The Best Length for an Explainer Video - Demo Duck

The Best Length for an Explainer Video

Like a good elevator pitch, an effective explainer video should be short. But how short? While you might only have 15-seconds in an elevator, you usually have a little more freedom when crafting your message for an online audience. And while I’ve certainly watched some longer videos that can hold my attention, too many web videos are losing viewers before they even get to the point.

I’ve always recommended to clients that 60-seconds is the sweet spot, the perfect crossover of content and viewer attention spans. While the majority of time I’ve based this off of personal experience and past mistakes, I now have statistical evidence to help prove my point.

Wistia recently published an article titled Does Length Matter? It Does For Video: 2K12 Edition. Reading through it, I found an interesting graph and was able to make a pretty connection between the data and explainer videos.

Best Length for Explainer Video

By trimming the graph (right), we can see a drastic drop in the percentage of the video viewed as video length increases.  Now we’ll have to make an estimate of roughly 70% viewed for a 60-second video, which compares to the 2-minute’s 65%.  That’s a 5% difference in the average duration watched.

5% may not seem like much, but as Bill Nye would say, “consider the following:” on average a viewer is watching 42 seconds of a 60 second video (70%) and 78 seconds of a 120 second video (65%). So if you create a 120 second video, viewers will skip as much content (42 seconds) as they would watch in a 60-second video. That’s a lot of content going to waste (not to mention the time and money you spent producing it!), and more often than not, it’s the important stuff – like your pitch and call-to-action.

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There are two important things to take away from this little analysis. First, shorter is better. You need to make sure your video is long enough to convey your message, but there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to get it done in 30-60 seconds. In general, the less time your video takes to watch, the more of it people will watch. Second, get to the point. If viewers are dropping off around 65-70% of the way into your video, shouldn’t you talk about your company early and often?

What do you think? Is 60 seconds the best length for an explainer video? How much does it depend on the content and audience?

  • JayGilmore

    Was just thinking about the content last night. Why do people leave any content when after a period of time? I would assume they leave because their interest wanes as a result of unmatched message OR they have seen enough to make a decision about the product. I think if you create a video that can lead people though a narrative that captures them initially and builds to the end while leaving them wanting you can bring people through to longer videos. That being said we hade a 45 second explainer we drafted that felt too tight but left you wanting and we’re reshooting/cutting to 60+ seconds to allow people to digest the elements. We will likely not cross the 75 second mark but might test a shorter cut of the 2nd video to see what yields better results.

    I think much like creating a compelling narrative to get people to scroll past “the fold” on a page, the same goes for the video as well. I think the only way to validate the length theory would be to test the same sample of videos with different lengths.

    One of the benefits of shorter though is it forces the content creator to carefully choose and remove slack which will, in turn, make the video more compelling and have bigger impact. If you have to cut the fluff to fit in a shorter time frame you are going to end up with a better video anyhow.

    • Hi Jay,

      I think you’re right on. A compelling narrative keeps people engaged, which is just as true for a 60-second explainer video as it is for a feature-length film. The only difference with web video is that people aren’t in a theatre or relaxing at home, they’re at the office or on-the-go and want to consume content quickly.

      You’re also right that the only way to truly test it is to create multiple video variations and do some split testing. Although, like you say, if you can fit your message in 45 seconds instead of 60 or 75 (which you almost always can – it just takes some ruthless editing to cut to the core), that’s almost always the best route. More engagement, more comprehension, and ideally better results.

      Thanks for the thoughts!


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