The future will be televised (in seconds, on mobile)

The seminal Internet Trends report by Mary Meeker, an annual release that has become the stuff of legend, landed on my digital doorstep this week. Naturally, I skim-read it via mobile, on the go. Those damn millennials huh.

Meeker, since 2001, has built a reputation as an online oracle with the ability to factualise much talked about online trends. Many of the technology trends Meeker has covered as being innovative at the time are now mainstay, or antiquated, showing how far tech and marketing techniques have evolved in the 14 years since Meeker’s reporting began.

We’re now in the era of the mobile-first generation; online anywhere and everywhere, always filtering, content consumers. Meeker debuts short-form video this year as one of her accelerating bright spots for brands to get excited about.

What’s startling is in the last year alone, mobile data usage rose 69 per cent and 55 per cent of the total mobile data traffic is from video. What also stood out for me was the latest indication that millennials' internet usage is centered around visual enabler apps, with Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat gaining usage year on year in America. Vine, the six-second video app owned by Twitter, maintained its status while Tumblr, Facebook and LinkedIn were in decline.

Mobile ads need to be fast, interactive and fun

We know that audience attention spans in 2015 are now less than those of a goldfish (humans attention spans are said to be eight seconds now, down from 12 seconds in 2000) and this comes with its own unique set of challenges to brands: how to produce content that appeals to their audience in seconds not minutes and through video or images?

We’ve been understanding what type of storytelling it takes to hit the spot of the millennial consumer since February 2013 in this nascent short-form video space that is set to be worth $13bn by 2020. Through Burst Productions we’ve helped brands tell a broad range of six and 15-second stories; from promoting a start-up competition for Microsoft to a Volvo road safety awareness campaign, to showcasing what the future of the oil and gas industry looks like with IO.

The IO creative team understood short-form video is not just about mobile or millennials, it’s about the message, choosing to adopt Vine to tell their story in six seconds, embedded on their website.

Brands need short answers

The impact of Mary Meeker’s report confirms mainstream adoption of social video content under 30 seconds is happening now and we’re entering the second big wave of short-form video experimentation.

Early adopter brands investing in short-form video following the launches of Vine, Instagram Video, Snapchat and Twitter Video were doing so because it was and remains a millennial magnet. The problem that most brands now face is after the short-form experimental stage comes the inevitable need to prove ROI and evaluate the learnings from the content performance, to justify continued investment and engagement. No analytics and intelligence platform currently exists specifically for short-form which we’re looking to change with Burst Analytics.

We discovered through our production experience that brands must tune in to the fact that their budgets have to now also reflect the cost of attention, which has gone up 20 per cent in the last four years. (Source: Harvard Business Review, 2014)

It’s up to the industry now to realise the value of short-form video to market to a time-poor audience. 'Small' videos also don’t equate to small investments while expecting back big returns. Analytics on performance and competitor benchmarking becomes all the more critical to demonstrate success back to the business while also encouraging brands to invest in the content and platforms when you can see what you are doing is delivering returns.

Brands creating short-form video to engage millennials need to understand the important difference between targeting and entertaining the audience they crave the attention of.

Meeker sees a $25bn opportunity for mobile ad spend in the US and it’s undeniable that targeted ads and programmatic advertising has a key role to play in social video engagement. But data and decimal points only tell you so much about what compels a consumer to watch your video over other branded content and to it’s conclusion. The human desire to entertain and influence others is what inspired us to build our short-form video intelligence platform.

At Burst we believe that short-form video will become the prevalent way that brands will target not just millennials but everyone, in an authentic and native way, without feeling like they are being interrupted. The year of the mobile is dead; long live the year of short-form video.

Michael Litman is CEO of Burst. Burst powers The Drum’s weekly Brand Vine Chart, updated every Friday.

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