Why one-hour videos could be a game-changer for Instagram

Tim Maytom

Josh Krichefski, CEO of MediaCom UK, explains how Instagram has evolved since its inception, and why the shift to long-form video was almost inevitable given mobile trends

It was rumoured a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s all confirmed: Instagram is integrating video that extends up to one hour.

The app is barely recognisable from the one that was founded in 2010. What started out that year as a photo-sharing service is now the go-to for celebrities, influencers and the public alike. In fact, just this week the platform announced it had reached 1bn users.

It’s hard to look past the introduction of video as one of the main reasons for its impressive growth. The introduction of 15-second videos back in 2013 launched the app into the stratosphere, and both users and advertisers embraced the functionality.

Come 2016, things changed once again with new 60-seconds videos. Now in 2018, they’re 60 minutes. It’s a remarkable step for the platform and is a win-win for just about everybody involved.

The power of mobile
The new long-form video content will find its home both as a new app called IGTV and also within the existing app. The move clearly reflects the growing ubiquity of mobile phones and people consuming content on them.

Instagram founder Kevin Systrom told the BBC that "video deserves a better home on mobile" and it’s easy to see why. Smartphone penetration is now at 85 per cent of all adults, and video – which companies like Facebook and Twitter have invested in massively of late – is now most viewed on a mobile; video consumption has more than trebled in the last five years and it’s only going to continue to increase.

Figures from Ooyala, whose collective audiences of hundreds of millions of viewers spanning nearly every country of the world, show a massive spike in long-form videos on smartphones. Just 29 per cent watched long-form (20+ minutes) in Q1 2016. The figure in Q1 2018 stands nearly double at 54 per cent.

With the advent of 5G, increasingly high-resolution phone screens and the rollout of WiFi in more public spaces, the growth of video consumption on mobile is unlikely to slow down anytime soon.

Taking on YouTube
For us in the ad industry, it’s fascinating to watch how the video format continues to change and evolve. It’s certainly been a huge talking point at Cannes Lions this year.
The move to one-hour video is also reflective of the consumer demand for watching different types of content of different lengths. Instagram is now not just competing against Snapchat (having taken the company’s ‘Stories’ function), but YouTube too – the de factor leader in video.

Asked about the inevitable comparisons to YouTube, Systrom said IGTV would be “more engaging and perhaps more emotional”. It doesn’t seem that consumers are fed up with short-form content, but they want more of a choice when it comes to the type of content they watch, how they watch it and when they watch it.

A huge opportunity
But what does this mean for influencers, creatives and advertisers?

This essentially comes back to the art versus science debate; short-form content vs long-form content. Short videos optimised using data segments and audience targeting may quickly grab people’s attention, but do they leave a lasting impression? Do they make us feel something?

Yes, shorter formats have their place in the advertising mix, but IGTV will give brands more creative license to build campaigns that are less hurried and can connect with consumers on a deeper level. Although Systrom has said that there won’t be ads on IGTV to start with, it is “obviously a very reasonable place to end up”.

For marketers, IGTV will seem like a natural place to invest influencer marketing in; 75 per cent of marketers allocated budget to influencer marketing in 2017, and over 40 per cent will increase their spend in 2018.

IGTV now seems a very timely addition and will open Instagram’s doors to another pool of creative talent, a greater user base and a bigger revenue stream.

Innovate to compete
Put simply, Instagram could not afford to be left behind. Snapchat recently redesigned its UI to benefit both advertisers and consumers. And similarly, Facebook has upped its focus on streaming live sports, hiring Eurosport’s CEO earlier this year.

It has innovated to reflect a shift in viewing patterns and this will allow the platform a bigger slice of the digital video market, the biggest growing segment in the advertising industry.

While one-hour video on Instagram won’t be the biggest ad story of the year, it offers unparalleled opportunity for those using the platform. Perhaps the next Hollywood premiere you watch may not be at your local cinema, but on IGTV.

Josh Krichefski is CEO of MediaCom UK.