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We often find ourselves at MIC Animation advising to keep your animation video content short and sweet. We thought it would be an interesting exercise to challenge our own beliefs to see if we could better understand WHY you should keep things short, but also how long should an explainer video be nowadays. Fun fact, did you know the average human attention span has decreased by nearly a quarter in just 15 years and we are now falling behind the meek goldfish. They are believed to have a longer attention span of one second than we do. This means that if your video content does not draw the audience in quickly, they are probably going to click off from it. That’s why I sincerely believe that shorter explainer videos do better, we need to combat the ever-decreasing human attention span.

Today in this article I would like to explore and find out the relationship between viewer retention/ engagement rate with explainer video lengths, what the optimal explainer video length is and if the idea of shorter videos are better proves to be true or not.

Let’s get started!

Is the viewer retention/engagement rate correlated with explainer video length?

Knowing how long  and when viewers stop watching your videos (viewer retention rate) can give you quite an insight into why your audience stopped watching. Similarly, keeping an eye on the number of engagements whether that be the length of time that learners viewed the video or if they interacted with or took some action in or around the video can help you identify what the audience wants and make improvements.

The study I looked into first was conducted by breadnbeyond. They analysed and collected data from their YouTube videos which consisted of roughly 90% explainer videos. From this they saw that one minute videos had higher audience retention rates than three minute videos. The findings also revealed to them that the audiences’ retention rate decreased for longer videos. They also found that the average audience retention rate of one minute explainer video is 77% and after three minutes the viewers simply stop watching regardless of its quality.

Yep, you read that right. No matter how class your video is, once it passes the two minute mark your audience will simply click off and move on with their life. 

Another study suggests that in the first 30 seconds, video engagement drops on average from 100% to roughly 70%. Which is the sharpest drop observed. From thirty seconds to two minutes mark interestingly the audience engagement drops very little. The data suggests that, if a viewer invested the first thirty seconds watching your video, they’re likely to stay around until it reaches the two minute mark. However, after the two minutes the audience engagement rate drops significantly. And this continues all the way to the 6-minute mark.

These results tell us that the longer the explainer video, lower the viewer retention/ engagement rate.  

Are shorter explainer videos better for views?

From the above findings it seems to support the view of keeping your explainer videos short because it has a higher viewer retention/ engagement rate. How about in terms of number of views?

A study showed that as the video length increased, there was a significant decrease in the percentage of views. It also stated that on average, audiences watch 42 seconds of a 60 second video, and 78 seconds of a 120 second video. This study goes on to highlight not only the importance of keeping your videos short but the value of getting your point across within the first 5-10 seconds to retain viewers’ attention.

Interestingly, want to know why we think this is? Too often, a client will want a 60 second video, but the message REALLY may only take 45 seconds, the studio wants the money and the client wants what they paid for, so the end tends to get padded out with fluff. The client tries to cram in as many Features and Benefits as the budget allows or an overly long outro animation. By this point, the audience has already made their mind up anyway. Anyway, back on track…

Breadnbeyond also suggests that when the explainer video reached more than 2 minutes in duration, the average views dropped from 77% to 57%. 

That’s 20% of your audience clicking off from your video because they already think it’s too long.

On the other hand, a study by ‘Think with Google’ compared three of the same YouTube ads varying in length from 15 seconds to 2 minutes and found surprising results. The findings showed that the shortest video had the lowest view-through rate, meaning that less viewers watched the 15 second video all the way through than the 2 minute version. Their theory is that with longer videos, the audiences have more time to become invested and connected with the business, brand or a product. Hence, they think that if you have a story that is entertaining, relatable and has an emotional element that can pull on the heart string of the viewers, then longer videos could be more beneficial. Although their findings support the idea of having a longer video content, they also point out the importance of getting your brand noticed from the very beginning of the video, otherwise you will still lose some viewers no matter how compelling your videos may be. 

Our thoughts on this? When it comes to Youtube Ad it is worth noting that they are very targeted. They’re being shown to the exact audience defined by the business so this drastically grows the chances of you increasing audience engagement anyway.

Despite the contradicting results, it highlighted a few important facts. Firstly, both short and long videos can draw good and bad results in terms of the amount of views/view-through rate. Secondly, it showed that both studies agreed on the importance of making your point or showcasing your brand nearer to the beginning and not at the end. And finally, it also highlighted the fact that our audiences may have ideas of what they are expecting to get when visiting different platforms. For example people go on YouTube to watch videos, so they are mentally open and prepared to watch longer videos anyway. In contrast, if you are opening up your email in the morning you’d rather not be slapped in the face with a video sales pitch, at that point you don’t even want to consume the video…never mind a long one. 

So, where is the sweet spot?

The ultimate goal of the explainer video is to get your message across clearly and acquire a return on investment, whatever you define that to be. 

A study conducted in 2017 by Wyzowl showed that;

  • 17% said less than a minute is the ideal.
  • 50% of viewers believe that 1 minute is the ideal length for an explainer video.
  • 33% of viewers think between 1 – 2 minutes is the ideal length.

A study recently updated by breadnbeyond shows a similar result. Their findings revealed that the acceptable average animated explainer video length is anywhere between one and two minutes.

Another study that was conducted four years ago actually suggested that the ideal length for an explainer video was two minutes, not one minute. 

If in only four year time the recommended duration has HALVED, what do you think is going to happen in four years time from now? 

So…how long should an explainer video be? Here’s our verdict….

After looking into all these studies and data we can’t help but feel that shorter explainer videos are better. They can be utilised in so many platforms even on places where the audiences are not expecting video content and it will still have a higher chance of audience engagement just because they can see that the video is going to be less than one or two minutes. Finally, the fact that you have to catch the audience’s attention at the beginning of the explainer video before they decide to click off, wouldn’t you rather have a short explainer video that captures the main points that costs you less to make than a longer video that pretty much does the same thing but costs more?

With that being said, this certainly does not mean that you cannot have a longer explainer video as we’ve seen from the study conducted by Think with google. If you have an entertaining, attention grabbing or heart warming story, a longer video may bring better outcome. It just means that you have to be wiser when it comes to choosing where to post your videos.

Despite a few contradicting statistics, we still feel shorter form content is the best way forward for these key reasons:

  • It is more likely to engage your audience, as not only does it take less time to watch, it forces you to really focus on your messaging and prioritise what you want to say. You are less likely to use filler for the sake of it.
  • It is cheaper, that’s just math. Sixty seconds of animating take’s alot less time than 120 seconds of animating. Means more budget for you to use actually getting the video seen.
  • It future proofs your content in case the attention span continues to decrease (let’s be honest…. It will).

We hope you found the above research interesting, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and your own experiences.

— A bit about us —

MIC Animation create bespoke and brand tailored Explainer Videos and Animated Content.

Combining animation with a  jargon free philosophy delivers crystal clear messaging to the hearts of your audience. MIC creates content ranging from small internal HR animations all the way through to animated educational content for children. In their short history MIC have created content for your small local business all the way through to global brands such as GKN, Maritime Transport and Greene King.

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