World Cup ads prove appetite for ultra-short and long film content

Now the gold tickertape has settled after Super Mario scored big time and Lionel made a Messi of his golden chance, it's a good time to work out who won the battle of the brands in terms of digital customer engagement over the four weeks of Brasil, Braaaaaasil.

Beats: 'the game before the game' starring Neymar Jr
Beats: 'the game before the game' starring Neymar Jr

Stellar examples are Nike and Beats. The former’s five-minute epic was impressive, while the latter’s film gave that back of the neck feeling despite having a product that has little connection with football (unless you count walking off the team bus with your headphones clamped on as a vital part of the sport).

What both did brilliantly was to create a compelling piece of story-telling that was liked, shared and posted across the web with fans investing their time to watch the long-form piece.

Nike did this by producing a Pixar-meets-EA influenced story, which, whilst entertaining, didn’t really deliver on the 'Risk Everything' thought.

The ‘Ask Zlatan’ YouTube series was funny, but still a little bit overwrought. (And of course, Ibra’s ego never actually made it to Brazil.)

Beats’ ‘Game Before the Game’ coupled a fantastic idea – Neymar Senior providing the pre-match voice in his son’s head – with a thumping soundtrack that kept people’s eyes glued to the screen – but didn’t deliver anything new in the weeks that followed.

The brand that blew both away for me was Adidas. Sheer luck meant that it had two flagship teams in the final. But its in-tournament activity was full of intent and the brand didn’t put a foot wrong.

The sports brand weaved its #allinornothing message not only into its flagship ad, but through ultra-short form content via Instagram and Vine.

Whether it was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it films of the Adidas Brazuca ball having the names of competing teams printed onto it, or black and white animated videos of key moments from each game, the power of the super-short seven or fifteen-second slot was there for all to see.

Ultra-short format films sate the world’s appetite for content. It’s always fresh, current and regular. It trumps the use of long form on its own, because longer ads simply don’t give a brand enough shelf life, something that’s really important to the world’s biggest tournament.

And don’t forget the audience in all of this. A fair chunk of the target here are either 11+ boys who want the latest ball and boots combo, or pub-centric blokes, watching the games with pint in hand.

Both are all about the smartphone and likeable, shareable content that’s easy to digest on the small screen, quick to load and doesn’t gobble up your valuable data allowance.

The World Cup proved that brands need to use long and ultra-short form in tandem to be effective.  Beats stagnated as it only had two videos to rely on, but Adidas, with its wider #allinornothing campaign, engaged with consumers at each touch point through short videos, increasing the longevity of its campaign.

Whether you’re ultra-short or time unlimited, you still have to get the story right. Earlier this year ultra-desirable camera maker Leica made a 46-minute film showing, in real time, the painstaking finishing and polishing process that every single camera body undergoes.

It asked if this was the most boring ad every made. Needless to say, the internet took up the challenge and made the film a sensation.

Of course, in the age of the YouTube pre-roll when you can skip an ad in 4 seconds, it doesn’t actually matter how long or short your spot is.

You have to make your point in an instant – or at least make the first four seconds of your film so damn compelling viewers resist their default action and watch the whole thing. In essence, the age-old truth still holds: it doesn’t matter if you make long or make short – if anyone’s going to watch, you have to make it good.

The 2014 World Cup will be known for a lot of things: weekday hangovers, spray foam and record breaking tweet sessions.

Perhaps more significantly, the tournament will go down in the annals of adland as the point at which global brands started taking shorter – and in fact, longer – content seriously.

By Paul Snoxell, creative director at Partners Andrews Aldridge


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