Vine – the good, the bad and the ugly


The Wall recently carried the following article from me, commenting on the rise of Vine and how brands are beginning to use the platform.

There have been various battles to try and win the short form video war over the last few years. We’ve seen a number of platforms have a stab at it; Viddy, Cinemagram, Socialcam, YouTube Capture, ptch, Threadlife, Klip… the list goes on. Despite some decent attempts, and the occasional celeb backing, no clear winner emerged.

Then along came Vine. Set up last year, and bought for an undisclosed sum from Twitter in October, it took the short video world by storm when it was launched this January. Because of the fact it was backed by Twitter, Vine was greeted with more fanfare than any of its predecessors. And it seems now as though this hype was justified.

Recent research from Unruly Media looking at the first 100 days of Vine showed that branded Vines are shared four times as often as branded internet videos, and that 4% of the top 100 shared Vines were made by brands compared to only 1% of top 100 viral online videos.

Matt Cooke, CTO and co-founder at Unruly said that Vine was being used in a very complementary way to Twitter, “with the 6-second video becoming the ‘ad’, much like the 140-character tweet”.

Vine is also the the number one free app in the app store in the US, Canada and Sweden and it’s showing no sign of slowing down, with five Vines are shared every second on Twitter.

These stats have to be taken with a pinch of salt – 100 days does not a long-term trend make and of course it’s going to be brands and agencies who are the first to jump on the new platform bandwagon. But it’s clear that there are a lot of people out there who are loving Vine – and here’s why.

Vine forces brands to be concise
For starters, in an age where there’s more content floating around than you can shake a stick at, it forces users to be concise. For the same reason that Twitter was successful in encroaching on the territory of more established platforms at the time like MySpace and Facebook – it requires you to edit on the fly. The Twitter limit meant you had to cut the waffle – if you couldn’t do it in 140 characters, then you couldn’t do it at all. Vine is similar in the sense that you have to nail it in six seconds, with no fancy editing process.

Its immediate nature has also changed the profile of social media in relation to big news events. Recently, we saw news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings trending on Vine – which isn’t surprising. What is though, is that one of the most retweeted videos came from a guy who made a Vine of the tragic event just by holding his phone in front of the evening news.

His footage even appeared on TV – it essentially became TV coverage of TV coverage. Confused? Don’t blame you. But it did prove Vine’s capability to be a real time news medium.

There are now tons of brand Vines flying around cybersphere, some good, some bad and some absolutely terrible. Starting with a goodie, The Times hit on a winner when they used Vine to push their coverage of the budget. The newspaper’s team knew that if they were quick then they could make an impact with Vine when it came to budget coverage. They were well prepared, and spoke to the editorial team about what the likely headlines would be and came up with a great creative concept to illustrate it.

Similarly simple but effective, USA Today’s Vine showing the day’s headlines worked really nicely, giving us an early indication of what’s possible from a content producer as well as providing a bit of exercise for the brain. Barnardo’s Vine also hit the right chords – charities are well practiced at making a heavy emotional impact in a short amount of time in a crowded media space, and this shows in their Vine, which didn’t pull any punches.

Not everyone is getting it right. Take Gillette – the history of razor blades was never going to be the most fascinating subject but with its Vine Gillette did nothing to try and make it sexier. There’s a difference between simplistic and just plain old cheap. Likewise, someone should tell Callaway that just because a Vine is short, it’s not an excuse to make poor footage. Imagine if you saw this Callaway video on Youtube? You wouldn’t because with this lack of quality it would never get that far.  While it’s great that you can do a Vine with an iPhone, it shouldn’t look low rent and grainy.

When creating social content for brands, we often see that photos outperform video because videos take time to watch whereas pictures are instantaneous. Vine comfortably occupies a middle ground between the two. In these times of low-patience / high expectation from consumers, Vine is a sensible choice for a brand looking for a medium that can have high impact, high shareability at a low barrier to entry and low production costs.