Take a look at the example below of a healthcare awareness video (warning: tough theme). It’s not one of ours, and we have so many questions about this amazing, simple, powerful, emotive piece.
But for today, we’re asking: where did you look first when you opened it? And now, with Derren Brown calibre intuition, we’ll guess:
<puts fingers to temples, closes eyes>
The little number at the bottom, right? The one that said “0:00 / 1:30”. That number understood how little time a busy person like you has for videos. That number kept you watching.
So the simple answer to how long your video should be is: as short as possible/appropriate to memorably tell your story.
There’s a few things to unpack there… so let’s do just that.
Yep, short means short. We know Stranger Things is putting two-hour TV shows out now, but the reverse is true online, and always has been. Vine, the six-second-video app, may have failed, but only because TikTok and Instagram pursued the same model with a slightly looser rein. Shortform is still where online video is.
Your story should be: our product/service is available, and it can benefit you in this way.
It doesn’t need to start with the birth of the person who invented the product/service and end with a vision of the future where the world has changed. Your audiences aren’t interested in backstory, or crystal balls. They care only about how their lives, or the lives of those they know, might be better for encountering your product.
The vast majority of video content in healthcare is made for viewing online, and needs to capture the attention of restless, scrolling thumbs. The more you move past two minutes, the more people will move past your video. But there are exceptions to every rule, particularly in an arena as complex as healthcare.
If your video is about an elaborate therapeutic process, then a) you legally can’t omit key details and b) your audience has searched for your video, and will accept a longer runtime.
Similarly, if your video’s being used in an hour-long live event, then your audience is locked in and probably more than happy for five minutes of screen time to break up all that powerpoint.
“Memorably” and “creatively” aren’t the same thing. That’s an inconvenient truth for us creative types. Creative execution can greatly increase a video’s impact… but simplicity should usually come first (have another look at the video we linked to at the start).
Your video’s main objective is not to wow people with its artistry, but to land your message. Every visual or script beat that isn’t serving your story… isn’t serving your business. Production agencies owe it to their clients to put story first, and keep artistic urges in check until there’s a clear, purposeful path for them.
Thanks for reading this far. If you read every word at average-speed it took you about 120 seconds, which is plenty long enough for your video, right?
Mind you, going back into Derren Brown mode, we know you read most of the first paragraph and then the first sentence of most paragraphs afterwards, with glances at the bold bits. You started it about twenty seconds ago, plus any time you spent on the links.
That’s OK; we wrote it on that basis. But it’s a blog for another day!