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Scroll, scroll, scroll: is “snackable” video the new normal?

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The US start-up Quibi, set to launch next year, is betting big on “snackable” video. We look at the short-form video dominating our social feeds – and the brands taking ownership in the battle for attention.

Meg Whitman – the A-list tech executive who took eBay from start-up to multibillion-dollar global marketplace – recently gave an interview to the Financial Times about her new venture, Quibi.

Due to launch this time next year, Quibi will create short-form content for mobile phone consumption and has the backing of firms from entertainment, tech and finance including Viacom, 21st Century Fox, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. 

The company has said it will follow a subscription model with members paying between $5 and $8 per month for access to 100 pieces of original content per week, with each video being “snackable” – just a few minutes long. 

Laying out her vision in the newspaper’s ‘Lunch with the FT’ interview, she said: “You have all these in-between moments, and that’s what inspired the length of the content. Very few people are watching long-form content on (their phones).”

It remains to be seen whether Quibi will become the “Netflix of the mobile generation”, but whatever its success or failure, it is yet more proof  – if proof were needed – that short-form social video, known by some as “snackable” video, is serious content currency.

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It’s a well-worn truth that most of us are hooked on smart phones. Research by Ofcom last summer found that UK adults check their phones on average every 12 minutes of the waking day: while we’re walking, commuting, spending time with our families, waiting in a queue – and even while watching other screens. We check them first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

What’s interesting is that although we spend an average of two hours 28 minutes a day on our phones (rising to three hours 14 minutes among 18-24 year-olds), the average duration of each use of our phone can be measured in minutes. Last year, the average period of in-app engagement was between five and seven minutes. 

So there’s a very real battle for attention, and video is where many content producers – whether that is big brands, start-ups or media outlets – are turning. With Instagram Stories and Facebook feeds for bite-size to Instagram TV and Facebook Live for longer-form, our social feeds are changing rapidly into rolling, scrolling video outlets.

One media company making hay with the “snackable” video trend is The Economist. The magazine’s LinkedIn feed features short-form videos, all under three minutes and subtitled for watching without audio. With posts such as “Will space become the next frontier for war?", they don’t shy away from the big questions.

The World Economic Forum takes a similar approach on Instagram, with a busy stream of informative 60-second clips on zeitgeist topics – from a giant underground park in New York City to the first zero-waste shop in the Middle East – that receive hundreds of thousands of views.

Part of sanitary towel company Always’ recent #EndPeriodPoverty campaign was an emotive short-form video combining data and a powerful call to action. The campaign was inspired by research into the number of girls in the UK who can’t afford monthly sanitary protection – and the impact of this can have on their education, from missing school, to bullying and a lack of confidence.

The company’s one-minute video, put out on social channels, features dramatised footage of a schoolgirl cut with words from British poet Hollie McNish and gets straight to the point: “You know those days when you just feel it’s going to start but you can’t afford protection…”.

Snacks are great – but sometimes people want a whole meal

Old Spice’s recent TV ad took the opposite approach and lasted a whopping 14 hours earning the vintage aftershave brand’s recent TV ad lasted a whopping 14 hours, earning the male grooming brand a place in The Guinness Book of World Records. Will the average person sit through all 840 minutes of deodorant, Terry Crews and Inception-style scene transitions? Probably not. But is it shareable, news-worthy and daring? You bet. 

Here at Speak, video is an integral part of the newsrooms we build for big brands. We use video to drive home our clients’ key messages, whether through short-form video on owned social channels or through the longer-form video that we use to enhance the emotive, human written stories we produce for clients’ corporate sites. In short, video helps us tell the best stories, bring the audience to those stories – and encourage them to engage with our content for the longest possible time.

In this video, specially created for our story for home.barclays, we interviewed Eric Najib who manages Stonewall FC – the most successful gay football team in the world.

We have also used video in stand-alone campaigns. One video we created for Swimwear brand Speedo’s ‘Swim Generation’ campaign– a global drive aimed at tackling accidental drowning – attracted over 36,000 views on YouTube and has so far helped partner organisations reach over 600,000 people.

Quibi – which is short for “quick bites” – is taking audiences in a different direction, hoping to snare readers with micro-instalments of killer shows. Series that might last several hours in total will be broken down into, say, 10-minute slots for watching in those “in between” moments when we should probably just be daydreaming.

Having raised $1billion, there’s a lot riding on the company’s success. And for anyone engaged in content marketing, there’s a lot riding on video. As Whitman points out, “every day you walk around with a little television in your pocket”. It’s up to brands – and their agency partners – to work out how to produce mini films that people actually want to watch.

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