How Long Should An Explainer Video Be? Is Shorter Better?

We’re often asked what the right length for an explainer video is. Most people believe shorter is better, but is it? Does your target audience really have an attention span of mere seconds? Let’s dig a little deeper and see what the sweet spot is when it comes to the length of a quality explainer video and what factors you should consider.

How long should an explainer video be - the short answer:

The ideal length of an explainer video is 1-3 minutes. However, this heavily depends on the intended purpose of the video. Are you looking for an explainer video or a video ad? Will the video be used on your website to offer visitors a glimpse of your product or service or will it be used as part of a pay-per-click ad campaign on social media? Understanding how the intended purpose plays a role in the desired video length is important. 

The difference between an explainer video and an ad

Before we get to the ideal length of an explainer video, let’s start by looking at the difference between a video ad and an explainer video. Although these terms are used interchangeably, there’s a difference.

A good explainer video tells a story that viewers want to hear and can often be found on your website. Visitors WANT to watch an explainer video because it gives them the most amount of information in the shortest amount of time. Instead of reading “what you offer and how your product/service/platform works”, it’s now provided in easily digestible video format.

A video ad is often seen as an inconvenience. This is content that nobody is actively searching for. Think about it: When was the last time you were actively searching for an ad? A video ad is something people HAVE to watch, often before getting to the content they really want to see.

Understanding the difference between these two is important to understand the ideal length.

The optimal length and the upload media

In addition to understanding the difference between a video ad and an explainer video, it’s also important to consider where you’ll post your video. To determine the ideal length, ask yourself where you plan to post your video. Will it be posted on social media as part of a PPC ad campaign or are you looking for a video for your website?

Let’s say you visit a website that offers an innovative pizza cutter and there’s an explainer video on the homepage. Chances are 1. You’ll click on the video to watch it and 2. You’ll want to know what the innovative pizza cutter is all about, how it’s better than a traditional pizza cutter and how it’s used. You’re looking for a video that captures it all. Cutting out key elements of the story to make it shorter and adhere to the guidelines of ads, could have an adverse effect.

Now let’s say you’re producing an ad to run on social media. A short video that briefly describes what the pizza cutter is all about and lists the benefits of using this over a traditional pizza cutter, is enough. Going into too much detail might cause people to click away before you get to your call to action. Remember, an ad is an inconvenience and contains information people weren’t actively searching for, so you have to keep it short.

What is the ideal length of an explainer video - the detailed answer:

So, now that we know that the intended purpose plays a role in determining the optimal video length, we can distinguish 4 categories of explainer videos/ads:

The special offer (30 seconds, 70 words, suitable for ad campaigns)
30 second videos are very short and based on a 70 word script (about 4 sentences of average length). In most cases these are ads posted on social media. You can use these for advertising something viewers are already familiar with. Think about a limited-time offer or a sale on a familiar product.  If you need more than 4 sentences, consider the next option.

The introduction video (60 seconds, 140 words, suitable for ad campaigns and your website)
60 second videos are great for introducing your company, product, or service. It’s more or less the minimum length you need to highlight the problem of your target audience, introduce your company, explain what you offer, include some benefits and end with a call to action. These videos are often used for social media campaigns and on company websites.

The how to video (1.5-3 minutes, 210-420 words, suitable for your website)
How-to videos are great to dive deeper into the products and services a company offers. These videos are often posted on company websites and are great to explain how your product, service, app or platform works. They include everything an introduction video includes, but with an additional step by step “how it works” section. In addition, they provide more room for storytelling (e.g. Meet David. David made a cheese pizza for dinner. He uses a traditional pizza cutter to cut his pizza into 8 slices…”

The training video: Various lengths, suitable for your website or intranet
These videos can be relatively short for simple topics and long for more complicated topics. On average training videos are several minutes long, but it all depends on what’s being taught.

What should be included in your script?

Let’s take a look at the key topics most explainer videos should cover. Your script should contain a clear problem, an introduction to your company and services, the benefits of your product or service and a call to action. Including these basic topics will result in a video of about 1 minute. Adding a “how it works” section is optional, but recommended for new and innovative products, services or concepts. Adding this section will lead to a 1.5-3 minute explainer.

Include these topics and be as to the point as possible. Don’t elaborate too much.  It is important to eliminate the nice-to-know content and focus on the need-to-know content.

Best practices in explainer video length

There are a lot of opinions out there on the ideal length of an explainer video, but based on our experience short isn’t always better. Explainer videos shouldn’t be held to the same length expectations as ads. Opt for a 1 minute video if you want a short introduction to your company and your products or services and 1.5-3 minutes for an explainer video that dives deeper into your product or service.

Need a video that’s just the right length to match with your intended purpose? A video that cuts out the fluff, while keeping all key elements? We can help you keep your focus on the highest value content by following best practices in keeping your viewers’ attention. We’re ready to collaborate with you to make your explainer video just the right length to take off. Contact us today!

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