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Life Beyond 30 Second Ads - 4 Minute Stories

ChipotleFor years I fought against the "rules of thumb" for digital.

  • 60-90 seconds for YouTube shorts 
  • 90-120 seconds for informational content
  • 15 seconds for video ads 
  • No more than 90 seconds for long form ads.
All of these rules of thumb pre-suppose that you have nothing to say that is worth listening to. That you want to sell to people who aren't otherwise interested. But great stories are worth sticking around for.

The problem is that few brands are designed to have stories worth telling. In an industrial age, brands became little more than colorful and consistent packaging. They became a benefit, not a mission. A statement rather than a story or a journey.

But in the real world, in the intimacy of digital content, in a world where we aren't constrained by commoditized formats of paid interruption, brands must be more than a statement. Brands are a journey, a quest, almost a religion. People don't just "Like" the statement, they join the movement.


1. Chipotle is a fast food chain. But the video below does more than push a price or a new product line. It does more than tell a story. It's an anthem, a mission statement, a cause. And after viewing the video, it's a cause I feel I need to join.

2. Now consider the video below. It's long. It's subtitled. I breaks every rule the agency world will give you. But it's been featured on Gawker and has amassed over 5 million views in under a week. I would love to see more ads this personal and this moving.

I didn't know who the brand was until the end. And as I'm not in the local market, I had to do some research to figure out who they are and what they do. They are a mobile carrier. This spot promotes their 3.5G/4G service. But it speaks to me. And it's everything Verizon, AT&T and T Mobile aren't. Which makes it wonderful.


THE DANGER & The Promise

 Brands cannot simply embrace emotion and causes willy nilly. It must speak to the brand promise and build on the product's consumer value. I don't want to see Heinz take on breast cancer just because their ads will become more meaningful. But I would love to see Heinz take on hunger or something child-related, because both of these causes speak to the brand promise. I would even stick around for a three to five minute video. Hell, we watched Red Bull's space jump for two hours! 

Don't just tell a story. Tell your story. We are ready and waiting to listen.