Debunking the short-form content myths

Leave a comment

Human attention spans are getting shorter, says almost everybody. So why are people spending more and more time with long-form content? 


Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2, the 2nd highest-grossing movie of the year so far, clocks in at 2:21 hours.

We’ve all heard the cliches, too often presented as “facts”: humans can only absorb content in short bursts, vying for attention on your Facebook news feed. Our attention spans are now at the same level as the poor, maligned goldfish. We are told by experts at marketing conferences that the “ideal” length for video content is 30 seconds because “Millennials” can’t handle anything longer than a minute or so. Even the President of the United States now sums up complex foreign policy in less than 140 characters. (Sad!)

For everyone who accepts all of this at face value, step back for a minute and think again. If we really had the attention span of a goldfish, would any one of us be able to leave a room? Wouldn’t we forget how we got there or where the door was or how a doorknob worked? Or for that matter, how could humans drive a car, fly a plane or file a tax return? Are we really so unfocused or easily distracted?

Think of your own content consumption as a consumer. How much time are you willing to spend with a movie or your favorite TV show?

The second most popular film of 2017 (so far), Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, which made over USD 800 million at the box office, has a running time of 141 minutes. The #1 movie with over a billion dollars, Beauty and the Beast, clocks in at two hours and nine minutes. Arguably the hottest show on television today, Game of Thrones, is already running at around 67 hours! (Thereabouts, anyways. I can’t remember how many two-hour episodes there were.) And there’s still one more season to go!

It may surprise you to learn that, according to research by video technology company Ooyala, long-form video is now the most popular form of content consumed online. Long-form content (defined as greater than 20 minutes in length) now represents the majority of time spent watching video across all screen sizes: desktop, mobile, tablet and connected TVs.

The magical formula that dictates your video must only be 90-120 seconds  is a myth propagated by companies who want to sell you 90-120 sec videos (and the platforms that carry them).  I was recently reminded of how this misconception is propagated when I found myself quoted (out of context) in an article that argues short-form video is the “next big thing.”

It’s not true that people today will only watch short videos. What most consumers are unwilling to watch for longer than a couple of minutes is bad content: content that’s poorly conceived, with a thinly-veiled yet obvious commercial message, designed to interrupt you as you’re trying to get to the actual content you wanted to see in the first place.

The fact is that if the content is good, as the entertain industry demonstrates, consumers are willing to watch for hours and hours non-stop. The challenge for brands is how to develop content that is interesting enough, offers true value and features characters and a narrative that compels the viewer to follow all the way to the end.

If your brand has an amazing story to tell, breaking the 90-second video mold is the way to stand out. VISA’s delightful Thai-language #TokyoUnexpected mini movie clocks in at nearly 15 minutes and has already over 10 million views on Facebook (mostly organic).

Even a B2B player like industry giant GE regularly shares its many technical innovations through a series of videos, from cool things they do with drone technology to power plants, each clocking in at over five minutes each.

That’s not to say short-form content doesn’t have its place. Marketers need to think of short videos in the way that Hollywood uses trailers or preview clips: easy entry points leading to the main event. Or how comedians like John Oliver have used short clips to build a YouTube audience as large as his HBO audience. The problem is that many marketers confuse one medium with the other, treating the short form route as if it was the main content. And just as Hollywood has learned to do, marketers must also learn to convey a brand story with a Transmedia mindset, across multiple platforms and formats.

Whatever approach you decide, make sure to avoid that other great video content myth: that the content you produce, in order to be considered successful, has to go “viral.”


5 tips for digital content

Leave a comment

Presenting at Content 360 in Singapore

SingTel has spent the last three years refining and investing in its social media and digital content strategy. In the last year alone, SingTel has produced a wide variety of content, from educational infographics to award winning video campaigns like #Need4GSpeed and #HawkerHeroes.

For brands looking to venture into digital content designed for social media for the first time, the path forward might look daunting and pockmarked with risks. Here are five tips to guide you:

1. Aim for the heart, not the head

One of the first things we learned from working with the giant social media network Facebook was the useful sanity-check question: “Why will they care; why will they share?”

When a consumer decides to share a video or re-tweet an article, it is usually either because he found the content thoroughly upsetting (to which the reaction was “I have to share this!”) or he found the content so amusing (to which the reaction was “I have to share this!”).

#HawkerHeroes worked particularly well for SingTel not just because of the presence of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay but also because it delved into an issue close to Singaporeans’ hearts: local heritage and cuisine.

As tempted as it sometimes gets to fill marketing content with information, just remember that if this was only about appealing to rational minds, social media would be about the viral distribution of white papers.

2.Accept the fact that you are not Ellen DeGeneres

“Please make this viral” is a phrase social media marketers dread. Too often, making a material viral is seen as the only goal worth pursuing. But unlike Ms Degeneres, most mere mortals (or brands) will never be responsible for the next Most Retweeted Tweet in History.

Instead, understand where this piece of content fits into your overall campaign strategy. Is it meant to educate? Or call attention to an issue? More realistic metrics such as video views or clicks to a campaign site would then be more sensible goals.

3. Have a good budget for production, but set aside a budget for distribution first

Often all the resources are poured into production with an expectation that something so brilliantly creative or funny is sure to go viral. (See Tip #2.) But even the best creative work is wasted if no one finds out it exists. Especially in today’s extremely cluttered media environment where hundreds of hours of video are being uploaded to Youtube every second, the chances of your shiny new video being discovered organically gets smaller by the day.

Combining an influencer outreach programme, traditional PR and an initial burst of paid media can give your content that boost it needs to get an audience’s attention and get that Share snowball rolling.

#HawkerHeroes, SingTel’s most successful campaign from last year, may have looked like a random viral campaign. But it only came to life through a complex, multi-channel strategy whose execution was planned down to the minute-by-minute detail.

4. Get your consumers involved

The best content campaigns are the ones where the audience gets in on the action. Consumers can be valuable co-creators, as we have seen in a number of campaigns from Old Spice to Oreo.

SingTel’s own #Need4GSpeed enlisted consumers to provide their best applications of a high speed mobile connection which were then translated into comedy sketches by comedian Hossan Leong.

5. Keep it simple

One common mistake brands make is to make participating in a campaign too complex, which can be an obstacle to a social media campaign’s success.

I personally prefer apply the “60-second Rule”. Ask yourself, would responding to the content or participating in the discussion take more than 60 seconds? Years ago, brands relied heavily on mechanics like photo submissions and anticipated no more than 10% of the audience would actually participate while the rest simply watched. Today the hashtag offers a much simpler way to participate and lowers barrier to entry.

Content-led social media campaigns need not be so daunting. While there are always risks, they can be extremely rewarding for any brand with the right concept and adequate planning.

This article was originally published in Marketing Interactive and was based on my presentation made at Content 360 on 3 April 2014 in Singapore. Full presentation below:

Seizing Social Media Moments


Great content in the hands of an empowered team mean social media marketing success

SingTel’s #HawkerHeroes campaign celebrated Singapore’s food heritage with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay

Events unfold on social media in real time. That means your social media marketing team needs to have the know-how, the creativity and the authority to take advantage of events as they happen to create relevance and excitement around your brand.

Much has been said of how Oreo took advantage of the blackout at this year’s Super Bowl and became the most discussed ad campaign that night. Taking advantage of such opportunities is made possible only when you have a team that can develop an idea on the spur of the moment and have the willingness to run with it, despite the risks. In Singapore, one of the year’s most discussed events was when haze from brush fires in Sumatra caused unprecedented air pollution in the island state. A small number of brands jumped in with their take on events, including SingTel, who featured a hazy skyline on their Facebook cover photo.

SingTel reacts to social media moments every day, most of the time with helpful tips for customers or with an offer to help when they need support. Last April, SingTel’s social media team sent a special gift to a lucky cat, who had trouble adjusting to a new but smaller mioTV set-top box. The team sent the cat’s owner a brand new cat bed and a bag of goodies, together with a personalized hand-written note.

Big corporations like SingTel aren’t always associated with random acts of compassion and spontaneity. Thankfully social media allows such opportunities to be discovered regularly. And occasionally, companies also create these moments themselves.

In 2012, SingTel threw a free live concert by Korean pop band 2NE1. The event was promoted entirely via Twitter and hints to local fan clubs. Thousands of screaming fans turned up at the event in Clarke Quay, Singapore.

Earlier this year, SingTel invited customers to share how they intended to use the connection speeds of the newly-launched 4G mobile network via the Twitter hashtag #Need4GSpeed. These situations (e.g. “I want to watch my Korean dramas before my tears dry up”) were then converted into comedy skits by funnyman Hossan Leong and his team of actors. The campaign resulted in 23 videos uploaded within eight hours and #Need4GSpeed trending for two days straight.

In July, SingTel issued an invitation to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, insisting that Singapore hawker cuisine deserved global recognition by challenging him to learn three popular local dishes. The campaign, centered around the hashtag #HawkerHeroes, set Singapore ablaze with discussion and speculation as to whether the Michelin-star chef could beat local hawkers. As the debate quickly became a matter of heritage and national pride, the story garnered coverage in local media and the #HawkerHeroes hashtag trended on Twitter for four consecutive days. The campaign reached its climax as Ramsay arrived in Singapore and thousands of fans were able to meet him and sample his cooking,

#HawkerHeroes was a rare example of great content around a celebrity and an enabled social media team are combined with an issue that audiences are passionate about. The result was one of the biggest campaigns of the year in Singapore.

View the entire presentation below. Presented at Spikes Asia 2013 in Singapore. 

Conveying a Brand Persona through Video

1 Comment


Presenting in Singapore on 23 May 2013

Presenting in Singapore on 23 May 2013

At the Content Marketing Conference held in Singapore and Hong Kong, I gave a presentation on how SingTel uses video to express a warmer, more approachable brand persona through videos designed for social media distribution.

We have found video is an excellent medium to either educate consumers or even sway public opinion, especially as telecommunications technologies are becoming increasingly complex. The following video is an example of how SingTel educates consumers about maintaining and growing its mobile network:


Most of all,  videos are excellent for showing a lighter, more human side to SingTel. The following video summarizes how SingTel got consumers talking about 4G by partnering with comedian Hossan Leong and using Twitter and Youtube:


You can view the entire presentation below, which includes links to all the videos presented.


Read about how social media matters to brands like SingTel.

SingTel’s Digital Marketing team awarded

Leave a comment

SingTel CEO awards by phatfreemiguel
SingTel Singapore CEO Yuen Kuan Moon (extreme left) awards the SingTel Digital Marketing team

SingTel’s Digital Marketing team received another “Oustanding Team” award from SingTel Singapore CEO Yuen Kuan Moon. We owe our success to the great support we get from SingTel senior management, our colleagues in Consumer Marketing and our agency partners Ogilvy and MEC.
The team was cited for its recent #Need4GSpeed real time marketing campaign on Twitter and Youtube.

Could this be the coolest music video ever made?

Leave a comment

Before returning to earth after his 5-month mission to the International Space Station, Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded and released this stunning rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. A song about a man in outer space sung by a man in outer space. What an amazing time we live in.

His video took his recording (yes, that’s his real singing voice), edited with the help of his sons Evan and Kyle back on earth,  and combined with video images shot by Hadfield while aboard the ISS.

This video connects with me on so many levels because it brings together some of my life’s passions: new media, science (and science fiction) and, of course, rock n’ roll. It’s the crowning achievement in a series of videos by Hadfield about life aboard the ISS shared with the world through social media (which at one point included a Twitter exchange and live interview with William Shatner).

Commander Hadfield’s career as an astronaut and as a test pilot for the RCAF may have taken him farther, faster, further than most men in history, but for me he will always be remembered for this perfect moment captured in 5:31 minutes of film.

The Story behind SingTel’s #Need4GSpeed Social Media Campaign


Hossan Leong took over the @SingTel handle on 14 March 2013, inviting consumers to tell him why they #Need4GSpeed. He then turned his favorite tweets into comedy skits which were produced and published within minutes on Youtube.

This is the story behind how that campaign came about.

Read The Anatomy of a Real-Time Social Media Marketing Campaign.

Watch the Best Videos from SingTel’s #Need4GSpeed campaign.

Older Entries