Science, Goldfish, & Video Marketing: How To Reach An Audience With Waning Attention Spans

Science, Goldfish, & Video Marketing: How To Reach An Audience With Waning Attention Spans

Recent research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information revealed some alarming statistics about the American population. After years of hearing that humans have the same attention span as a goldfish, we now know that this information is completely outdated.


We actually have an attention span that is shorter than your standard goldfish.

In the year 2000, our average attention span was measured at 12 seconds, soundly beating out those scaly, finned competitors who averaged a mere 9 seconds. But according to a study done in 2015, our national average has dropped to a whopping 8.25 seconds.

The Problem

What this means in the corporate world of video production, where new, brilliant marketing tactics are an ever-present thought in the back of your head, is that you have only 8.25 seconds to capture the attention of your viewer.

That’s not the only problem, though. After you capture their attention, you have to deal with the fact that most people will require you to renew their interest every 12 seconds in order to stay focused. To make matters worse, people only remember about 10% of what they see.

This means that if you’ve got a 30 second video, you only have approximately 3 seconds that will actually be a strong takeaway for your audience.

The Solution:

When battling these kinds of statistics, it is easy to become discouraged. In a 30 second video, you must find a way to snag your viewers attention in the first 8.25 seconds, renew their attention two more times during the duration of the video, and leave them with a memorable 3 second message by the end of it all. The odds of meeting all these demands in a single video can certainly seem bleak.

However, despite these seemingly insurmountable odds, there are video production techniques that can help you to successfully capture and hold attention, while getting your viewer to remember the right message.

Step One: Grab Attention with Unique Content

According to Dr. Carmen Simon, a neuroscientist at Rexi Media, marketers must battle against two major trends in the content marketing world.

Amnesia – People are more forgetful because they encounter so much information in their daily lives

Deja vu – Content is starting to look more and more similar, especially in competitive fields. Dr. Simon refers to this as the ‘I feel like I’ve forgotten this before’ factor. If your content seems like all the other content out there that they’ve already disregarded, you can be sure yours will be forgotten as well.

So, our first task is a big one. We’ve got to successfully capture your viewer with unique content, and we’ve only got 8 seconds – so we have to make them count.

Some of the best tactics to do this include:

  • storytelling
  • an emotional hook
  • unexpected shots, script, or messaging
  • eye-catching visuals
  • content that directly targets the interests of your target demographic

BDA – Moga from Sparkworks Media on Vimeo.

BDA Moga
This video creates an instantly eye-catching combo of live-action, 3D and 2D animation, and short shot lengths to grab attention right away. The content directly targets the pain points of the target demographic, gamers, and uses sharp visuals to keep engagement high. The longer your audience watches, the more content they will retain — and the more they will remember your brand.

Step Two: Keep Attention Focused

Armed with the knowledge that goldfish are better at paying attention than we are, filmmakers are making adjustments to media all over the board. Just take a look at the average shot length of films that hit our movie theatres and it should tell you something about how much audiences need to be kept engaged. The longest average shot length for current movies emerging from Hollywood is a whopping 5.9 seconds, a 4 second decrease from films released in 1935.

By changing the images, message, audio, or shot length, audiences can stay focused and engaged.

NAVOS – Growing Hope Web Demo from Sparkworks Media on Vimeo.

This video uses storytelling, an incredibly powerful engagement tactic that rapidly captures and holds attention, to communicate the deeply impactful stories of those working with high-risk children.

The minimalistic style and direct to camera interviews focuses the audience on the message of the video, and the silence underscores the uncomfortable nature of the stories better than music ever could.

Step Three: Communicate Your Big Message Clearly and Quickly

Only 10% of what your viewers see will be remembered, so be careful in how you construct your video. What do you want to be most impactful? What is the takeaway? Your commercial video production crew can emphasize certain aspects of your film through the use of shooting techniques, scripting, and more.

Seattle/King Co. Dental Fnd – Boxing Ad from Sparkworks Media on Vimeo.

Seattle King CO Boxing
This video used powerful imagery to capture and hold attention, while delivering an extremely clear message that is very easily retained by their viewers. The takeaway on this leaves no room for ambiguity, and, thanks to the slow-motion shots, the message is underscored by the visuals.

Your Final Step: Enlist a Professional Seattle Video Production Company

At our Seattle video production company, our team understands the predicament of marketers as we battle against the facts and stats that neuroscience has stacked against us.
Together, we can create something that will have a solid ROI when it comes to capturing and keeping the attention of your viewers — despite the fact that their attention span is now, on average, less than that of a goldfish.

Give us a call at 206.466.4773 or fill out our contact form to get in touch!