At a time when most advertisers in the U.S. are trying to unlock new forms of video storytelling with 6-second YouTube bumper ads, it may seem counter-intuitive to ask:
Why have so many brands in India mastered the art of video storytelling in longer-forms?
6 Examples of Indian Brands Winning at Video Storytelling
Six YouTube videos uploaded by three brands in India over the past two years have all garnered more than 100 million views.
This includes, “Hyundai | Celebrating 20 Years of Brilliant Moments,” which was uploaded to the Hyundai India YouTube channel on June 27, 2018.
The 4-minute-and-45-second long video now has 222 million views. The video tells the story of “The deal with Accent.”
Spoiler alert: You’ll want to have a box of tissues nearby when you watch the South Korean carmaker celebrate Hyundai’s 20 years of operations in India and reinforce the emotional connection the brand enjoys with its 5.3 million-plus customers in the country.
Now, if Hyundai India had done this once, then you might argue that the brand got lucky.
But, watch “Hyundai | Celebrating 20 Years of Brilliant Moments | Duty,” which was uploaded to the Hyundai India channel on July 17, 2018.
The 2-minute-and-51-second long video now has 203 million views. This video tells the story of the “Army with Santro,” which taps into an entirely different set of emotions.
OK, so one brand doesn’t a trend make.
But, check out “LG Innovation Story – Brand Film 21 Years Celebrations,” which was uploaded to the LG India YouTube channel on May 16, 2018.
The 4-minute-and-39-second long video now has 177 million views.
This video, which celebrates the brand’s 21 years in India, tells the story of a father who got only 3 out of 100 questions right on a test – in his father’s math class.
Again, this wasn’t a fluke.
To see that for yourself, watch “LG Astronaut Brand TVC Ad Film – 20 Years Anniversary Story Video – Life Is Good 2017,” which was uploaded to the LG India channel on May 11, 2017.
The 3-minute-and-49-second long video now has 104 million views. This video, which celebrated the brand’s 20 years anniversary in India, used nostalgia to tell the story of a mother whose daughter grew up to be an astronaut.
But wait, there’s more!
For a recent example, check out “Samsung Bixby Voice Assistant-MND mother helps daughter with #VoiceForever,” which was uploaded to the Samsung India YouTube channel on September 13, 2018.
The 2-minute-and-57-second long video already has 110 million views. This video was inspired by the life of a patient suffering from Motor Neuron Disease (MND). MND patients lose their ability to move and speak.
This video tells the story of the collaborative effort by Samsung and Asha Ek Hope foundation, India’s first registered non-profit NGO supporting people with MND, to develop the first personalized AI Voice assistant for this MND patent, so that her voice can live forever.
The video above isn’t a one-off experiment in storytelling.
To see that for yourself, watch “Samsung India Service (SVC) – Most Watched Video in 2017 – We’ll take care of you, wherever you are,” which was uploaded to the Samsung India channel on December 30, 2016.
The four-minute long video now has 210 million views. This video tells the story of a young Samsung Engineer, who is undaunted by rough terrain to attend to a customer complaint in a remote hilly area.
His efforts help bring smiles to the faces of a group of children, for whom their Samsung Television is the medium to celebrate a special moment.
The Rise of Video Storytelling in India vs. the U.S.
Now, YouTube is popular in India. In the 10 years of its existence in that country, the Google-owned video platform has penetrated 80 percent of India’s internet universe.
It now has 225 million monthly active users on mobile phones alone, according to YouTube Brandcast 2018.
But, it should be noted that no brand in the U.S. has come close to mastering the art of video storytelling the way that Hyundai India, LG India, and Samsung India all have.
Why is that, do you think?
Maybe it’s because far too many American advertising agencies see the six-second video format as ideal for driving brand reach and frequency.
And bumper ads are sold on a CPM basis through Google Ads as an add-on to traditional campaigns.
But, this treats YouTube videos as if they were TV programming and video ads like they were cut-down TV commercials (TVCs), which interrupt the programming.
Is this effective?
Well, YouTube tested over 300 bumper campaigns back in 2016 and found that 9 out of 10 drove a significant lift in ad recall.
OK, that’s good news – if you work at an ad agency. Viewers recall your product – which is the ad.
- But, is this an effective way to market your client’s product or brand?
- Is six seconds enough time to change hearts, minds, and actions throughout the consumer journey?
- Or, do you need longer-form video content to have more impact on brand awareness, brand consideration, and purchase intent?
These are the metrics that should matter to clients, not ad recall.
So, the questions that brands in the U.S. need to ask their ad agencies are:
- How long does it take to change someone’s mind about our brand in a video ad?
- Should we rush to tell our story to avoid getting tuned out, or should we embrace a longer format to build a more captivating story?
- Is there a consistent relationship between how long our ad is viewable and increases in brand awareness, brand consideration, and purchase intent?
And if some bozo at their ad agency says something stupid like, “Consumers have the attention span of goldfish,” then ask them if they’ve heard the term, “binge-watching”?
In other words, people can and do still pay attention to compelling stories.
If anything, consumers are paying more attention than ever before.
According to a survey of established online video viewers by Ogilvy and The Young Turks, which was published in May 2018, 68 percent of the nearly 2,400 respondents reported their average online video sessions last more than 30 minutes, with 40 percent reporting average sessions of over an hour.
The survey also found that these are frequently occurring events, with 73 percent reporting having 30+ minute viewing sessions more than three days a week and 29 percent saying they view for 60 minutes or more — per session — on a daily basis.
Do the math and that’s 200 to 400 times longer than the attention span of a goldfish, which is 9 seconds.
So, what does this mean for brands and their ad agencies?
It means attention is available, but the bar has been raised. If you really want someone’s attention, you have to earn it.
How do you do that?
Earning Your Audience’s Attention Through Storytelling
Over the years, numerous studies have found that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than with a recitation of cold, hard facts.
Stories are illustrative, easily memorable, and allow a brand to create stronger emotional bonds with their customers. That’s why online video is a brand’s best medium for storytelling.
So, how do you use online video to tell compelling stories?
Well, if you go back and watch all six of the YouTube videos at the beginning of this article again, you’ll see that they have characters with whom you can identify – even if you don’t live in India.
Ross Hockrow, an award-winning filmmaker and the author of “Out of Order: Storytelling Techniques for Video and Cinema Editors“, has said:
“Characters/subjects are the portals to every story. They are the way you get viewers to buy into the story. The viewers identify with, related to, and even empathize with the characters. In a way, they become the characters, or at least they compare themselves to the character.”
In addition, all six of the videos that we’ve looked at have a story arc, or plot structure. This isn’t something that YouTube or modern brands created.
The ancient roots of storytelling go back to Aristotle, who said that a good story needed a beginning, a middle, and an end.
In his book, Hockrow asked:
“Why does it matter how long the story arc has been around? In a word: evolution. Without storytelling, how else would you explain how and where you were chased by a saber-toothed cat through the woods? Or that somebody ate this plant and got rid of an illness, but somebody else ate that one over there, which looks almost the same, and it made them sick? Humans pass on their important information through stories. The human mind has evolved with the story arc, and with stories in general, which remain an import of our culture.”
So, how long should a story be?
Well, it needs to be long enough to reach a point.
If you watch “NPR’s Scott Simon: How to Tell a Story,” you will hear the American journalist and host of Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, say:
“A story ought to have a point. I don’t mean a lesson or a moral or even a punchline, but a point – something that people can take away from it.”
So, how long does it take to reach a point?
Well, the storytelling videos that we’ve looked at range from 2-minutes-and-51-seconds long to 4-minute-and-45-seconds long. But, as Simon says:
“A story has to be told in short breathable sections no matter how long it is. It can be a 20-second news story or it can be Don Quixote.”
Stories have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values.
So, even if you work for a brand in the U.S., you will want to spend some time figuring out why so many brands in India have mastered the art of video storytelling – and why so few brands in this country are even trying to tell stories on YouTube.
More Video Marketing Resources:
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ’s Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!