News & Views

Micro Video Changes Everything We Know About Brand Storytelling

by Contagious Contributor

Amber Horsburgh, senior strategist at Big Spaceship on storytelling in seconds

Micro video creators are coming up with incredibly creative ways for the traditional three-act structure of brand storytelling to work in a new format. Micro video was made popular thanks to platforms such as Vine, Instagram and Snapchat and differs from that of traditional online video in that the writer’s script is limited to less than 15 seconds. This prevents storytellers from following the linear three-act structure. Instead the functions of storytelling – set up the scene, introduce the characters, build drama and deliver the punch line – must happen instantaneously.

One method of getting around such a condensed timeframe is by using all the peripheral elements of storytelling such as the title and hashtags associated with the story. The title of the video now helps to set up the drama in the story. The hashtags provide immediate context for the storyline. This is seen in the widely popular trend from Viners to spin-off stories with titles such as ‘When you get...’ and ‘When you’re trying...’ and ‘When your mom...’ The title has already set scene, added context and introduced the protagonist.



Another technique commonly used by brands in micro video is to play off existing schemas like famous movie scenes, pop culture and sporting events. Since the audience already has an understanding of the scene, characters and context, the story can start straight at the drama of ‘Act Two’. A great example of this was GE’s widely successful 6-second Science Fair on Vine, which builds on what we already know of school science fairs. Dunkin Donuts also executed a successful Vine series during this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII where the brand recreated existing plays from the playoffs with their coffee cups as players (see above).

One last key-differentiating factor in micro video is the need for the content to be social. Micro video platforms exist in the social ecosystem where the content competes for the viewer’s attention. This places greater emphasis on the content itself. There is little opportunity for a slow, subtle build of a story when the viewer can click away at the first sign of boring. In micro video every second counts, every second must be a hook.

The three-act structure still pervades advertising and is a solid method. However, we are now observing the rise of creative ways to tell that story in a shorter format. Micro video offers exciting new vehicles for brand storytelling through quick, playful interactions. Brands will be successful when they get creative with the new opportunities that these platforms present as they are adopted by more and more audiences.

Amber Horsburgh is a senior strategist at Brooklyn creative agency, Big Spaceship. She has taught strategy and analytics at Skillshare, writes a weekly column that demystifies digital strategy at Skillcrush and mentors budding planners at SheSays.

This article appears in The SoDA Report, the full version of which is available here and on slideshare