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How Nationwide is navigating the short-form video boom

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In light of the short-form video boom ushered by TikTok, Nationwide is investing in its online video strategy, testing TikTok competitor YouTube Shorts and hiring influencers to help keep up a steady stream of content.

“That’s been our big shift [last] year,” said Kristi Daraban, assistant vice president of social media at the insurer. “[We’re] really honing in on how we can make more video content and have a lot more interactive experiences.”

Last year, Nationwide launched its official presence on TikTok, racking up more than 20,000 followers and 1.2 million likes, namely by using educational content and TikTok trends. More recently, Nationwide launched a TikTok jingle challenge after the brand jingle went viral after social media darling Zaya Campbell, daughter of gospel singer Erica Campbell, went viral for her own rendition of the jingle. And the brand is beginning to experiment with other channels, including infrequent posts on YouTube to see how content performs, per Daraban.

Short-form video has become increasingly important for marketers, in large part due to TikTok’s growth and subsequent arms race with competitors like YouTube Shorts or Instagram Reels. To keep up, marketers are more regularly leveraging creators as a means of production. 

“We did have to come up with a new production method for us,” Daraban said, of Nationwide’s own social video strategy. “We weren’t as video heavy before and now we do have an in-house, wonderful video team as well as some agency partners that we lean on.”

The team itself isn’t new, but Nationwide now emphasizes quickly produced content by an on-the-ground team that can respond to trends in real time, whether it be pulling in Nationwide associates to star in a social video or quickly editing. The social team often attends events and creates content as well. Nationwide did not offer further details about the size of its in-house video or social teams.

At present, Nationwide posts content to its TikTok between two and five times a week, whether it be educational content, comedic skits, commercial clips or Nationwide’s very own #WillItJingle challenge, where a Nationwide spokesperson tests items to recreate the brand’s iconic jingle sound. On major events or initiatives, posting could happen multiple times per day.

It’s unclear how much media spend Nationwide dedicates to its video social strategy as Daraban declined to offer specifics. From last January through October, Nationwide spent more than $65 million on media, up from the more than $58 million spent within that same period in 2022, according to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics. In total, Nationwide spent more than $83 million on paid media in 2022.

With the digital video boom, agency partners have moved on from creating content for specific platforms to instead focus on short-form video, per previous Digiday reporting. Notably, 72% of Gen Z’s social media usage was watching videos, according to Insider Intelligence, justifying Nationwide and other advertisers’ push into the digital video landscape.

Historically, brands have approached social video by merely cutting down longer format content, syndicating content across the various platforms, agency execs say. With video content leading social media usage, that traditional way of marketing no longer works, per agency execs.

“Many brands are in fact relying on branded content in partnership with publishers and creators to embed their advertising within short-form videos themselves,” Valerio Poce, executive director of ad product marketing, New York Times Advertising, said in an email, “and conversely, creators are being increasingly recruited to star in brands’ ads.”

Beyond agency partners, influencers also help fill in some of the social media content gaps, per Daraband. Nationwide’s influencer efforts have predominantly been its spokespeople and sports talent. But in the last three years, Nationwide has focused more on social media influencers to build out its network of authentic voices who are native to platforms and have a following. 

“We have gone from testing the waters from YouTube influencers to now really having them as part of our DNA,” Daraban said. She added that Nationwide typically works with a dozen to 15 influencers per year. “I like to think of it as a big network where we pull in either from an evergreen standpoint or from a pulse standpoint.”

Beyond short-form video apps like YouTube Shorts and TikTok, Nationwide is active on Meta, X (formerly Twitter), Pinterest and most recently Threads. As the social media landscape continues to mature and develop, Daraban said it’s vital to keep a finger on the pulse. 

“We always do a POV,” she said. “We look into it, see if there’s any need for us to be there, if our audience is there and how hard it would be to activate.”

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