January 13, 2017
Why Burberry, BMW Are Getting Into the Short Film Business
By Michael Goefron

January 13, 2017, 8:06 AM

In the previews for the many Oscar-worthy films you’ll watch this award season, you may see an interesting trailer. Domhnall Gleeson, an actor in acclaimed films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, stars as enterprising clothing designer Thomas Burberry, working alongside actress Sienna Miller in a tale of ambition, strife and great-looking clothes. Except the trailer isn’t for a feature film, it’s an ad promoting the clothing company that shares the designer’s name.

Burberry’s short film may seem exceptional, but it’s part of a recent growing trend among certain brands to stretch the video lengths of their commercials. BMW recently restarted its BMW Films series with an electrifying action sequence starring Children of Men star Clive Owen. Those who prioritize efficiency and brevity might be curious why these brands are deciding now to go the long route with their commercials. Here’s why they made the right decision:

1. Long-Form Videos Build Deeper Connections, Especially with Luxury Consumers

Any advertiser will tell you that traditional, short-form video greatly boosts brand recognition. While this can be essential for a great deal of brands, for household names like Burberry and BMW, brand recognition is a foregone conclusion. However, if you would like to build an emotional association with your brand, emotion deepens the longer a viewer watches your ad. A recent study conducted by Google found that a 2-minute ad was more effective at raising brand favorability than a 15-second version of that same ad. Longer-form video does wonders for brand affinity, which is a key next step deeper into a brand’s relationship with its customers.

It’s also no coincidence that that luxe brands around the world like the UK’s Burberry, Germany’s BMW and even Poland’s Allegro retailer are at the forefront of the long-form trend. Consumers who buy their products are more concerned with style, fashion and trends than your average buyer, and luxury brands are adapting. Drawing from a recent Boston Consulting Group study, Think with Google described luxury brands shifting from “having” to “being” in their marketing, relating their products to identity and experience rather than external accessories. That shift should extend to their advertising. They should not merely present a product; they present a perspective, an emotion, a drama. Long-form film does this.

2. Consumers Are Embracing Social Video Like Never Before

Burberry’s ad may be playing in select theaters nationwide, but it debuted online, where consumers are becoming more receptive to video advertising. According to CNBC, social media ad spend is expected to eclipse newspaper ad spend by 2020. Luxury has shown to be particularly committed; Publicis Groupe predicts digital will be the largest luxury advertising medium in 2017, overtaking print and TV, accounting for 32.1% of total spend by such brands.

Because it’s a passive, broad form of entertainment, television advertisers always must be wary of appealing to the largest group of people possible. Online advertising, including social video, on the other hand, has become so refined in its behavioral and demographic targeting that you can deliver to the exact audience that chooses to watch your videos. By directly targeting audiences who opt in to watch their content, advertisers can afford to be more experimental with ad length.

3. Consumers’ Quality Standards Are Increasing

One of the biggest challenges the ad industry grappled with this year was the widespread adoption of ad-blockers. One in five smartphone users blocks web browser advertising, a 90% year-over-year increase, according to PageFair. How do you reach an audience that’s avoiding ads at record rates? Make ads they like, of course, and narrative and cinematic storytelling help in that regard. We are far away from the days of pre-roll when digital ads were considered more or less an extension of TV. Instead, consumers eagerly await the annual heartwarming and humorous holiday ads of high-end retailers like John Lewis from the UK. With people anticipating higher-quality ads, advertisers need Hollywood-scale quality and narrative to measure up.

Luxury brands like Burberry and BMW are clearly emulating Hollywood blockbusters with longer run-times and stronger narratives. Because of the deeper connections to long-form advertising, luxury brands’ refined customer base, consumers’ acceptance of social video and increased quality standards, we can only expect more trailer-like ads going forward. Who knows, the Academy Awards might need to create a new category in the future.

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