Vines are a ‘marketing baptism by fire’

Telling a story in a 30 second ad spot requires a special kind of skill. But telling it in six seconds? That takes something else.

That’s something marketers have had to learn the hard way, thanks to the rise of Vine, a video service that requires users to upload videos around six seconds (or six and a half, if you go by this CNET story). The result? Some really weird mishmashes and head scratchers, but also some brilliant stories distilled into the time it takes to sneeze.

One guy who’s been doing it right is Stewart Reynolds, who runs a digital media consultancy called during the day, but produces Vines in his spare time. Based in Stratford, Ont., Reynolds is the guy behind Brittlestar, a Vine account with more than 400,000 followers and 88 million loops on his content.

Often featuring his family, his Vines run the gamut from ridiculous to – well, ridiculous, but entertaining nonetheless. Basically, what would happen if your dad made a bunch of dad jokes and then compiled them all into six-second shorts. But beyond being a funny guy, Reynolds is also a marketer, and he sees a ton of opportunities in using Vines to convey messages.

“What’s great about Vine is that it’s like a marketing baptism by fire,” said Reynolds, speaking from NextMedia, a conference held in Toronto on Nov. 10 to 11. “You will know within the first five minutes if something’s funny or not, if it’s going to work or not.”

He recalled seeing the power of Vine when he was visiting Disneyworld with his family in September. A young couple was waiting in line for a ride in front of them, and the woman was flicking through Vine.

“When she saw a Vine that she liked, she would stop, her shoulders would go up and she’d laugh and hit the ‘like’ button and she’d shove the phone in her boyfriend’s face, like, look at this! It was amazing – this little video on her phone had this immediate emotional connection with her that actually caused an actual physical response, which was crazy.”

Reynolds started playing around with the platform in February 2013, when his son showed him what Vines looked like and piqued his interest. Initially opening a Vine account was just experimentation, but he soon began to appreciate what the medium could do. Some of his Vines have netted around 300,000 loops, while one from October has hit about 3.7 million.

Still, as you might expect, one of the hardest parts of using Vine is crafting messages that viewers can understand in just six seconds, said Reynolds. That’s not entirely a bad thing. One of the advantages of using a medium that requires six-second content is that you’re forced to get to the point.

“You have to think about what you want to say, or the feeling you want to convey, or whatever you do with your Vine, and get rid of all the fluff, and all the distraction, and all the junk, which is just going to get in the way of someone understanding what you’re doing,” he said.

Figuring out the medium has gotten Reynolds other perks as well. Disney tapped him to produce Vines for its brand, flying Reynolds and his family to California. However, aside from the trip, one of the things Reynolds appreciated most was being able to keep a relatively free rein over his content – even as Disney was sponsoring it.

That’s a lesson that brands need to learn, if they want to harness the talents of creative professionals to help them get their brand messages out there.

“What works best for brands is when they understand their content creators, the Viners themselves, really know their audience best,” he said. “Sure, it’s about numbers, you want to get numbers out there, but the main thing is to find a Viner whose brand connects to the brand itself. You want to let that content creator come up with their own concepts and then simply wrap the brand around it.”

He added he envisions publications like the Huffington Post or the New York Times eventually using microvideos like Vines as online cartoons and syndicated content.

“Vines are an addictive gap filler. I totally love Vine because I have a short attention span, and I can go through a million of them,” he said. “You can decide within a tenth of a second if you want to watch a Vine … We laugh, [but] some Vines have made me cry with really sad stories, and some are really amazing artistically. And we’re doing all that in 6.5 seconds.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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