Why are PR and marketing ignoring the hottest video trend?

Shel Holtz's picture

Short videos are the hot trend that PR and marketing are ignoring

An important video trend has been gaining momentum for some time. Despite the popularity of these videos, and the increasing number of them, there has been virtually no adoption of the technique among public relations, corporate communications, and marketing. They remain almost exclusively the province of the news media.

Given the communication world’s slow uptake of trends, that’s hardly surprising. Still, given what we know about how people consume videos these days and how easy it is—technically, at least—to create videos that employ these techniques, you have to wonder what’s holding brands and businesses back.

The videos are ridiculously short and require no audio. Here’s an example from Now This News, reporting on construction of the first offshore wind farm in the U.S.

These videos have audio, ranging from a pulse-quickening music bed to narration or the words spoken by the subjects of the videos. Listening isn’t required, which is important when you consider that people are increasingly exposed to these videos when they autoplay in a Facebook (or other) news feed. On Facebook, audio off is the default for autoplay videos, and news organizations have figured out that getting the point across without the audio is preferable to forcing people to turn it on.

Watching videos without audio is so common, in fact, that video ads on Facebook will all feature captions. Research Facebook conducted found that 80% of people have a bad reaction when video ads blare the audio from within the feed.

Another wrinkle: More and more people are thumbing through their feeds on a phone rather than scrolling through them on a computer monitor. According to Facebook’s data, 823 million people access Facebook only on mobile devices. (That’s more than half of Facebook’s 1.4 billion monthly active users.) 65% of Facebook video views take place on mobile devices. Those autoplay videos start playing while people are on busses, in grocery checkout lines, in restaurants. Not only is the sound off by default; a lot of these people have the phone audio cranked down in order to avoid bothering others nearby.

Still, 41% of videos make no sense when played without audio, according to Facebook. They come across like this video ad from Bank of America:


Companies spending boatloads of cash on video ads that make no sense is driving the move toward default captioning. Whether you’re buying ad space in the feed or just hoping people will share your video, producing it so audio isn’t required is becoming a requirement. Building the meaning into the visuals is a better solution than having Facebook add captioning to a video that was meant to be heard as well as seen.

This will become an even bigger deal now that Twitter has announced that autoplay video ads will appear at the top of your timeline.

In addition to seeing more videos in their news feeds on phones, people are also absorbing them faster. Facebook and Twitter have both conducted research proving that people consume information differently on mobile devices. Differently how? They consume it faster than on a desktop, for one thing—1.7 seconds vs. 2.5 seconds. “People can recall mobile news feed content at a statistically significant rate after only 0.25 seconds of exposure,” according to an article jointly written by Facebook and twitter for AdAge. The authors note that people watch 100 million hours of video on Facebook daily. “When people watch the first three seconds of a video on Facebook, 65% of those people go on to watch at least 10 seconds of the video, and 45% make it to 30 seconds.” The same is basically true on Twitter.

In both cases, remember that the default is audio off.

The short videos that work without audio (but also work with it) are an obvious choice for taking advantage of these findings. It’s not just Facebook and Twitter, though. Watch any video from the news organizations and brands deploying content through Snapchat’s Discover feature; they employ the same techniques with even shorter videos designed to entice Shapchatters to tap through to the article or full video, as in the compilation of videos below:


It’s not just the media, though, using these techniques. Here’s an example from an inventor pitching an innovation (which I first saw while thumbing through my Facebook feed; it took a while to find it on YouTube):


Marketers and PR practitioners—those people desperate to build reach for their messages through social media channels—are woefully absent from the trend. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I’ll be damned if one of them has shown up in any of my feeds. I asked the panel on the lastest episode of FIR, and none of them have seen this style of video used for PR or marketing. The technique makes sense for everything from announcement of company news to product promotions. If you know of one, please point me to it (especially if you produced it; I’d love to talk). In the meantime, I’m planning to produce a few of my own just to prove the point. Stay tuned.



Feedback Form