Video consumption habits are changing. We’re consuming more content than ever before, yet user attention span is only getting shorter. In fact, on average we now scroll through the height of Big Ben in feed whilst spending around 1.7 seconds with a single piece of content on mobile - highlighting the notion that ‘attention is the scarcest resource of the 21st century’. (1) To put that into perspective, research suggests we have less attention span than goldfish – a real challenge for marketers in a consumer market that is increasingly cluttered with me-too products and services fighting to be heard. (2)
Since the first UK TV slot in 1955, advertising have become increasingly shorter over time in line with the development of digital technology - from 70 seconds to 6 seconds, a -91% reduction in length over 64 years. (3)
Today, media consumption has become short, frequent and even sound-free with the rise in popularity of ephemeral content on Instagram, Snapchat and most recently Tik Tok – a short-form video sharing app currently boasting five billion video views in the UK every month. (4)
Social platforms understand this shifting trend and recommend advertising up to 15 seconds, but I think we need to rethink this to around five seconds for direct response communications – similar to YouTube’s Bumper ads ‘making big impact with small stories’. Why? Because people are on-the-go, agile, using multiple devices simultaneously and need content that doesn’t hinder their lifestyle, so it makes sense for marketing messages to be even more clear and concise. (5)
Digital communication is an amazing creative playground for brands and we can choose how to visualise these short-form marketing messages through any number of innovative video, motion graphic, cinegraph or GIF formats. But how do you know what works best?
For performance marketers this means creating a test and learn programme to gain actionable insights to build into a scalable communications strategy but there are five ideas to consider when creating mobile-first short form video content regardless of industry or target audience:
You wouldn’t buy a billboard and decide to only paste an A4 sized advert on the bottom corner of it, so why do it with a digital impression? Yet 16:9 (landscape) long form TV cut downs are still the norm in many advertising campaigns on digital channels. In the UK, we are 1.5x more likely to watch video daily on a smartphone than on a computer. (6) This means we must be creating content sympathetic to the mobile environment, so prioritise 1:1 (square), 4:5 (vertical) and 9:16 (full vertical) on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to maximise phone screen real estate. After all, 76% of all video spend in the UK is on smartphone so we must be thinking mobile-first. (7)
Bookend your creative message with branded start and end cards that clearly showcase the brand logo and call to action. They should also incorporate motion elements to make it as eye-catching as possible. According to Facebook internal data, consumers are 23% more likely to remember a brand if introduced in the first few seconds. (8)
You have a small window of time for your marketing message to encode and decode in the mind of your target audience. Create maximise impact by thinking creatively about your digital canvas and place two or more visual elements on top or next to each other that showcase multiple angles or action simultaneously within a 9:16 or 1:1 frame. This technique is more of a natural fit for certain products or services, but studies show that ad recall increases by 3-7% when shown on vertical video compared to other formats – so why not test it out? (9)
Drop off. It will happen. And fast. Even with the most compelling creative in the world your audience won’t hang around for you. The traditional slow building story arc is simply too long for most on-the-go digital media consumption. Challenge yourself to distill your marketing message down to its fundamental meaning and let the receiver know what you’re promoting from the outset by introducing your product, service or message within 2 seconds. Research shows that 47% of the conversions you want from video happen with the first few seconds anyway so if they like you, they’ll want to find out more. (10)
The easiest way to optimise video viewing for sound off is by adding captions. Industry standard .SRT file support is being rolled out on social channels (most recently by Twitter in April 2019) so it’s easier than ever to make your content accessible to a broader audience. Also, it helps increase view time by an average of 12%. (11)
Within ad supported digital platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Tik Tok, we need to fit marketing messages seamlessly into the user experience. And when that experience is in entertaining or informative ephemeral video environments, the attention we pay the privilege for in that digital space will be brief – at best. Therefore, as people enjoy shorter, periodic bites of video content on mobile we need to communicate in a similar way, if we aim to engage them in a meaningful two way dialogue.