Is Short Actually Sweet?

A year or two ago, my Grandma paused during a mundane story and an extremely serious look washed over her face. She leaned in closely and whispered, “Nikki, I need to share something I’ve never told anyone…”

Before I share too much, I want to touch on a key concept. I once heard attention span defined as less of a “span,” and more of a muscle. In other words, our attention is able to grow if we’re left wanting more and we need to flex it. How’s your attention muscle right now? Generally, people want to know more if they feel a good story is being told. When we are left with tension or a curiosity gap, the need to figure it out will pull at us.

As a media buyer, I like to play with this concept when considering short-tail vs. long-tail videos and deciding which execution will prove most effective. Will this particular message be more effective with more or less detail? Is one better than the other? If we look back at how digital media has adapted to the perception of attention spans, the short-form evolution is obvious. From 30-second commercial spots that were introduced in the 1980s to 1-second boomerang videos currently popular on social platforms, it’s apparent digital preferences are trending towards short-form content. Let’s take a look at the timeline:



Real Eyes weighs in as part of a recent Digiday article, The Need For Short-Form Content: “The six-second ad is the answer to consumer preference for more proportionate advertising – a 30-second advert before a 15-second video clip can be seen as annoyance for viewers.” Yet we recently saw Instagram introduce a new long-form video hub, IGTV, that lets brands and users with more than 10,000 followers post videos up to an hour long.

We find a common denominator in the value for long-form and short-form when we factor in user-curiosity and emotional pull. Sprout Video says, “Everyone loves a good story. Long-form video presents unique opportunities to build a compelling story arc. You don’t have to rush the details.” REI does an excellent job of this with their long-form (37-minute) video sharing a captivating story while highlighting the subject’s REI boots.

My thoughts? Whether accepting the creative challenge of squeezing a curiosity-spiking concept into a six-second teaser, or thoughtfully crafting an emotional 30-minute story, both options are only viable if presented to the right person in the right environment. Ultimately, any length of video can captivate a person seeking to close their curiosity gap if we give them a compelling reason to come and ingest the content.

And no, I didn’t forget about my story at the start of this post. But my grandma probably wouldn’t like it if I spilled her secret to the whole of the internet. All I can tell you is that it was well worth my attention.

"Find out if a short message is really more powerful than long content in this guide from The James Agency. Get key tips for working smarter with fewer words!"
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