Friday, April 04, 2008

Telling a story in 30 seconds or less

For those people who still think you have 30 seconds (an eternity!) to get the message out in store media content comes news of a contest from Future Media, a big digital OOH player in India. The article notes,
"The contest has been organised with the intention of activating the
industry towards the need for differentiated creatives for this medium.
Ideas that portray aspects of daily life, humour or a public service
message could be the themes for the films. The contest involves a
closely-watched elimination process by a member of the Short Film Club
Society of India, 2-3 key persons from the industry and a
representative of Future Media."
While they mention that the winning piece will have to perform well in an "audio neutral" environment (presumably best without any audio at all), the challenge is to create a 30-second spot in effort to demonstrate how working with the retail TV medium is different from working with regular TV.

Unfortunately, my experience has been that a 30-second spot might be ten times longer than it ought to be, or maybe only twice as long, or maybe even half again not long enough. After all, the first moment of truth lasts only 2-3 seconds, and a glance is at most a second and a half. But if it takes 2 minutes to wander down an aisle, a 60-second clip might not be the wrong thing to use (as long as your viewer's don't need to pay attention for the full 60 seconds to get the gist, of course).

Content pieces can be of arbitrary length - there's no one size fits all approach in the digital media world. However, messages need to be short, concise, easy to understand and easy to remember. Think 2-3 seconds or less. 5-6 words or less. And if you think it's hard to tell a story in 5-6 words, the guys at threeminds recently reminded me of a powerful example:
Legend has it that Hemingway was challenged to write a story in only six words.

His response? "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

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