HONG KONG: Online video is one of the fastest ways to engage with consumers in Asia but brands and agencies are divided on the merits of developing unique content as opposed to re-running existing TV ads.

In support of the latter stance, Rahul Welde, Unilever vp of media for Asia, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that reusing TV spots was "an opportunity to extend the life and presence of the film rather than to save on production costs".

Instead of generating ever more content, advertisers were thus able to utilise an asset to the full and ensure consistency across channels.

But Sami Thessman, group creative director for TBWA Hong Kong, preferred to develop material shot specifically for various platforms – Vine, Instagram, Facebook and the web. "We proactively think about ideas that live in the digital space," he said.

"Disruptive ideas are key," he continued. "Each brand must have its own way to behave and talk."

For some, the 'real beauty sketches' campaign for Unilever's Dove was a great example of a brand articulating its values. Susana Tsui, PHD Asia-Pacific CEO, declared it her favourite and added that Unilever was successfully using digital video in China, where it "creates content that feeds into everyone's daily lives".

That approach was elaborated upon by Luis Di Como, senior vice president of global media at Unilever, at a recent IAB event in London where he explained how the business was focused on forming personal connections.

Becoming "a people-centric company allows us to deliver brand stories", he said, adding that in order to be successful this process "has to be done in an authentic and magical way … it has to build an emotional bond".

If Unilever had grasped the essentials of social video, others had yet to catch on. "Many brands could be doing more, but their agency partners need to provide compelling arguments for them to do so," said Ben Polle, head of interaction for Asia-Pacific at MEC. "Many agencies are lacking in this area," he added.

One development that could accelerate this process is the uptake of short-form video in the region, especially now that Tencent has come up with Weishi – a Chinese version of Vine – for its WeChat messaging service.

John Vakadis, executive creative director at AKQA Shanghai, reported that clients were excited about the possibilities Weishi offered as users would shift from sharing photos to sharing videos.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff