Long Format Ads - Connecting Emotionally through a Story

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 09, 2015

What is the similarity between the Google’s reunion, Nescafe’s the stammering comedian, Pepsico’s Gharwali Diwali, Lifebuoy’s Gondappa, Dabur’s Brave and beautiful and Fortune’s Hospital ad?

Yes! Apart from being long, they carry emotional and untold stories to convey what the brands stand for. Welcome to the long format ads!

Why long format ads?

With the undercuts in advertising budgets and increasing prices of TV slots, marketers are forced to move to the digital space, where the flexibility of time and budget is unlimited. The pressure to differentiate on the traditional advertising fronts is increasing, especially among the FMCG companies, as the “strongest, tastiest, and fastest” ads are losing relevance among the dynamic consumers.

Image: pixabay

The “Shareability” factor

Given relevant and emotional content, the online consumption of these ads gave rise to the “shareability” factor, which is the strongest form of word-of-mouth publicity. With sharing just a click away, this enables a wider reach, and helps in building the brand imagery especially if the target segment is the younger demographic. 2014 has seen the success of several long format ads; Nescafe’s the stammering comedian and Pepsico’s Gharwali Diwali being the front runners. Online sharing is often accompanied with hashtags, #ItAllStarts and #GhawaliDiwali respectively for the above two, which helped in taking the brand message and the campaign’s objective effectively. Another observed trait of the online sharers is that the behaviour of Indians differs from that of the global customers. Indians are more likely to share an emotional ad vis-à-vis humour-based and pranks like LG’s toilet prank and Cadbury’s Gorilla ad, which went viral across the world.

Strategic product placement

Unlike the 30 second ads that play on TV, which focus on the product or brand features for reinforcement, the long format ads often have a strategic product placement. Marketers and advertising agencies play subtle with product placements, to make the product and brand look as a part of everyone’s life. There is no mention about Lifebuoy in the Gondappa film and Dabur in the brave and Beautiful ad. In the Gharwali Diwali film, where Pepsico’s products have been strategically placed at various occasions of the life of lead actress, conveyed the message that Pepsico is for every occasion in life. The highly appreciated stammering comedian just has a message about drinking coffee but it does not explicitly mention about Nescafe, until the final frames of the film.

Are the long format ads ideal?

Marketers face the problem of taking a successful digital campaign to the traditional media due to the inability to cut short the ads. The relevance and the emotion attached to the long ads might not create the same impact if done so. The impact of the campaign on the conversion of customers cannot be well-established as these campaigns create a long-term brand equity rather than short term sales. Long format ads often face the criticism of using emotional aspects for commerciality as seen in the case of Birla Sun Life’s campaign “Khud Ko Kar Buland” campaign, which showcased a child suffering from “Autism” to drive the point of importance of insurance. Though the film garnered 3 million views in 1 month, it faced criticism for the content.

Content matters

The long format ads are a way to reach the target group of younger demographic easily but the 30 seconds television spots still occupy the major share of marketing budget. Does it really matter for an ad to be 180 seconds or 60 seconds or 30 seconds? Well, it doesn’t until it is backed by content, creativity and relevance. Miller High Life, a beer product by Miller Brewing Company, was able to garner customer interest by its 1-second ads during 2009 Super Bowl.

The industry’s perspective

Long format ads don’t work unless supported by content, either emotion or humour. Piyush Pandey, NCD of Ogilvy & Mather says, “Long format ads are similar to movies, chosen by the users to watch. There is a high risk of customer rejection if content is sub-par”. In the words of Arun Iyer, National creative director of Lowe Lintas, “We are getting a little carried away by this whole long format ad, some are just long for the sake of being long”.

With more and more brands joining the club of long ads format, and evolving brand reinforcement through storytelling, long format ads still have long way to go. Yet, the inherent challenge is to cater to the dynamic behaviour of the digital space!

This article has been authored by Siddhartha Kumar Kunta from IIM Ahmedabad

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