SINGAPORE: Long-form video ads on YouTube are increasingly widespread across Asia, with the most popular ads from last year averaging more than four minutes.

Even longer ones are common, as Gautam Anand, managing director for YouTube Asia-Pacific, related to the Financial Times: in Malaysia, four of the ten most popular YouTube commercials exceeded five minutes and the single most viewed ad – for Malaysia Airlines – ran to almost 12 minutes.

This was centred around the Chinese New Year holiday and reflected a trend noted by Sandeep Mark Joseph of Zenith Malaysia. Writing for Warc, he said: "Online video has seen a massive surge, and today many brands think of creating stories online, especially at predictable peak times: festive seasons, national holidays and so on."

Across the region, according to YouTube, the average length of the most popular video ads increased by almost two thirds.

"Trueview, the skippable ad format, has actually forced advertisers to think about advertising very differently, more like storytelling," said Anand.

And "Because they're creating great pieces of content — not just 15-second, 30-second ads for television — they're seeing results from that."

That also dovetails neatly with his wider ambitions. ""It shows [viewers'] engagement with our platform," he said. "Advertisers do care about reach. Reaching a broad audience, that's important to them."

It also signals a more fundamental shift as brands explore the creation of not just longer form content but entire programmes rather than continuing with traditional interruptive advertising.

As Nick Fawbert, an executive at Brand New Media, a Singapore-based marketing company, explained: "In a digital environment, you are in a selective environment where viewers can choose not to look at the ads."

"The question [a brand] has to ask is, 'How am I going to get my message across?' The answer to that is to say, 'What do viewers want? They want to be entertained. They want to be informed'."

Anand also noted a significant difference between how YouTube is used in Asia and in the West.

"In the US, it has historically been native creators to YouTube that are our largest channels," he said. "In these [Asian] markets there's a lot of engagement from traditional media, using YouTube as their digital distribution platform."

Readers can download The Video Revolution, a chapter from Warc's Toolkit 2016, which looks at the proliferation of online video formats.  

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff