10 seconds or less: A primer on extra-short video marketing
As consumer attention spans shrink, marketers must compact creativity and a clear brand message into just a few seconds.
Looping video app Vine may be gone as a standalone offering, but the super short video format it helped popularize is only picking up more traction with both big brands and social platforms.
Video messaging app Snapchat, for example, serves much of its advertising as quick Stories units lasting no more than 10 seconds and YouTube, a veteran of the social video space, launched a six-second "Bumper" format last year.
Procter & Gamble, the world's largest advertiser, has similarly suggested that video shorter than the typical 30- or 60-second spots is becoming essential to its marketing strategy. “We’re […] increasingly using five-second to six-second formats that quickly convey the brand and the benefit, given the ad-skipping behavior that we know happens quite frequently,” the company's Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said in November, as reported by the Cincinnati Business Journal.
As consumer attention spans shrink — some research suggests they last eight seconds on average, shorter than that of a goldfish — marketers must figure out ways not only to attract eyeballs in a short period of time but also create a lasting impression thereafter.
"Super short videos have disrupted the world of video marketing and will continue to play a pivotal role throughout 2017," said Jaclyn Rose, digital marketing lead at G2 Crowd. "The 10-seconds-or-less video format has capitalized on today’s increasingly short attention spans.
"It’s the hook, the foot-in-the-door, the branding and awareness play that will turn video viewers into interested buyers," she said.
Video's 'elevator pitch'
Video is quickly becoming the dominant content type for digital marketers and its penetration is most apparent on mobile devices, especially among young demographic groups.
But while some platforms including Facebook and Snapchat have begun to focus on longer-form, premium video content offerings, short videos can serve as a sort of "elevator pitch" intended to interest an audience in continuing to learn about what a brand has to offer, according to Rose.
“On social media, we make ads work in literally two seconds to three seconds, recognizing that people are whipping through their news feeds," Pritchard said in the Cincinnati Business Journal report. "We are optimizing medium mix by following consumer behavior to advertise based on when, where and how much time consumers spend engaging with ads on various media platforms.”
Speaking to Pritchard's point, Snapchat users watch video ads for less than three seconds on average, according to recent estimates by the company. Being able to both engage and communicate a clear brand message in such a short period of time — that elevator's only really going up one floor — amounts to an immense but not insurmountable challenge that can be bested with a smart approach to strategy, according to experts.
Keep it off-the-cuff
One way to hook viewers quickly is to go for an off-the-cuff creative approach. Super-short video advertisements are at their best when they appear somewhat unpolished, according to Rose and Sarah Ware, CEO of influencer marketing platform Markerly.
This tactic is reflected in Snapchat ads that appear in style and aesthetic to mimic a user story but slowly reveal themselves to have a branded component.
“Improv works best in terms of producing content that is enjoyed and engaged with by the viewer," said Ware. "It should include real people, have minimal scripting and be lighthearted in a way that makes someone smile or laugh."
For longer 10-second ads — the time ceiling usually assigned to this type of brand storytelling — there should be more of a premium put on production value. The more time users spend in an ad, the bigger chance any seams will show through.
A key point of difference would be influencer campaigns based around shorter video ads, where less heavily-edited creative is desirable, communicating a genuine feel as opposed to a studio-quality spot.
"Customers now demand transparency and authenticity — two major trends that these super short videos address," said Rose. "In a way, the planning and production required of longer videos defeats the purpose of these shorter ones.
"Super short videos are intended to provide a real-time, on-the-fly, behind-the-scenes look," she said. "You can’t fake authenticity and shouldn’t try. Plan the concept and have an idea of what you want the final product to look like, but don’t stage a video that’s meant to be improvised."
While much of the discussion around extra-short video content marketing is centered on consumer-facing brands, it's not necessarily limited to that space.
“I’ve seen B2B marketers use this video format to not only showcase their products and services, but also to promote their brand," said Rose. "Product teasers, snippets of company culture, behind-the-scenes footage and employee takeovers are all examples of how marketers can and should be using this."
Since short videos aren’t meant to be meticulously edited, the tone should be similarly raw and real or funny. This is particularly true for spots aimed at the under-30 audience that tends to dominate platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, which are especially well-suited to this type of brand storytelling.
As for how to deploy super short videos, Ware suggested running them back-to-back, especially for lifestyle brands.
"If you're putting this together, you should have about five back-to-back videos for Snapchat and about three for Instagram, for a total viewership around one minute,” said Ware.
"Snapchat automatically limits your video to 10 seconds, which allows you to easily create back-to-back videos. However, on Instagram choose to limit yourself," she added. "It's better to stop each video at 10 [to] 15 seconds for three back-to-back videos, for example, than to produce one 40-second video."