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Perspective | Long Format Ads; a new quest for the brands?

From 30 seconds to now three to four or may be nine minutes, brands are betting big on the long format of digital advertisements and India seems to be no longer a stranger to that trend any more. While brands see it as an opportunity to delve into the heart and minds of their consumers but there also lies a fact that consumers need to purposely click on the advertisement and watch willingly as these are not forced to watch ones.

The Indian advertising industry took a new route when more and more brands got into the digital first phenomenon. Undoubtedly that gave the brands an allowance to go beyond the regular 30-seconder short format which not only used to restrict the brands from highlighting its essential story but also makes it challenging for the creative agency to integrate the essence of the brand.

But with advantage of digital what the biggest change in the advertising industry was the acceptance of long-format advertising by brands which enables the brands to underline their core essence. This not only allows the brands to integrate their core essence but also gives an opportunity to them to tap the multi-platform market.

We all surely remember and cherish long format digital ads like Google re-union; ICICI’s Bande Ache Hain, British Airways’ A Ticket to Visit Mum, recently launched DBS Bank’s Chilli Paneer 1 and 2 and many more. These ads make the consumers connect quite closely with the product’s core thought thus leaving a high impact on them.

We at Adgully thought of getting a deeper understanding of this notion and spoke to veterans like Rohit Ohri, Executive Chairman, Dentsu; Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive Vice President, Marketing, Product, Digital and E-Commerce, and member of the Executive management Committee at HDFC Life; Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior Vice-President, Marketing, United Breweries; Sheran Mehra, Head – Group Strategic Marketing & Communications at DBS Bank India and Josy Paul, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, BBDO and K V Sridhar a.k.a Pops, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro on have the brands actually realized the importance of digital?

Sharing his thoughts, Tripathy said, “We are definitely excited about long format as it allows for greater creative freedom and better story telling. Thus, we can explore various routes to customer education, product information / gamification, category and brand build. Engagement can be built around these campaigns thus captivating customers for even longer.”
Tripathy also believes that with mobile and government focusing on internet reaches - everyone will have to master longer format. A common mistake is when marketers continue to look at it as a brand broadcast - forgetting that online is about engagement and conversations.

Sheikhawat said, “Yes, undoubtedly it is a great platform as it allows a brand to tell a story and integrate itself in a much better way. A lot of people are coming on digital where there are shorter edits and it’s a mainstream idea.”

As a media veteran, Ohri said, “The year 2014 saw some stellar work of brands like DBS bank and Nescafe. These brands launched their brand story in such an innovative manner thus leaving a high impact on each and every consumer. I strongly feel that brands have found a new of engagement wherein they integrate themselves in a way that it comes out creatively and not for the sake of coming.” 

Very recently, DBS Bank created a buzz around the internet world with the second version of its Chilli Paneer campaign with SapientNitro. It was first-of-its kind interactive digital ad film in India. Mehra said, "We launched Chilli Paneer with an objective of creating brand awareness. The approach was to engage with the consumers and create conversations. The campaign seamlessly integrated the products and embedded the brand message of being there when the customer needs us. The idea is not to make viral videos but engage with people through unique storytelling formats. The crux of the campaign is to seed and amplify relevant content which the consumers associate with. This in turn drives conversations and encourages interaction with the brand thereby increasing brand awareness.”

According to Pops the biggest change that the ad-industry witnessed was the shift in focus towards digital whether it’s a marketer or the consumer. “Interestingly today we see some of very well-produced internet films and usage of long-format storytelling by brands which clearly marks the growth of the domain,” he added.

When asked Ohri what kind of response does he receives from his set of clients on this notion, Ohri said, “The response has been quite positive and this trend is expected to grow big in the coming future. Digital gives a liberty to a brand to express itself in a much more beautiful and glorified way.”

Paul also opined that times are fast changing and it's not just about 30 sec spots or 3 min stories but about content, conversation and commitment. He adds, “Everything is part of a communication continuum.  What matters is the fact that how we interact with brands with respect to the change in media.”

Well as we all know, spending on digital is not an expensive affair if compared with its traditional counterparts like Television. So when asked Sheikhawat about the fact that does it lower the media spends, he said, “No not really. What matters is the fact how you use the medium. A brand can’t just have a 90 seconder or a 30 seconder on digital and on TV respectively. Both the mediums need to work together. In many cases there is a need to be told a longer story which may not be told on television and vice versa in some cases. It is not something that is getting prominence nowadays.”

Mehra here opined that it is not about one medium v/s the other. "What is important is to know what your objective is and the medium that best meets/delivers on the given objective. For us it was about having a dialogue with our consumers and digital as a medium gives you that opportunity to interact and engage with the audience. For a brand that is present only in 12 cities, digital as a medium also helps in reducing the spillover. On the contrary, taking this unique approach by leveraging technology and building interactivity - has made the task of building brand awareness and brand affinity easier for us," she added further. 

What caught the attention is the fact that now-a-days there are brands who just launch their videos online and not on other mediums which clearly shows the acceptance of the medium. When asked Mehra whether digitally first launched campaign brings better response than when you launch its first on the television, she said, “Each medium delivers on its own strengths hence it should not be looked at from medium A vs medium B. Depending on the defined objectives, one needs to plug in relevant content/stories that then gets the response."

Tripathy said, “At HDFC Life we have a dedicated Digital Marketing team that engages with audiences through innovative mediums like memes, vines, infographics and obviously videos. We have also created online properties like #standupontwitter and #supertomorrow. We have done a lot of these activities as innovations and received a better than expected response and engagement.”

All activities get a better RoI as digital properties can be integrated with contact centre e.g. missed call, chats or call back. The reach is comparable with TV given that some of the popular channels online are no longer cheap. We can definitely say that digital enables very precise targeting and reach,” Tripathy added.

“Interestingly, according to Ohri, the brands now-a-days have stopped specifying the time limit and let the story flow with its speed. He said, “Obviously, every medium has its own time limit and constraints hence we cannot go beyond a specific time limit as that would become too long for the viewers to connect and engage with the film.”

Every medium has its own challenges and opportunities so when asked whether this notion is a challenge or an opportunity for the brands so while concluding Ohri said, “Undoubtedly it is an opportunity. But the challenge here lays in the fact that how to whisper in the conversation. Integrating a brand’s essence and that too creatively is what plays a vital role.”

Mehra strongly feels that Internet advertising is growing and in India there is a huge opportunity to tap on this growing trend both on desktop and handheld devices. "The audience response from CP 1 and CP 2 have been more than encouraging. This indicates that audiences are not just ready to consume content on the digital platforms but also ready to co-create, engage and be a part of compelling stories like CP 2," she stated. 

In the last couple of years we saw many brands joining the bandwagon and started optimizing the medium. The major rate of their success lies in the fact that the advertisers have a different platform in the form of YouTube. Today brands seem not to be restricted to just 30 seconds to spread their message but even with this experiment constantly getting popular, there is still there is a long way to go and therefore it’s a wait and watch game…!!!! | By Aanchal Kohli | Twitter: @aanchalkohli



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