Twitter’s video app lures big brands

For some brand advertisers, six seconds is the new 30 seconds. Even as this weekend’s Super Bowl hits a new high for traditional TV advertising, where half a minute of airtime costs a record $4m, several big brands are leaping on to Twitter’s new video app Vine despite its enforced brevity.

Vine, an iPhone app acquired by Twitter last year and released just over a week ago, allows users to share a maximum of six seconds of video at a time, in keeping with Twitter’s own 140-character text limit.

Despite its novelty, and a few technical teething troubles, companies and brands such as Gap, Malibu, Asos and General Electric have already joined Vine, generating revenue for Twitter as they pay to promote their clips on the site and its mobile apps.

“Vine is a natural complement to Twitter – it’s creative storytelling driven by constraint,” said Linda Boff, executive director of global brand marketing at General Electric.

“We’ve seen strong organic engagement and we love that it delivers on what the internet increasingly wants – mobile-first, stream-based, visual storytelling.”

Vine builds on the online popularity of the GIF, an image file which can show a few frames of animation without the need for video player software. Crucially, Vine posts and GIFs work well on mobile, where longer-form video clips take time to load and often require Adobe’s Flash platform, which does not work on Apple’s iPhone.

“I’ve been surprised at how much of a story you can articulate in six seconds,” said Michael Litman at London agency AnalogFolk. “I don’t remember seeing any recent social platform have such a huge brand take-up, almost from day one.”

Mr Litman and others have seen Vine as Twitter’s response to Instagram, the wildly popular photo-sharing app that was acquired by rival Facebook last year.

“Using the Twitter platform to grow a video version of Instagram is really interesting,” said Simon Mansell, chief executive of TBG Digital, a social media agency, sees the potential in the new format. “I think it will encourage brands to think about shorter content than 30-second spots, which is necessary in a world where people have a shorter attention span.”

Tom Bedecarre, chairman of AKQA, the WPP-owned digital agency, said it was “too early” to judge Vine’s success, but added: “What I do know is people love video. And I know advertisers love video ... As people compress more into less time these days because we are on the go, it makes perfect sense to me that a shorter video message should have a lot of interest.”

Benjamin Palmer, chief executive of New York agency Barbarian Group, said he believed that Twitter was “banking on” Vine becoming its “rich media unit”, in a site still dominated by plain text.

“Twitter’s problem is that there is no display media so you can only do so much to make a brand stand out, and it is conceivable that Vine solves that problem,” Mr Palmer said.

However, one digital media agency chief, who asked not to be named, said that Vine just created “another headache, another cost” for brands that are already struggling with the wide variety of online advertising formats available.

It is not clear if the initial burst of enthusiasm for Vine among consumers or brands will last.

In the first few days after its launch, Vine was among the top five free apps in Apple’s US App Store, outstripping Instagram and Snapchat. But by Sunday, Vine had fallen below those rivals and out of the top 50 apps.

Service outages and the appearance of uncensored adult content on the app’s homepage were among Vine’s early hiccups.

Nonetheless, GE’s Ms Boff says the shorter, mobile-friendly video clip is here to stay.

“I do think this is already beyond a novelty and simply accepted internet language at this point,” she said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.