From Short-Form to Long-Form: What We Can Learn From a 10-Minute TikTok Ad

There’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there about video marketing: LinkedIn is for sober, professional videos enlivened by animated statistics, Facebook is for longer narrative content, and TikTok is for short, funny videos. And there’s truth to the conventional wisdom. But remember the bottom line of video: It’s there to engage your potential customers, and anything you can do to achieve that aim is fair game. 

A recent example of a brand that kept its focus on the forest, not the trees, is Hilton Hotels. Hilton audaciously posted a 10-minute ad to TikTok, home of what’s normally more of a 10-second montage (TikTok itself advises users to keep their content under 34 seconds for maximum impact).


Unexpected & amazing things can happen when you stay, and we want you to stay with us for 10 minutes. Yup, we made a 10-minute TikTok AND we’re giving away 10M Hilton Honors Points + more. #HiltonStayFor10 #HiltonForTheStay 

♬ Hilton’s 10-Minute Stay – Hilton

But it turned out to be a smash hit. Here’s a deeper dive into the thinking behind this 10-minute mini-masterpiece of advertising. 

The Essence of TikTok

TikTok is massively popular worldwide. And its popularity is certainly rooted in its videos’ brevity and shareability. Trends go viral extra-fast on TikTok, where popular genres include dance challenges and incredibly simple recipes (often themselves involving premade foods). TikTok ads are generally made in the same vein.

TikTok has designed its entire interface to be all about bite-sized content which a user can consume quickly, before moving on to the next piece of snackable content. TikToks just keep playing, so you really only have to sit there and take it in, though of course, if you like and engage, the TikTok algorithm will rapidly adjust to feed you more similar-themed content. 

Breaking the Mold

The success of the Hilton ad totally annihilates that best practice: It was 10 minutes long and, based on the results and popularity of the campaign, kept the audience’s attention from start to finish. So far, it stands at 35 million views and nearly 500,000 likes, with comments aplenty on its originality and fun. 

Why Did It Succeed?

The Hilton ad is entertaining and self-referential, poking fun at its length and beginning with an eye-catching intro from Paris Hilton itself.

It turns out that the ultimate success of TikTok has less to do with length and more to do with a certain tone of engagement and conversation between screen and viewer. The ad has a clever concept at its core, pushing the idea of coming to Hilton hotels “for the stay” (that is, the hotel experience). That translates to making audiences comfortable with remaining for “the stay” of a longer TikTok video — after all, in the words of the ad, 10 minutes on TikTok equates to three years of real life. 

Once audiences were engaged, they were incentivized to stick around till the end of the video and see how this trick was pulled off.

Related: TikTok Video Ad Specs & Placements Guide

What Can We Learn from This Long-Form Experiment?

No matter how long your spots are and no matter what platform they appear on, concept and script are crucial. 

So is an understanding of the essential quality of the platform you’re making content for. It has to feel “native,” that is, organic to its medium, and it’s even better when you can archly comment on the nature of the platform. In the case of the Hilton spot, its script handily conveyed ideas and attitudes that ring authentic with TikTok users — for example, how they don’t necessarily hate ads, they just hate when brands feel deeply impersonal when selling their product. 

Audiences will watch ads that are entertaining and informative. They don’t like being bored or talked down to. And the sheer quantity of visual information we are being bombarded with on all our screens and devices means that ads need a point of view and an angle that lifts them apart from the competition. 

Having a face recognizable to TikTok viewers in Paris Hilton — especially since she was up for a self-referential, playful approach to her image. 

But the one thing you shouldn’t takeaway from Hilton’s 10-minute experiment is the impression that long-form is the future of the platform. It would be a mistake to suddenly supersize all your spots. That can be risky, especially if you don’t really have enough material or conceptual gas to make viewers stay hooked to the end.

How To Make Content Work For You

The lessons of the TikTok Hilton ad are inspiring to makers. They are:

  • Know Your Platform. Make sure your spots at once fulfill expectations and subvert them. Craft your spot so that it has an implicit question that needs answering — that is, a reason to keep watching to the end. 
  • Be Entertaining. Paris Hilton may be out of your budget range — and indeed may not even make sense for your brand — but you could probably come up with some equivalent idea that would serve you and grip your viewers.
  • Know Your Audience. The Hilton spot works because it takes its audience’s expectations (TikTok videos are ultra-short) and subverts them in a fun, entertaining way.

While length alone would not be novelty enough to justify a 10-minute spot for your brand, the Hilton TikTok video does show that even the most stereotypical Gen Z viewers will watch something longer than they’ve been given credit for. 

Conclusion: Create Intelligently for Maximum Impact

It’s risky to bet the farm on a 10-minute spot of your own and make it your core video strategy. But there’s a smart way to split the difference here if you do want to go longer and in greater depth. That involves creating long-form TikTok creative spots that can be easily re-edited into much shorter ones that can then be exploited numerous times in case your longer ad isn’t generating the engagement you were hoping for. 

This strategy gives you maximum flexibility as well as an array of spots that can live on different platforms and target different concerns your audience may have.  Social media also relies on a certain quantity of spots. So batch-shooting intelligently over the course of a day to provide you maximum coverage and variety is the way to go. It ensures your ad budget, as well as your spots’ reach, can go as far as possible.

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