When to use video: The ultimate guide

From long form to user-generated, Marketing Week explores different video formats and when best to use them in the first of this week’s focus on video.


Video is undoubtedly one of the most important tools in a marketer’s arsenal, boasting a proven ability to engage and excite consumers.

From a 15-minute series to six-second Snapchat clips, the sheer volume of formats and channels available mean marketers need to carefully consider how video works for their specific brand.

Here Marketing Week explores the different types of video brands need to know.

Long form

As the home of long-form video content, YouTube is a favourite with brands looking to break the conventions of TV schedules and go direct to consumers.

Attracting seven billion global views each month, it is no wonder Buzzfeed believes digital shows can break through at scale. One in six people in the UK currently subscribes to one of BuzzFeed’s Tasty food channels on YouTube, while an episode of ‘Worth It’ – a series that pits high-end items against budget alternatives – routinely racks up more than 12 million views a month.

READ MORE: BuzzFeed on making digital shows break through at scale

“When we look at serialised shows, there are very few examples of digital-only shows breaking through at scale,” said Ze Frank, president of the BuzzFeed Entertainment Group, speaking to Marketing Week in February.

“Then I look at a show like ‘Worth It’, which regularly gets over 10 million views, with a 75% retention rate. In terms of minutes watched, you’re starting to get to numbers that are bigger than cable.”

The immediacy of digital products means BuzzFeed can react quickly to direct feedback from its online audience, allowing its partner brands to adapt their advertising strategy in real time.

Beauty brand Benefit opts for YouTube when it wants to generate the mass awareness needed to promote a new product or launch a high-end, glossy video with the impact to capture consumers’ attention for longer.

However rather than aiming to upload a video to YouTube every week, head of digital marketing for Benefit UK and Ireland, Michelle Stoodley, believes less is definitely more.

“It’s really easy to think you need to do loads of video. Last year we attempted to do one a week on YouTube and I don’t think we appreciated the work involved, the time needed and the budgets.

“If you’re going to do video it helps to have the budgets to support it from an advertising point of view. So we’re trying to take the approach of doing less and when we do [create video] spending more to boost it across the relevant channels to get value out of every piece of content.”

As YouTube users have become accustomed to skipping adverts after five seconds it’s crucial marketers land their message in that limited timeframe, argues Mondelez digital and social media manager, Pollyanna Ward.

To ensure the message conveyed by its recent Belvita biscuit campaign reached maximum impact, Mondelez used Google Vogon technology to overlay dynamic text or images on top of the creative.

“It allowed us to change the messaging in the first five seconds of our advert to match the video that the user was watching. For example, those watching a music video would get a music-themed intro before getting into our creative,” Ward explains.

“This was incredibly successful for us in driving relevancy with our consumers and getting people to watch beyond the five seconds by having a creative and relevant hook.”

Short form

Whether it’s a six-second Snapchat clip or a polished, high-end Instagram Stories campaign, marketers are increasingly adding short-form video to their media mix. This means marketers are experimenting with how to use the screen space to make a real impact, says Mondelez’s Pollyanna Ward.

“On Instagram the square format presents a challenge when it comes to figuring out assets developed for a campaign, and this is the same with the vertical on Snapchat,” she explains.

“Despite these challenges in viewability and impact, what it really taught us is that when it comes to creative, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

READ MORE: Video marketing: A beginner’s guide

Beauty brand Benefit uses the informal nature of bitesize content on Instagram Stories and Snapchat to bring consumers closer to the brand, from sharing footage of the trend team at a fashion show to inviting fans behind the scenes at exclusive Benefit events.

On Instagram Stories Ted Baker has led the way with its episodic, soap opera style ‘Keeping up with the Bakers’ campaign. Unveiled in March, the campaign focuses on a fictional family who moves into a suburb where everyone is hiding dark secrets.

ted baker
A scene from Ted Baker’s ‘Keeping up with the Bakers’ Instagram Stories campaign

Viewers have the ability to click through a selection of five different ‘TV channels’ in Stories, while the main short film is fully shoppable. The fashion retailer is also using Instagram Stories as a gossip channel, posting daily content about the Baker family.

Speaking to Marketing Week in March, Ted Baker global brand communication director Craig Smith argued that Instagram Stories is perfect for building a narrative and adding more depth to a thread.

READ MORE: Ted Baker uses Instagram for episodic storytelling in ‘Keeping up with the Bakers’ campaign


The immediacy and ‘realness’ of live video is proving an attractive outlet for brands seeking to break down the wall between them and their customers.

Benefit started experimenting with Facebook Live a year ago and since then has launched a fortnightly series called Bene University, offering a playful take on the latest beauty trends. The quicker marketers can jump on a trend in the social space, the more relevant their content is to consumers, says Stoodley.

“Our community responds really well to both longer-form glossier pieces and short, fun content, because as a brand we stand for being real and honest. Our aim is to be a lot more relatable than the glossier premium beauty brands, which can be a little bit intimidating or too aspirational. So the live channels help us to do that,” she explains.

Benefit is not the only brand getting in on the live video action. As part of its partnership with beer brand Carling, Sky screens a Facebook Live show ahead of its Carling sponsored football coverage on Sky Sports.

“People are watching on Sky’s Facebook channel and getting involved with it. Then when you combine this with interesting long-form content – say a half hour show – you’ve got little elements that you make can make into shorter-form segments and then redistribute in the social space,” explains Sky Media head of creative solutions, Jason Hughes.

“You get a lot of earned good will from it because people might find that clip and then discover the longer show behind it.”

User-generated content

Content created by brand fans, influencers and staff has been a big success for Benefit. To coincide with the roll out of its mascara Roller Lash in 2015, Benefit created a montage video featuring user-generated content (UGC) posted by consumers, which Stoodley believes worked so well because it felt real.

The company also works with digital platform Seen It on an initiative called Benefit Capture. Benefit puts out briefs to its staff and blogger community via the platform with clear instructions about the kind of video they want the community to create.

“It works really well with our staff in particular as they make tutorials for us and it’s great because it’s a real girl from one of our real stores, creating a real look,” Stoodley explains.

“It’s not in a studio, it’s the kind of stuff that feels like watching influencer content, but more relatable than a head make-up artist doing something. Day to day it’s that type of content that’s working really well.”

READ MORE: How Benefit made a big impression with £3,000

4K quality

Whereas a couple of years ago 4K video was only available to videographers with expensive equipment, significant improvements in smartphone technology have dramatically reduced the barriers to entry.

This has been reflected in the amount of 4K video being shot and uploaded to Shutterstock, which received 130,000 4K video submissions in January 2017, compared to 20,000 in January 2015.

“If you’re advertising today without a video component to the campaign, you have to wonder if you’re leaving something out,” says Shutterstock general manager of ecommerce motion, Alex Renaud.

“Engagement from video advertising and content ranks higher than traditional forms. However, people can so effortlessly turn off your message and move onto the next video. Therefore quality across video is of the utmost importance, as Netflix and others have ushered in an era where TV-quality is expected on digital media.”

Renaud argues that almost all video works best in 4K, especially content with lots of detail that benefits from crisp, ultra high-definition.

“By shooting in 4K you are future-proofing your work so that it can be consumed on future screens. As marketers have begun to take on a more platform-agnostic approach this is an essential component to consider. Commercials on YouTube should have a similar perceived quality than the ones that air on TV,” Renaud adds.


Brand partnerships are central to the multi-platform strategy offered by Sky, which seeks to combine TV advertising and video-on-demand with social media, branded content and targeted programmatic.

One such example is the tie-up between Sky Atlantic and car brand Volvo on Human Made Stories. Centred on creative people who challenge convention, the campaign mixes premium cinematic style adverts on Sky Atlantic with 30-second trailers, idents and a social campaign using Twitter Amplify to drive awareness.

Sky Media head of creative solutions, Jason Hughes, believes brands should consider how they can support video with targeted VOD advertising and a holistic digital strategy in order to reach maximum impact.

“It’s good to explore how we transcend the walls of social and TV to share those learnings about how you build audiences to make great branded content,” says Hughes.

“If you think of the amount of content out there, the ads and branded content, there’s got to be a reason for the cut through and the more you can make the content credible and shareable, it makes far more sense.”

Hughes believes the best way for brands to achieve cut through is to combine traditional commercial airtime and targeted advertising in order to “turbo charge” their branded content.

Marketing Week will be publishing a series of features on video throughout the week.