How Long Should Your Videos Be - Understanding Your Video’s Use.


Controversy swirls over the “length” of a video and it’s “effectiveness”. What makes a good video effective? An effective video is one where the viewer comes away having learned something by watching… and it stays with them. What is a good video? Well, a good video can be any length of time… personally I think a good video can run near that of a small short film – got 5 minutes? Sure, what’s the hurry? Or a good video can be as short at 5 seconds. Some might even argue an effective video can be delivered in even less time than that. A good mental-visual video stamp can stay with you… even from the shortest of clips.

How long should your videos be? What’s the use? The use of your video can and should dictate the length of your video. Do you strictly use video for television advertising? Then the length of your video will always be… 30 seconds. I’ve written a lot of 30-second commercials – to the point where, when typing ad copy, I automatically know when to stop typing. There’s more (client) – sorry, times up (me). But we need to include this (client) – well then we need to take out this (me). Don’t get me wrong, 30 seconds does the job very effectively, but still limits you to… 30 seconds.

I like a good healthy mix of video content for business – from 15 sec videos to 2-3 min max videos. 3 min would be my absolute max on a video. Some might say too long at 3… but again, it depends on the content. A 3 min video is going to be great for a business that holds an open house with events and speakers throughout the day, and customers are coming in, there’s food, people are mingling, smiling, exchanging business contacts, people on camera speaking – that’s great video & that would easily fill 3 minutes.

If you’re a traditional media – broadcast & cable advertiser, you’ll need a 30 sec commercial – have one of these – and a few backups. Remember, you’re telling your story. Leave out the clichés too. Damn how I hate the clichés… and unoriginal taglines: such as anything that references “creating my dreams into reality”. A great video strategy you might also want to consider — carving up the 30 sec commercial into two :15 sec bookends, or create two separate and specific 15 sec bookends. What’s a bookend? TV is sold in 30 sec ad units – a typical commercial break might have 2 minutes, or (as filled by ad reps) – 4, 30 sec ads from different customers. There’s more time than 2 min in an ad break than that, but you get the picture. 15-second bookends, act as 1, 30 second commercial in an ad break (even though they are 15 secs in length). – They are bought like a 30 second commercial, cost the same as buying 2-10 second ads, and are cheaper than running two independent 15 sec ads. For the cost of a 30, you can run 2-15s – which is the same cost as running 2-10s, and you end up getting 10 seconds for FREE. And the best part about bookends is they typically open and close the commercial break. Since they are 15 secs in length and all the other commercials are 30s, the 30s will run in the middle, straddled by the 15 sec ads. Bookends will be the first commercial into a commercial break, and the last commercial before you come back into programming. That’s typical… but today that might not be. Either way: Bookends are a must for your video needs.

What else is 15 seconds good for – Web? If 15 secs is great for TV, it’s even better for the web. 15 secs is good for ads – or also 15 sec candid bits, 15 sec quick tips, 15 sec updates, 15 sec anything? Create your own 15 sec category.

1 min videos – 1 min videos can be run in traditional media venues at typically double the cost of a 30 sec ad. You can use them… I would say test those waters. Try it. More people are coming to adopt longer ads on TV (think Clint Eastwood Super Bowl ad) – but make it worth their time – otherwise it’s a minute of hell. Minute long videos are great for YouTube. It’s double the length of a 30, and if updated as content to your site or channel… running it is FREE.

Web Video is uninhibited by time. There are no rules for the appropriate length of time for video online. What time you need to tell the story… is the appropriate length of your video. In some cases it will be short, in some cases it will be longer… whatever length it is, is irrelevant … it’s whether it’s written correctly, organized, and designed to be effective. That’s my job.

In closing, remember these numbers – 15 secs, 30 secs, 1 min, over 1 min. Those are standard lengths of time for video – and those are numbers you should plan around.

Mark Leishear