Is Long-Form Video Content Back In Style?


By Michael Harari Thanks to smarter phones, larger devices, and more access to WiFi and broadband networks, longer video content doesn’t take forever to load or stream. Which might explain why we’ve seen brands go through a renaissance of sorts, seeking longer-form video to tell their stories. That’s not to say that the stories don’t work across Vine, Instagram, or the :30 spot, but there’s something more compelling about a 5-minute video to a full 20+ minute documentary.

The recent campaigns from AT&T, Skype, CVS Health, and Starbucks have placed their brands in the background. The true stars of the longer-form video content are human; it's their stories (and how they relate to the brands) that make the videos compelling.

When Brands Take a Back Seat

CVS Health, #OneGoodReason

CVS Health has boldly announced that it will no longer be selling cigarettes in any of its stores. The latest documentary-styled videos focus on a few individuals who have expressed their #OneGoodReason to quit smoking. While CVS Health isn’t featured in the videos, the stories hit your core, reverberate with the soul, and connect with you. They’re giving up cigarettes in order to be around longer for their loved ones, for another day to dance with their daughters. Their desire for a better life wins out.

AT&T, “From One Second to the Next

Launched in the summer of 2013, AT&T’s “It Can Wait” documentary, From One Second to the Next, was delivered online (and to schools as part of driver education classes) to raise awareness about the perils of texting while driving. And while no carrier is fully to blame for one of the most dangerous habits on the road, AT&T felt it was necessary to start a movement to get people to change their behavior. We see a driver who killed four members of a family, a woman who suffered severe brain damage, and a woman who lost her father. The documentary works because it’s about these people and their lives that were altered by a horrific event. AT&T was just there to share their stories and plead to you that “it can wait.”

When To Involve the Brand More

Starbucks, “Meet Me At Starbucks

Starbucks takes a slightly more prominent role in its latest campaign. "Meet Me At Starbucks" aims to get people back into the store by reminding them that it’s not just about the coffee. It’s a dig at the current mobile-obsessed culture that would rather text and hide behind a screen than interact in person. Sure, you go to Starbucks to grab your morning coffee, but when’s the last time you sat and had a conversation at one?

Skype,“The Born Friends Family Project”

Skype has been connecting people (friends, families, co-workers) for years. But in 2013, it took it a step further to highlight the power of its technology. This video introduces us to Sarah and Paige, who have been best friends since they were 8 years-old. They met via Skype, with Sarah in Indiana and Paige in New Zealand. It made sense to feature the brand since it's the vehicle that created the friendship.

Keys to Really Great Video Content

Like any great piece of video, from :06 to a 20+ minute documentary, a story must be told. But what makes the longer pieces above so great? Here are a few lessons we learned.

1. Tell human stories.

We relate to stories from our peers. We’re social creatures who want to share our world with others. So highlight the stories that touch you.

2. Music matters.

Music has the power to evoke emotions, bring up memories, or stay with you. By pairing the right kind of music with the story, it can feel much more emotional.

3. Length will vary.

No two stories are exactly alike, so videos don’t have to be identical. If exploring the documentary route, one segment may take longer to convey. Less is more only as long as it makes sense.

All of this begs the question: is long-form video content back in style?  Weigh in below.