The More You Say, the Less They Hear

Posted: June 1, 2011 in Marketing Communications

We had managed to reduce a 348-page document down to a five-minute video script. Then the review committee got their claws on it.

The lawyers changed “buy” to “register.” And “customer” to “registrant.”

And the technical expert changed “expensive” to “significant investment, but with an excellent promise of ROI.”

And the VP of the program had three sentences he loves, and he insisted they had to go into the script. Even though the sentences were aimed at consumers, and this project targeted wholesalers. And the customer service rep changed—

But enough. You’ve been here, too. When a committee writes, everyone wants to add. Almost no one cuts. When I could tell the additions from the review committee had not only made the video harder to understand, but had also driven the running time to eight minutes, I begged ‘em for mercy.

The cutting part is up to you. You must screw up your courage and do it. Because if your piece is too long, it can honestly be The Best Ad in the World, and you will still lose your audience.

I learned this the hard way, laboring over videos teaching network security concepts to IT administrators. My pal Corey and I worked hard to make the videos accurate but clever, practical but concise. When we tried one of our efforts on a test audience, they loved it. Loved it. But they left before the video ended.

Why? Because our video was ten minutes long, and in that duration, three different pagers went off. Two cell phones rang. These busy guys had to go. That is the environment you write into, every time you create a marketing piece. You’ve only got seconds, so you have to entice ‘em. You don’t have to say everything in one piece. You dare not.

Fortunately, the committee I described above understood my concerns and worked with me. We got the video back down to six minutes. (Still too long, but not a total loss.)

When you face the same issue, you must remind the people in your review channel that although they feel strongly about their additions, they are not actually enticing the customer more. They are chasing the customer away.

To prove my point, I close with another video. (But the point applies to all marketing copy, not just video.) There is a LOT right with this video: good budget, well shot, lively editing, appealing subject matter, good cast. Under some viewing conditions, they can do a trick that puts your own name in the video. So why, in six months on YouTube, has it gotten a paltry 623 views, and one Like?

It’s that endless song. Never mind that the lyrics defy reality, claiming that international travel is “easy,” “effortless,” and “carefree” and that the best way to experience the “soul of Europe” is a packaged bus tour. Just on length alone –I challenge you to watch it to the end, and see what it costs your patience.

When you’re writing copy, and you see your word count ascending, and the words spill onto the next page, remember the feeling this video gave you. Remember your interested and attentive readers who, nonetheless, leave while you’re still talking.

Length kills.

  1. jeremy says:

    Great advice, Scott. For the record, I loved the videos you and Corey produced, and I watched every one to the end! Pagers be damned!

  2. ArdynnPR says:


    The information is invaluable and gets straight to the point! Thanks for sharing as I know we will be sharing this to our communities and contacts.

    A good reference is to look at how successful microblogging platforms have become. “Just say what you ABSOLUTELY need to say and be done with it.”

    Michael D. Harris Jr
    Ardynn Media Group

  3. theo says:

    i loved the video though when it was released. Least i could explain some of the new gTLD’s to some people at work.. They where busy also …

    Thanks for the inside peak 😀

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