by Simon Dang
August 22nd, 2012

With over 2,000 shorts produced in 2011, micro-movies in China are quickly shifting from niche medium to mainstream. But what is accounting for their popularity and why are they fast becoming a vehicle for brands?

By definition, micro-movies are shot over a short period of time, last from three to thirty minutes and are created on extremely small budgets. The short length is ideal for an audience on the move and they can be consumed anytime, anywhere on smartphones with an internet connection. One reason for the growing popularity of micro-movies is that they are streamed on video sites with built in social media features that make them easier to share with wider audiences, which in turn attracts well-known film makers, actors and, most importantly, brands. Audience numbers are already highly impressive, For example, the first season of ‘Haunted Microblog’ has been viewed over 102 million times online, which compares with the average online viewership for a TV show of just above 40 million.

Brands like micro-movies because they are allowed greater flexibility with advertising and product placement. The popular ten-episode short ‘@love’, which has already garnered more than 12 million clicks since its February 6 release, was partially financed by a mobile phone company. Instead of opting for a commercial pre- or post-reel advertising clips, the phone company’s product was subtly embedded into the plot to demonstrate the handset’s functions and bolster the brand. Brands also recognise the ROI from a micro movie.  Compared with the cost to produce a commercial and pay a TV station to air, making a micro-movie is much more cost effective, especially when considering the additional benefit of increased branding through social media.

A final consideration is that for many advertisers and brands, the popularity of micro-movies could not have come at a better time. Last year, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announced an advertising ban on the highly popular TV drama genre. With entry into such traditional TV slots barred, and with online audiences rising each month, even more brands are now seeing the advantages of micro-movies.

Simon Dang is vice-president of Inline Strategy, China, at Weber Shandwick

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