A woman holding a filmboard to highlight video ad length

Is Longer Stronger? The Best Video Ad Length

Advertising is hard.  Let’s just start with that.  Advertising is mostly disruptive.  TV viewers are hanging by a thread to see which of their favorite Walking Dead characters Negan is going to off and we are disrupting that to tell them they should switch their current fabric softener. Video ad length plays a large part in reaching consumers attention. As advertising guru Luke Sullivan put it:

Your ad is the comedian who comes on stage before a Rolling Stones concert.  The audience is drunk and they’re angry and they came to see the Stones.  And now a comedian has the microphone.  You had better be great.
(“Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads,” Luke Sullivan, 1998. John Wiley & Sons Inc.)

This is our workspace – Interrupting your drive home or your favorite show.  Mostly now we annoy people while they wait to watch their favorite movie trailer or DIY video on YouTube.  People bounce in their chair while they wait for that blessed “Skip Ad” button to appear.  Just like the comedian before the Stones concert, we better be good and we better be fast.
Now along comes Ben Jones’ article for ThinkWithGoogle.com with an interesting case study on video ad length (https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/unskippable-video-advertising-ad-recall-brand-favorability.html).  Their premise makes sense, with ads getting shorter and faster are we really able to create an emotional, dynamic connection with the audience in that short of time?  Wouldn’t a viewer rather watch a longer video they connect with than a shorter, less meaningful ad?  After all, we all remember the now classic Dove Beauty Sketches (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk) and West Jet Christmas (https://youtu.be/zIEIvi2MuEk) ads.  Sometimes more is…well, more.
As Jones points out, there is a high risk/high reward scenario when you play the “long ball.” On the reward side, by creating a longer ad, you can create a stronger emotional connection with the viewer than you typically can with a fifteen or thirty-second ad.  On the tragic miss side, you will spend all of the early time in the ad setting up for the big payoff and will miss out on all of the early brand recognition if the impatient viewer clicks away early.
I really like that this article isn’t creating an argument about whether you should or should not go long or short.  They simply make the argument that, “This media pressure can lead brands to feel like everything needs to be faster, faster, faster…” but “The good news for all of us is that attention spans aren’t simply shrinking down to nothing.”
There are benefits and drawbacks to both short and long videos.  The story should help you dictate which to shoot for.  The Beauty Sketch and West Jest Christmas ideas were fabulous concepts that would have suffered in a shorter form.  However, could you imagine a Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad going on for six minutes?  I don’t care how much you enjoy those ads, six minutes and you will be banging your head against your devise.  It’s like great, aged tequila; it’s meant to be sipped.
Deciding to go long or short is a down-the-line question.  As always, start with your strategy, who are you talking to?  Where will you reach them?  What obstacles stand in the way?  Then you move on to questions about how does what you offer fit what need of theirs?  How do you create a dynamic and meaningful connection between them and your brand?  By answering those great questions, you can begin to mold your creative into a story and that story will help answer the question about going long or short before you even ask the question.
The important takeaway here is that, as Ben Jones points out, the option is there to go long or go short.  Don’t feel as though you need to go shorter and faster simply because that seems to be the trend with video ad length.  Be creative and engaging and meet your audience where they are at.  Do that and you can’t go wrong.
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