Five Second Hook

The MOOC I’m attending (what’s the right verb?) is talking this week about web-based  storytelling and whether it has to be more compact  because of decreasing attention spans.

Along those lines, I think that advertising on YouTube represents a really interesting storytelling challenge. I’m thinking here specifically of the  interstitial ads–as opposed to the little pop-ups at the bottom, which are an abomination because they are designed to draw attention away from the video while it’s playing. (I largely can’t watch commercial television because the little pop-ups at the bottom advertising other shows drive me crazy. But I digress.)

There appear to be two kinds of interstitial ads on YouTube at the beginning of videos: those that you can skip after five seconds, and those you can’t. I invariably surf away from the unskippable ones.

The skippable ones are really interesting, though, because they (a) don’t provide a distraction in the middle of the video, (b) let you opt out of ads of no interest, and (c) still provide content providers with a way to pay the bills. The fascinating part from a storytelling perspective is whether the advertiser can set the hook in only five seconds. Tough challenge. In those five seconds I have to decide that the ad is both relevant and interesting. (Actually, if the ad appears  sufficiently entertaining I may watch even if it is not relevant to me, which is probably not ideal for the advertiser since from their perspective they just paid someone else to have me watch a video that will not increase their sales.)

Anyway, from a storytelling perspective, the ability of the artists who create these ads will have to become finely honed for these ads to be successful in the long term. The evolutionary pressure will be enormous–only the compelling ads will survive. It will be interesting to see what techniques the storytellers come up with (and what designers in other fields can learn from them).


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