Video is the most direct and emotional way to reach your audience. The most successful ads are content that people actually want to watch. Forget the days of being forced to sit through a boring commercial in order to get back to your favorite TV show. Nowadays skipping an ad is just a click away, so the industry has started targeting specific audiences and producing content based ads that they actually choose to watch and ideally share. Content is king, and in the world of advertisement, branded content is king.
To push this concept further, reduce how much the viewer feels like they are being sold something. Rather than have a CEO tell someone they should spend or donate money, why not depict someone whose life has been changed by the product or organization? Consider if you even need a call to action. Sometimes you do, but other times the call to action is in the emotions someone is feeling at the end of a moving story as your logo and website fade in at the final frames. Your story should be an offering and a gift, confident and secure. Let your advertisement become the one you would share with a friend even if neither of you were interested in the subject at first.
How long should a video be? It's a question we get from new clients a lot, and often when the question isn't asked clients are assuming the video should be longer than it should. The answer quick answer is a video should be as short as possible.
The two graphs above explain how to think about attention span on the web. On the left you can see that people are much more likely to even start watching a video if they can see it is short. On the right see that shorter the video, the more likely someone is to finish it. How often is your main point, call to action or even clickable links at the end of the video? Make short powerful video that people will finish and understand.
People often have a hard time being honest with this reality when it comes to their own company or organization. We spend so much time giving our heart and soul to our work and we know how complicated and significant it is. It feels like to convey its world changing importance it deserves a feature film, or at the very least someone should watch a 5 minute video about it. But think about your own viewership on the internet. Are you more likely to start watching a video that you see is 58 seconds long or a video that is 5 or 10 minutes long? And if you do start a video, which length are you more likely to finish? Remember that when you are on the internet, leaving a video or skipping through its content is easy and sometimes necessary. If someone is in an Uber they might be watching a video, let's hope it finishes before the ride is over. Advertisers have to get in and out before the viewer does.
The key is to distill and simplify your narrative so it is as short and digestible as it can possibly be while still getting across everything you need someone to know. Work with your storyteller to figure out what is essential. A video does not need to tell someone everything they could know. It does not have to be an essay. It can function more like a moving photograph, conveying the emotion necessary to get your foot in the door to their attention, leading them to other media or conversations where they can get the full story. A video can live on a page that has all that extra information, details, and statistics. Let your video entice someone to find out more, leave them wanting more.
Does this mean every video should be under a minute? Absolutely not! A number of factors affect the length of a video. Sometimes you simply cannot get the necessary information across in a very short commercial spot. Sometimes your projected audience is already interested in the subject matter (or seated in a theater) and would want to see more detail. A commercial about sexy pants can be covered in 15-30 seconds, but a nonprofit's plea for donations to help save refugees is a much more complicated matter.
Here are suggested lengths for different types of videos (these are not hard and fast rules):
Creative Commercials: 15-59sec
Crowdfunding Videos: 2.5min
Don't be afraid to address the viewer and forge relationship with them right away. Research shows that just using the word "you" can increase the number of views your video gets.
This is just one example of a small detail that can have a huge affect on the number of views your video gets. Not all videos should use the word "you", and some video require no words at all. But we should consider these details when working on a script and an edit. How can you maximize a viewers involvement and make them feel like a part of the story?
It is important to consider how your video will be seen. Is your production a TV spot? A film at an event for a captive audience? Or is it part of an online marketing campaign? The answers to these questions affect the length and style of the video. In general, there is a trend towards viewership going mobile, and most of the work we produce is primarily watched this way. Here are some statistics to consider about how people are watching video content these days.
In general, the more mobile the viewing apparatus the less attention span the viewer will have (see the section Short N' Sweet above), but the size of the screen also affects what the eye can pick up and these details make a difference to how filmmakers should frame subjects on screen. Movies designed for a 5" phone screen have to minimize the amount of information in frame and make the people and objects bigger relative to the frame size. Wide shots with small figures are barely recognizable on a small screen. The same is true with text for titles and logos. It is important to have a discussion with your filmmakers about how your movie will be watched before production has started.
We understand that video production is expensive and a big investment, but this does not mean you should play it safe. Safe is boring and nobody shares boring. Even if you need to produce a video that is informational instead of narrative, let's think outside the box and make things new and fun for people to watch. Remember how much media people are seeing every day and this film we will produce will be a small part of it. Don't let it get lost in the noise.
When Noah filmed the "DNB" scene with Ronda Rousey, the president of the UFC first wanted it on the cutting room floor because it was so provocative. Then they decided "what the hell" and we put it out on the internet. It became a global phenomenon, went completely viral, and was by far the most successful clip in the shows history. Women around the world completely connected with Ronda's audacity and her singularity, and Beyoncé even opened her concert with the clip. This was all because we took a chance with the clip, and it stuck out against every other video.