Short-form content 'struggles with meaning' reckons Richard Ayoade

YouTube short-form content "struggles with meaning" according to film director, actor and TV presenter Richard Ayoade, speaking at this week's Advertising Week Europe in London.

Lomax, Ayoade, Ridgwell and Bedwood: onstage at Advertising Week Europe
Lomax, Ayoade, Ridgwell and Bedwood: onstage at Advertising Week Europe

In the ‘Lights, Camera, Upload’ panel session hosted by Google head of brand solutions Alison Lomax, Ayoade said: "The thing about the short form is that it dictates the content, which tends towards sensationalism, surrealism and irony.

"I think that the medium influences the message. So YouTube struggles with any kind of meaning. It’s hard to transmit that quickly."

Ayoade, who has written and directed critically acclaimed feature films ‘Submarine’ and ‘The Double’, was joined by YouTuber Tom Ridgewell (AKA TomSka), with the latter explaining how he will "dream up things and make them... I’m not sure why".

Ridgewell talked about his work with brands, which have spanned video games and charities such as Cancer Research UK and The Red Cross. He said that "the best way to work with brands is to be very upfront; or so tasteful, it’s elegant".

Meanwhile, M&C Saatchi London creative director Dave Bedwood, said: "As technology is allowing people to skip more often, you have to do work where the competition is programmes and content."

But the problem is that clients are largely risk-averse, he added - "let’s make it alright and average".

Talking about brands and storytelling, Ayoade went on to reference Guinness’s much-lauded ‘Surfer’ ad, directed by Jonathan Glazer, a piece of film he clearly admired.

"Jonathan Glazer is interesting in that he just has the ‘thing’ at the end," he said. "It could be a [narrative] film and then it says, ‘this is for Guinness’ at the end.

"Advertising has to serve the needs of the [company] doing it and has to communicate [the brand being advertised].

"In some ways if you’re making a story, you don’t want people to think of a ‘thing, whereas in advertising you do want them to think of a ‘thing’."

Ads "can be brilliant," the director said, "it’s when they pretend to be something else" that they get it wrong and come over as inauthentic.


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