A New Skill Base
Vine has become pretty hard to ignore from a marketing point of view. The new six second looping video format, along with its fifteen second rival Instagram video from Facebook, has undoubtedly opened the door to a lot of new opportunities in the new omniscreening environment and engendered a new skill base in targeted micro-moviemaking.
With people like Zach King, Frank Danna and Origiful charging handsomely for their ability to conjure up compendious and witty content in such a tiny timespan, there is no doubt that marketers are taking this new and highly condensed form of moviemaking very seriously indeed.
Many of these new Vine auteurs are exploiting Vine’s stop / start functionality, to create stop motion animation one frame at a time; a practice that undoubtedly involves a degree of skill, not to mention patience. Even at six seconds a clip, stop motion animations like these can take a day or more to make. Vine has even been used as a medium to create content that can be stitched together to form longer movies, such as the innovative crowd directed film by Airbnb.
New Art Form or Glorified Thumb Twiddling
According to Dr Simon Hampton, Psychology lecturer at the University of East Anglia, “people’s inability to leave their phones alone is the newest addition to common ‘displacement’ behaviours such as smoking, doodling, fiddling and picking.” He goes onto point out that “62% of 18 – 32 YO prefer to check their smartphone if they have any ‘downtime’ rather than just sit and think and 37% say they check their smartphone if there’s a lull in conversation with friends.”
MD at Hurricane Media, Jon Mowat, argues that this new readily accessible medium is opening up huge opportunities for video marketers that have yet to be fully exploited. He describes the difference between using traditionally longer video platforms like YouTube and Vine or Instagram as minutes and moments.
“The opportunity for marketers is that we now have these minutes and moments with target audiences, which we didn’t used to have. We have those moments on the train or on the bus or when they’re just talking to friends to get our marketing messages across to them. But they’re very short.”
Are Vine and Instagram viewers therefore simply filling dead space then? Is this new wave of Vine and Instagram video marketing merely the visual equivalent of twiddling your thumbs? Far from it, argues Mindshare Executive Jordan Bitterman, who says “there’s a science and an art and a method to being able to communicate in short form to consumers these days.”
He’s not alone either. Twitter UK head of sales, Dara Nasr, recently told Marketing Week that the “constraint of six seconds has driven creativity” amongst brands.
Thomas Messett, head of digital marketing and advocacy for Nokia Europe, is more cynical about the progress made by Vine marketers so far though. “Vine reminds me a lot of Twitter in its early days, it has a lot of promise and marketers are excited as they can see it has potential, but the form is limiting. How can you land a message or tell a story or create something compelling that will influence a consumer in just six seconds? …I don’t think many brands have the formula yet.”
But does working exclusively within a six or fifteen second timespan, produce such a restrictive canvas as to preclude the possibility of anything created upon it ever being deemed artistic? That’s a question undoubtedly destined to attract speculation and snobbery in equal measure (as most conversations about art, both off and online, tend to do).
The ability to tell a story with any degree of characterization or plot development goes out the window with these platforms and to attempt to do so would be folly. Vine and Instagram are all about making vignettes that offer up a window to a larger story, relying heavily on context and speculation for the view to fill in the gaps. As such the format lends itself perfectly to whimsy, farce and slapstick comedy, as well as the enduring enchantment of stop motion animation.
It’s Vine and Instagram’s restrictive canvas that is arguably driving this innovation by its very precept. The rigidity of the six of fifteen second timespan imposes a sort of level playing field by pinning success on the impact of a solitary revelation or punch line instead of production value or acting talent. Budding producers are driven to the platform not because it’s constricting but because it is so liberating. A good film can often take two hours to tell, but there are any number of witty jokes or curious ditties that can happily take place in just six seconds. The challenge to marketers is balancing this liberation of the imagination whilst remaining tethered to a brand message.
Undoubtedly there is a knack to making good Vine and Instagram content. But art form or not, from a marketing point of view, it’s going to be tricky to get it right every time.