The funny aspect about rule of thumbs is that those rules change over time. One rule of thumb -- the right video length to engage customers -- may be changing. Despite a two-minute rule of thumb, companies are discovering and debating what makes the optimal length to convey a message. The choice will impact how analytics practitioners treat video metrics relative to an overall measurement strategy.
Digital video consumption among U.S. consumers has soared. EMarketer noted in a recent digital video study that the number of U.S. digital video viewers will reach 235 million in 2019 -- that is 71.2% of the US population! This adoption represents an accumulation of several trends that has created a new context for where video ads can appear, and video that can carry an ad-quality message within in it.
Video has been a long proven tactic for increasing customer engagement -- eMarketer noted the lift benefits from video way back in 2012. Since that time, the world’s newfound love with mobile devices has expanded the places where video can be played.
The broader availability has also created some concern regarding how long a video should play to stand out. Hubspot reported in its State of Digital Marketing survey that 90% of surveyed marketers felt “the level of competition and noise has increased in the past year.”
Industry leaders, such as Ursula von Rydingsvard, CEO of video production firm YouHere Productions, have varying takes on video length. “In terms of length I'm always advising my clients to go shorter,” von Rydingsvard explains. “Your video should be 90 seconds max. By two minutes you've lost your audience. You want to keep them engaged and wanting more as opposed to boring them.”
Piyush Saggi, co-founder and CEO of video recording startup Parmonic conducted a study of almost half a million informational videos to discover what breakpoints in video consumption occur among consumers.
The study determined that video watchers were more likely to click "play" on informational videos shorter than 4 minutes. “It seems that 3:59 is a psychologically important number as it gives people the feeling that it’s digestible and they will be able to watch till the end,” says Saggi.
Saggi also notes that the most counterintuitive aspect discovered from the study was a lack of a linear relationship between video length and views below the 2 minutes. “Often videos slightly longer than 1 minute perform better than those shorter than 1 min. We suspect this has something to do with today’s audience’s ability to judge a video by its length -- too short and people suspect the video is low on substance.”
The debate over length will not abate in 2020. Strong interest in video will continue to draw more intriguing research like the Parmonic study. Industry analysts expect other digital platforms to introduce features that further ease video consumption. For example, Google added a video carousel in its search engine results when people use its search engine in Chrome or the Google App. The carousel is meant to improve the visibility of videos relevant to a user’s query.
Analysts will see renewed interest in playback and completion rate metrics as CMOs decide to increase their budget spend. But these metrics are surface level in comparison to attribution needs. Monitoring how engagement and video length relate to conversions will lead to the right rule of thumb for retaining customer attention that strengthens the brand and sales.