Short form is an art form
An extended dissection of short form video content and creating cut through.
5 minute read
The ‘high’ arts usually require an audience come to them and engage on their terms. The response being sought is an emotional connection to the art, an appreciation that sits on a spectrum between momentary, superficial enjoyment and deep life-changing resonance.
‘Low’ arts 'like advertising' instead exist for the purpose of delivering a single-minded message intent on changing a behaviour. They find viewers wherever they are and engage with them in more universally relatable terms.
Yet when it comes down to viewer attention, the real distinction lies in the rarity of the ‘art’ presented. High art is one-of-a kind and exposure is often singular – like travelling to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. Whereas low art is abundantly frequent – making it significantly easier to overlook and commit to memory.
The ever-increasing number of streaming platforms has led to a fragmentation of the once fairly centralised entertainment landscape. And the proliferation of short-form content across a range of social media and video apps means that viewers are often ‘second-screening’1 on a phone or tablet, consuming mass streams of information in tiny, bite-sized chunks, even while sitting in front of your big expensive ad. If you’re lucky, they might look up. But don’t count on it. Attention might just be one of the rarest commodities in existence, after clean drinking water.2
To break through, short-form storytelling needs to be timely in its delivery, punchy in its execution, and seamlessly integrate into the experience of the channel it’s being consumed within.
The most watched online videos usually revolve around people showing off their lip-syncing, dance moves, and stunt fails.3 Or they’re of cats playing piano. If these kinds of things aren’t really on brand for you, how do you successfully compete? You apply these iconic rules for economical storytelling:
The most important thing for a brand to let go of is the idea that you are in control of how your message will be received, remixed and reinterpreted online. Because the Streisand effect is real.7
When short-form content is done right (and sometimes when it’s done wrong) your idea will travel far beyond the original work, to live on as a meme, a gif, or a pop culture quote completely divorced from its original context and intended meaning. Cue the breathless anxiety of Legal departments everywhere.
But if you really want your brand to make a splash in the deep pool of short-form video content, you’ll need to check the water, jump with all your might, tuck your knees in tight, and hope for the best.