Ad Technology

Does Video Always Have to Be Short-Form?

The-Makegood.com_LynnseyWhen brands think about digital video, they tend to think :30s or even :15s.

But are they selling long-form video content short?

The obvious appeal for videos of shorter length is their potential for higher viewership within paid media channels, mainly due to the likelihood of short-form videos being watched through to completion, and maintaining compatibility  with mobile platforms. Long-form video content, on the other hand, tends to be closely associated with television viewership and subscription-based providers – the Netflix’s and Hulu’s of the world. It’s considered unusual for most product categories to think long-form video distributed online could have a positive impact on a campaign.

Success, of course, depends on a company’s goals and the preferred audience outcome. What content do we want to show? To whom do we want to show the content? Where do we want our audience to view the content? What subsequent reaction or action are we hoping can come from it? These questions, and others, can be addressed with either form.

Shorter video content (e.g. music videos, vines, etc.) has a greater chance of being viewed to completion, a greater chance of being shared, and can allow for a greater opportunity to be creative. Longer videos are deemed more trustworthy and establish a company or brand as an expert in a given category (think instructional YouTube channel). Additionally, longer-form videos viewed to completion clearly indicate a more engaged viewer that is invested in the content.

The shift from the desktop to mobile devices and the growing importance of viewability are also driving the popularity of short-form video.  Content in general, not just video, is being consumed more and more on mobile phones and tablets. Brands understand they have a shorter window of time to grab a viewer’s attention with video, and thus want to do what they can to ensure their content is being seen from start to finish.

Microsoft Corporation conducted a study to determine the human attention span in the digital age and concluded that people generally lose concentration after 8 seconds. For anyone who frequents YouTube, or most other video platforms, knows that you must watch an ad for 5 seconds before you are to skip to view the intended content. It’s a liberty many take advantage of, which is not such good news for advertisers. Geico, however, took full advantage of this insight, poked fun and created several 15 second+ pre-roll commercial ads with the core message conveyed within the first 5 seconds.

The definition of long-form is in the eye of the beholder. Depending on the attention span of an individual, two minutes or more may fall on the lengthy side of the spectrum.  However, five minutes or more seems to be the more precise length for a video to be considered long-form. Marrying the two forms can prove to be an impactful strategy with two steps

  1. Grab the audience’s attention with short-form video content to establish a following – leveraging the social aspect
  2. Drive those viewers to the more in-depth, longer-form video to establish credibility and brand loyalty.

One could watch a :15s video ad about the latest model vehicle in an auto manufacturer’s lineup, but aside from the visuals and smiling faces in the video, how much information can really be shared about the car? It’s just enough stimulation to spark interest and prompt further investigation. This is where additional research and potentially a longer video found on the company’s site could address any unanswered questions for the audience.

In the end it really comes down to which form will provide a brand with the most overall benefit and which will offer the most valuable and useful content for the target audience. Yes, short-form video will continue to see growth, but it does not mean long-form video should be discounted, as it still can help marketers convey a more detailed message.