unique methodology and process, which they apply to solving all business problems. He thinks that this has evolved partly as a result of a reverse-engineering a process from the kind of work they are famous for, and may also be in part because it’s what they like doing.

That said, Rory sees a growing acceptance that that one size fits all approaches with nothing else being required may not work in all circumstances. He thinks the difficulty, however, is to revisit those forms that are currently seen as “unfashionable” activity, e.g. the long copy press ad, which are now almost impossible to sell.

Rory’s point is that there are some problems that can be solved by long-form communication when nothing else can. He cites QVC as an unfashionable example of how a fortune has been made out of this discovery, and he thinks this is because there are things that you can sell in 20 minutes that you could never sell in 30 seconds.

To quote the visual thinker and author Dan Roam, “whoever best describes the problem is the most likely to fix it. “ For Rory, the problem that advertising is trying to solve may not simply be about increasing sales, or even increasing saleability, but to “reduce unsaleability”:

“To overcome those hurdles to purchase which are preventing people from confidently buying something whose ownership would ultimately justify the cost.”

And as with QVC he thinks that sometimes this requires more than a six word headline or a 30 second spiel:

“Take the recent British Airways India ‘Go further to get closer’ film. You can’t achieve that in 30 seconds – and it was doubly effective for me because I watched it on a BA flight immediately before the film The Lunchbox. But equally include an ad my old boss Drayton Bird wrote for the first LCD digital watch for sale in the UK in which over 900 words he basically wrote – in a double page spread – the complete instruction manual for the watch and all its features. By the time you had finished reading the ad, you knew how to use the watch, so you felt silly not owning it.”

The creation of longer form brand content is an area we hope to explore more in the forthcoming event I mentioned above. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts and/or any interesting examples you have seen. I also hope to follow-up my discussion with Rory to look at who maybe best suited to deliver longer forms of branded, and shorter and more continuous forms for that matter; as well as when, where, and what type and lengths of content works best in the customer decision journey.

I’ll be sharing these and other discussions I’m having with industry experts. In the meantime, you might also like to read my recent posts on why conscious and social business haven’t caught on more.

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