That was quick. Scarcely had Thursday’s press event unveiling video sharing on Facebook‘s Instagram photo app ended before one company already posted an Instagram video–and turned it into ads on Facebook and Twitter, too.
American Licorice Co., maker of Red Vines, the twisted licorice candy that has been a confectionary staple of the western half of the U.S. for 60 years, has been a recent leader in the use of social media,jumping on everything from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Vine. So when Michael Kelly, the 99-year-old Union City (Calif.) company’s consumer communications manager, got the word that the video feature was out on Instagram, he quickly worked up a 15-second series of clips showing how Red Vines “makes the day sweet no matter where it takes you.”
American Licorice’s video was only one of some 5 million that have already been uploaded to Instagram in the first 24 hours after the launch. But it’s a prime example (one of several) of how the new feature could benefit both marketers and Facebook. Although Facebook and Instagram have announced no plans for formal video ads, the social network has been scrambling to offer more of the kinds of ad formats that marketers want so it can recharge its revenue growth.
Kelly says the company’s move into social media began around 2009, when it realized it needed to shore up its marketing presence vs. the Big Four confectioners, Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Kraft. But as a relatively small independent player, American Licorice couldn’t compete with the big guys on marketing budgets. So it turned to social media. “Social has really leveled the playing field,” Kelly says. “It’s not about how much money you can throw at the channel.”
The company has amassed 1.3 million Likes on Facebook, 50,000 followers on Twitter (making it the No. 3 confectioner behind M&Ms and the notorious Skittles). It was also one of the first brands to do a Vine video last January, turning it into a promoted tweet on Vine owner Twitter as well. It has a relatively small 2,000 followers on Instagram, but Kelly says Instagrams have been among its most engaging pieces of content on Facebook, sometimes getting as many as 12,000 likes. “It’s ideal to flow into someone’s news feed,” he says.
Based on the 20 Vines American Licorice has done to date, Kelly’s hopeful that Instagram’s 15-second versions will be appealing as well, though perhaps to a broader demographic than Vines, whose stop-motion videos seem to attract the attention of young people in particular. “That’s an ad length advertisers are used to,” Kelly says of the 15-second Instagram videos. (Which is one reason that particular length is no accident, despite Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom’s insistence that the length was an “artistic decision.”) Adds Kelly, with no hint of irony: “It gives you a chance to tell a deeper story.”
But he thinks bigger brands may be especially interested in Instagram videos not only because of the length but the ability to edit them more than Vines. “We’re not as concerned with making things polished, but other brands may appreciate that,” he says. That’s why he also anticipates interest from brands looking to repurpose their existing TV and video ads for Instagram and Facebook, especially if they allow brands to upload existing videos, as he expects.
Despite lots of speculation about whether Vine or Instagram will win the social video game, Kelly says he thinks marketers will use both to reach different people and craft different messages. “Video is the killer app on both Facebook and Twitter,” he says. But together, they may foreclose other video services, because “we’re not going to chase every new tool that comes up.”
Still, TV for now will remain dominant, even for a relatively small brand like Red Vines, whose company spends the vast majority of its marketing dollars on TV ads. But that will slowly change, Kelly says, because his company is already getting a higher volume of impressions from its small social-media spend than it’s getting from television.
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