Two years ago, Twitter-owned Vine was growing like kudzu. It was widely embraced by both consumers and marketers who sought to push the envelope with creative six-second clips. But the explosion of new video formats on Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube, which all now boast sizable scale, has caused top brands to quietly slip away. "Over time, it became difficult for many marketers to achieve scale [on Vine]," explained Tyler Hissey, senior digital strategist at Hill Holliday. "In the last six months or so, brands have started to de-emphasize Vine as a channel because of the targeting capabilities on all these other platforms."
Data is proving this out. Video analytics firm Tubular Labs reviewed Vine, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube accounts of 40 major brands, including Coca-Cola, Target and Dunkin' Donuts. Between September and November, marketers posted 2,500 social videos, and Vine contributed just 113 of those clips—equivalent to 4 percent of branded content.
Only 13 of the 40 brands posted to Vine during the third quarter of 2015, down from 21 in the first quarter of this year, Tubular found.
General Electric—renowned in marketing circles as an early adopter of new platforms—hasn't posted to Vine since last January, while social-savvy Mountain Dew's account doesn't appear to have been touched since April.
"I assume that brands are having this platform fatigue," said Tubular Labs co-founder Allison Stern. "Marketers today are savvy about experimenting on a platform, but if it's not working for them, they're going to drop it."
One of the main reasons brands are turning away from Vine is because unlike its competitors, Vine doesn't have an advertising model, although brands often buy Twitter ads to promote their clips, noted Topher Burns, group director of distribution at Deep Focus.
"In terms of a distribution channel, Vine fails in comparison to what we'd expect from the other three [platforms]," Burns said.
All that said, Vine still shines when social stars are involved. Instead of brands posting their own content, Burns said that clients are looking to team up with top influencers who have amassed massive followings to create sponsored content.
For example, when Dunkin' Donuts recently sought to promote its mobile app, it tapped social media star Logan Paul to create funny sponsored Vine and Instagram posts around its stores. The coffee seller used Twitter to push Paul's goofy clip, which shows him throwing a box of donuts in the air and has accumulated more than 3 million loops—Vine's view metric—in the past month.
"We find that Vine videos fulfill our fans' need for pure entertainment that they can't really find anywhere else," said Melanie Cohn, social media marketing manager at Dunkin' Donuts.
Tom Buontempo, president of Attention, agreed that influencers boost branded content on Vine, but noted that his shop is getting more Snapchat work as social media stars look to build audiences across multiple platforms.
"Like a media property, they're looking to expand their footprint as much as they can," he said. "We're doing more Snapchat campaigns through influencers than we are for any other platform right now."
Still other agency execs contend that Vine's problems stem from Twitter's sales pitch. Twitter is beefing up its advertising offerings for brands with new native video formats, livestreaming app Periscope and Niche—a platform that connects brands with creators—but Vine is often treated as an afterthought.
"It seems to be a bit on the back burner as of late," said Mark Book, vp, director of Digitas Studios. "It is incredibly challenging to weave a brand or product narrative into a piece of content in six seconds. We have seen success with stop-motion and live events that tell a larger, real-time story, but those opportunities are few and far between."
This story first appeared in the Dec. 7 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.