On Instagram TV, brands go longer and weirder

July 12, 2018 10:37 pm

Cole Sprouse eating a cheeseburger is kind of a Netflix show. Cole Sprouse eating a cheeseburger is kind of a Netflix show. Credit: instagram

Brands, celebrities and publishers are getting weird on Instagram TV.

Netflix, for instance, filmed “Riverdale” star Cole Sprouse seductively eating a cheeseburger—for an hour, no less—and judging from the one million views and 6,500-plus comments, plenty of people enjoyed it.

Brands and publishers are among the first to use IGTV, the new long-form video platform that lives inside Instagram and has its own standalone app. Instead of the minute-limit in the main Instagram feed, IGTV videos can last for up to an hour for select accounts, while a 10-minute limit prevails on others.

“IGTV is allowing brands to experiment and see what’s resonating,” says Mike Froggatt, the director of the intelligence team at research firm Gartner L2. And often what resonates is, well, weird, Froggatt says, “[and] that kind of fits some brand identities out there.”

IGTV, which launched last month, has publishers trying to hook viewers on the longer format. And while Facebook’s Watch video destination has done little to drive mobile binge-watching, there are signs that perhaps Instagram can entrance viewers. The Instagram audience recently topped one billion a month, and the success of Stories does seem to show there’s appetite for vertical video (if not longer vertical video).

Nick Cicero, CEO of Delmondo, a social video analytics firm, says they’ve found that a segement of hardcore viewers will stick around for longer formats. And he agrees that Instagram Stories, which reach 400 million viewers a day, is proof that vertical video is in high demand, too.

“When people are engaged with vertical content they’ll stick around to consume a lot,” Cicero says.

Here’s a look at some of the more eclectic offerings on IGTV.


The Netflix video with Sprouse lovin’ his cheeseburger was done in close-up, which somehow made it even harder to look away. Netflix did not return a request for comment on whether burger eating would ever get a show on Netflix itself, nor, for that matter, to talk about its larger its IGTV strategy.


If avant garde burger eating wasn’t enough, BuzzFeed, which declined to comment on its IGTV strategy, thought a game of hamster soccer was worthy of Instagram’s new creative format. It was definitely compulsive entertainment—or torture—for obsessive people watching hamsters get up close to the goal line, flirt with it and infrequently score.

A&W Restaurants

A&W Restaurants posted a 10-minute short film about a David Lynchian day in the life of its mascot Rooty the Root Bear.

“IGTV is a concept we really like, kind of a different lens for looking at social media,” says David Coomer, chief creative officer at Cornett, which handles marketing for A&W. “It moves us even further away from advertising and into more real content.”

As for the Rooty the Root Beer video, Cornett acknowledged, “It is weird.”

Cicero, though, says he thinks the A&W video fell short because it didn’t utilize the vertical format, which is one of the main points of the new platform—that people want to view mobile video without having to turn their screens from the upright position.

“IGTV content is meant to be shot and consumed vertically to focus on a user’s natural focal point and screen orientation,” Cicero says. “Brands should never be repackaging horizontal video for a vertical video platform because this fundamentally orients video the opposite way, breaking the natural viewing habit.”

John Mayer

John Mayer impersonates a normal human being in this IGTV video showing the writing process behind his song “New Light,” but that’s not really the weird part. What is, is the resulting supremely surreal music video, which set off a chain of online parodies of both Mayer and his entrancing, ’80s-inspired tune.

Fans would probably listen to Mayer describe his visit to the grocery store for an hour, but Mayer’s IGTV behind-the-music video only lasts eight minutes.

National Geographic

National Geographic put a whole show on IGTV, runtime 45 minutes, called “One Strange Rock,” about the many wonders of planet earth. The same show is available on television show, but the network reedited it so it could be viewed in vertical form on Instagram. It had 360,000 views in the first 24 hours, and now tops 1.3 million views since being posted last month.

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