Long Form May Have Longer Legs Than You Think

What’s your elevator pitch? It’s a good exercise to figure out how to tell your story in 30 seconds, but the reality is that a lot of stories can’t be told that quickly. Even if you get a three to five minute television interview, sometimes even that isn’t enough.

One of the trends I’m seeing for 2015, is greatly increased interest in marketers and communicators in the long form TV format. This isn’t a new idea, it’s perhaps more of a case of how everything that is old is new again. Back to the very early days of television, sponsors were directly involved in programming, so much so that the term “soap opera” originates from P&G executive producing the daily serials.

Long form isn’t necessarily an infomercial. There are production partners at PBS, cable networks and even local affiliates who are available to partner and allow some measure of editorial input through unrestricted educational grants. It’s a delicate balance, because all parties are interested in putting something out that is actually informative and watchable.

If we use infomercial as an example, if you are trying to do long form well, the focus should really be on the “info” part, and not so much on the “mercial” or commercial.

The healthcare industry, where I put a lot of my focus, is particularly adept at this medium. Health insurers have been using this format in the past couple of years to walk consumers through the complexities of ACA. Issues like long-term care, assisted living, advanced directives, surgical procedures like lap band, knee replacements—all of these topics and more can’t be adequately covered in a shorter format.

As the pharmaceutical industry has increasingly focused on TV advertising in their direct to consumer strategies, you’ll note that many of the longer commercials may spend more time on side effects and adverse events than the benefits. In a longer format, it’s easier to talk about patient success stories and counter balance the picture.

The assumption that a small screen—like that of a smartphone—might be more typically used for viewing short, snackable video clips rather than long-form content seems obvious.  But research suggests full-length movies and TV shows come close to news clips and previews in popularity among smartphones video viewers.

According to research from Digitalsmiths, just over 42% of internet users in North America watched news video content on their smartphones, and more than 36% watched previews for TV shows or movies.

That compared with 30.9% of respondents who said they watched full-length movies on their phones, and 27% who watched TV show reruns.

What that indicates is that the long form content marketing strategy may not be out of place in the mobile/social era and may actually be even more effective going forward.

Thoughts, questions, comments? I’d love to hear what you think.