Short vs. Long Videos: What Is the Best Explainer Video Length?


In a crowded marketplace, a key contributing factor to the success of your product is how you communicate its value. An elevator pitch or an active ad campaign can be enough for some products. For others, that’s not enough.

For technology companies selling innovative products and services, customers need to see how they can use and benefit from them. In these cases, an explainer video might be your best bet.

And yet, there is so much contradicting advice on how long the perfect explainer video should be: Some believe that they should last no more than 30 seconds, while others recommend running them for as long as five minutes. It’s enough to drive you crazy!

Luckily, after consulting a few people, we’ve managed to get to the bottom of this debate. The following is a simple guide to take you through all there’s to know about an explainer video and how long it should last:

What’s an Explainer Video to Begin with?

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For those hearing about this term for the first time, an explainer video is a short, concise, and engaging animated video that explains what your company does. Here’s one to help you understand the concept better:

Typically, this type of video is created with animation or motion graphics. It can be complemented with text overlay for clarification, and if done well, it can skyrocket your conversion rates.

Why Are Explainer Videos So Popular?

There are quite a few reasons these types of videos have become so popular over the years. The core one being they can help you connect with prospects on a more personal level.

Most people don’t want to watch long videos filled with data and technical jargon. That is where explainer videos come in. They allow prospects to learn more about your product without getting bored.

Explainer videos are also popular because they can be used for different purposes: A new website launch, a product release, customer acquisition and retention, and more.

So, What Makes a Great Explainer Video?

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In our opinion, the best-animated explainer videos have a few things in common: 

  1. i) They are fun and easy to understand: If people don’t get what you’re saying, then why would they want to watch it in the first place?
  2. ii) They explain your product’s value straightforwardly: The goal is to answer the following questions: What are you selling quickly? Who cares? Why should I buy it or watch more of your videos?
  3. iv) They give people an easy call to action that will prompt them to take further action (watch another video, sign up for a free trial, email you, etc.): This is a critical but often overlooked factor.

There’s a reason why companies like Dropbox, Slack, and TSheets have been able to incorporate explainer videos in their marketing campaigns so successfully: They help them tell engaging stories about how technology can make customers’ lives easier.

Things to Keep in Mind While Creating an Explainer Video

Before we look at the optimal length for an explainer video, let’s get familiar with a few key factors to keep in mind when creating one:

  1. The purpose of your explainer video: A new product launch or customer acquisition? It makes sense to include some footage where people can see how your product is being used. On the other hand, if you’re trying to explain how an existing product works, a more toned-down approach would work best.
  2. The audience: An explainer video intended for the general public will be very different from one targeting a specific industry or niche.
  3. Your company’s value proposition: This is often referred to as your unique selling proposition (USP). Before you even begin creating a video, you should have a clear idea of your USP. That will help you keep things simple and focus on the core value that your product brings.
  4. The length of time it takes for people to understand your message: Take some time to conduct surveys or ask friends and family members if they can quickly grasp what you’re trying to say.
  5. The type of video you want to create: If it’s character-driven, for instance, then the optimal length would be somewhere between 2 and 3 minutes. On the other hand, 0.5 -2 minutes would be a great length if the video is more informational.
  6. Where your video will be hosted: If you plan on having a simple text-based introduction, then hosting your video on sites such as YouTube or Vimeo would work best. In addition to saving you money, this can also help you add annotations and links to specific parts of the video.
  7.  The production level involved: The more time and money you can afford to invest, the better. While there are several affordable animation studios that you can work with, most charge extortionately.
  8. The number of products/services you’re planning on explaining in the video: If it’s just one, then a simple storyboard would work fine. However, there are several of them, then perhaps you should consider using a mix of live-action shots and animated portions.

What’s a Video Length or Duration?

That sounds like a dumb question to ask, right? But we couldn’t quite find a more concise and straightforward definition. Many videos hosting websites such as Wistia, Vimeo, and YouTube often give the following advice:

“Make sure your videos are short and sweet.” – Wistia

That isn’t particularly helpful. For instance, what exactly does “short” mean? And how “sweet” should videos be? We know that the optimal duration of a video depends on several factors. But we were hoping to get at least some specific figures, such as 2 minutes and 30 seconds, for instance.

After looking at several sources and conducting some thorough research, we came up with the following:

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The Short Answer: The optimal video length or duration will depend on the specific needs of your business. 

The Long Answer: The optimal length of an explainer video is between 1-2 minutes. While 3 minutes might seem like a good option, it still doesn’t give you enough time to get into the details of what your company does or how it can help customers. The same applies to videos that are much shorter or longer than 3 minutes.

For instance, explainer videos less than 1 minute in length tend to fail to provide enough details. On the other hand, those that run for more than 4 minutes might lose the attention of your target audience and end up wasting your advertising dollars.

What’s the Recommended Length for a Social Media Explainer Video?

A few years ago, several studies confirmed that people tend to lose interest in a video if it’s longer than 2 minutes. That’s especially true on social media, where users expect content at their fingertips. As far as explainer videos for this type of platform are concerned, they’re most effective when their length falls between 30 seconds and 1 minute.

What’s the Recommended Length for a General-purpose Explainer Video?

When it comes to animated explainer videos, you have even more leeway because there are fewer external variables to consider. That means that there is no such thing as optimal length. Still, shorter videos tend to be better than longer ones since they can capture and maintain your audience’s attention.

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That being said, if you plan on creating an animated explainer video that features a lot of text, then you might want to shoot for 2 minutes or longer. That will give your viewers enough time to read the entire animation and absorb all of its information before moving on to other things.

How Many Seconds Do People Spend on a Video Before Moving On?

Did you know that people spend an average of 3-5 seconds on a video before moving on? That means that if your explainer video is longer than this, then there’s a risk that it’ll be skipped and never watched. And this defeats the purpose of creating a video in the first place.

The good news is that you can work around this issue by using a snappy intro that captures your viewers’ attention and make them want to watch your video to the end. For example, you can use an intriguing photo or a powerful one-liner.

What’s the Ideal Video Length for Different Industry Types?

The time spent on a video will depend on several factors. In particular, it’ll depend on what industry you’re operating in and what type of message you want to convey. For instance, it’s okay for an explainer video that features a lot of text to be longer than one that doesn’t. 

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But the main point here is:

The more details you want to convey, and the more complex your message is, the longer you’ll have to make the video to communicate it fully.

Do People Skip Explainer Videos If They Last Less Than 30 seconds?

Research has shown that people are more likely to engage with your video content when it’s at least 30 seconds long. That means that if your explainer video is shorter than this, then there’s a risk that it’ll be skipped and never watched.

Finding that Perfect Balance

50% of videos that are 5 minutes or longer get skipped. So, it would be best if you made sure yours doesn’t fall into this category. But at the same time, you can’t afford to keep it too short because this might leave your audience confused and unsatisfied.

Opt for 3-4 minutes if your product or service is complex or if you’re targeting a specific group of people with a more in-depth message.

If your product or service is simple, going for 2-3 minutes should be enough to get the point across and engage your audience. And this will help you avoid wasting money on ads that aren’t engaging.

The Ideal Length for an Explainer Demo Video

Explainer demo videos are different from explainer videos because they focus on demonstrating more than explaining. Therefore, their length can vary depending on how complex your products or services are and the message you’re trying to convey.

On average, explainer demos last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, but there’s no reason for this number to be set in stone. Since this is a type of animated explainer video, the first few seconds will often consist of an intro that’ll capture your audience’s attention and make them want to watch the demo until the end.

If you’re wondering how long should my explainer demo video be? The best way to find out what length works best for you would be to run a split test that includes different versions of the same video. This way, you can determine what video length resonates best with your target audience. 

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What’s the Ideal Length for a Whiteboard Video?

Like explainer videos, whiteboard explainer videos are popular because they can quickly spell out what your company does to solve a particular problem. But what’s the ideal length for them?

According to research, whiteboard videos have a much longer lifespan than regular explainer videos and other types of video content because people like watching them. But at the same time, they don’t last as long as demo videos.

The average length for this type of video is 2-3 minutes. That should be enough to communicate your marketing message.

So, What Makes Shorter Videos Better than Longer Ones?

Let’s go through statistics as we try to compare the two:

  • Videos that run for more than 2 minutes tend to have better engagement.
  • Short videos tend to be more memorable than longer ones because they have less information for someone to remember.
  • Videos that last between 30 seconds and 1 minute are the most efficient for View Rate because they make people want to watch until the end instead of skipping them immediately.
  • The engagement rate will start to drop after the second minute. The initial drop-off is usually high because this is where people start to lose interest.
  • Longer videos don’t always work in your favour when you’re targeting a specific audience. As it turns out, people prefer shorter videos that can quickly get the point across and provide all the details they need more concisely. 

On average, these are better for social media platforms because of how easy they are to consume. People also feel more inclined to share short videos as opposed to longer ones.

All in all, there’s no one size fits all solution. It’ll depend on your target audience and how you use the video to communicate your marketing message. So, test different lengths and see what works best for your case.

More Tips

  • If your product or service is useful for the audience you’re targeting, then it would be best to consider writing a script that includes as much information as possible instead of waiting to pull things out of thin air randomly. 
  • If your product or service is only going to have a specific target audience, going for a shorter script will help you keep the attention of this group and avoid wasting money on ads that aren’t engaging.
  • Remember that short videos are better for social media platforms. Before you choose to invest in other types, see what results you can get with a 30-second clip first.

Finally, don’t forget that the most important aspect of any good explainer video is its script and message. That is what will keep your audience interested and engaged throughout the demo.

Common Video Formats and Their Ideal Video Length

Explainer videos tend to work best with start-ups and tech brands. They’re common with tech brands such as Twitter and Dropbox, mostly brands whose products or services are hard to explain, such as Square and Yelp.

Note that not all explainer videos are the same. There are different forms for this type of video, each with its own unique selling point. 

  • Tutorials They focus on educating. The ideal length for this type of video is 3-4 minutes. 
  • Demo videos – They focus on showcasing a product or service in action. The ideal length for this type is 30 seconds to 2 minutes. 
  • Whiteboard explainer videos focus on using plain text and drawings to communicate what a brand does entertainingly. The ideal length of this type of video is 2-3 minutes. 
  • Animated explainer videos – They focus on visually representing the product or service. The ideal length for this type of video is about 2 minutes.
  • Creative Commercial Videos – They focus on creatively selling a product or service. The ideal length for this type of video is about 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • Testimonial Videos – They focus on communicating a brand’s value through testimonials. The ideal length for this type of video is about 1 minute.
  • Customer Testimonial Video – They focus on interviewing a customer who explains how a product or service worked well for them. The ideal length for this type of video is about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Explainer Videos for YouTube

The platform is best known for hosting long-form videos, which makes it ideal for all explainer video formats. Note that these can be up to 60 minutes, but this rarely works in your favour unless you’re filming a small documentary about your brand. 

The average length for YouTube videos is 10 minutes, but that’s not to say your video should be this long. You wouldn’t be doing your viewers any justice by filling a 2-minute video with fluff just to hit the 10-minutes mark.

So, what’s the recommended length for a YouTube Explainer Video?

Although the YouTube algorithm tends to favour longer videos, it’s possible to rank with shorter clips too. 

A good explainer video strikes a balance between being engaging and informative. So, if you can commit to creating an explainer video without fluff, opt for longer videos rather than short ones with low-quality content. 

As long as you provide value in your video and deliver a solid message, video length shouldn’t be much of an issue. 

Explainer Videos for Facebook

Since Facebook’s algorithm is fast-changing, it can be hard to keep up with what types of videos perform best on the platform. Generally speaking, you should shoot for shorter explainer videos since it plays better with an audience that has limited time and attention span to spare.

Animated explainer videos are the most popular among the short video formats that work well on Facebook. 

Facebook also recently started testing vertical videos. If you opt for this format, keep your video short since it offers limited-screen real estate.

Explainer Videos for Instagram

Instagram is the newest addition to Facebook’s family. It targets mobile users, so you should always opt for short videos when uploading on the platform. 

We suggest you try to keep all your Instagram to under 30 seconds — if you can’t pull this off while still including all your key points and value proposition, then it would be best to opt for the story feature instead.

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It’s time to be brief – 5 seconds or less. In fact, some brands already use Instagram’s Boomerang feature to make their videos play in a continuous loop.

It would help if you also tried adding music to your Instagram videos to help keep your viewers engaged.

Explainer Videos for Twitter

Twitter’s user base is more tech-savvy compared to other social media platforms. Most of its users have a short attention span and skim through tweets, which means you should try keeping your video short to prevent them from skipping it.  

The recommended explainer video length for Twitter is 30 seconds. If you can’t keep it under this time limit, go with the tweet feature instead.

Explainer Video Length for Email Marketing

Since email marketing campaigns are direct and targeted to a specific audience, expect that your viewers have enough time to watch long-form explainer videos. That’s why creating a long-form video is the perfect fit for this type of marketing.

Short animated explainer videos don’t work with this type of campaign, but you can still try out the shorter formats like GIFs and slideshows.

However, if your target audience is more tech-savvy, go with a longer explainer video — they’ll get a kick out of it and appreciate the effort.

Explainer Video Length for Outbound Marketing

Companies love using outbound marketing campaigns to sell their products and services. In this case, a sales video with your offer is the best explainer video option. So, it’s all about brevity here – keep it short and sweet. However, you still want to stay away from under 15-seconds of video length.

A sales video can be of any length provided it delivers the main message and offers clearly and concisely. You can even try out different explainer videos like live-action or animation to help you decide which type of explainer works best for your brand.

As for how to choose the perfect explainer video length, it all boils down to research. Look at other successful brands’ social media posts and email campaigns, determine their video strategy, and select an explainer video style that falls under the recommended time frame.

How to Break an Explainer Video: How Long Should Each Stage of the Video Be?

Using 90 seconds as the sweet spot, here is the explainer video length breakdown for each stage of your video:

  • Intro – 10 to 15 seconds
  • Problem – 5 to 10 seconds
  • Solution/Benefits – 30 to 50 seconds
  • Call to Action – 10 seconds

Intro – 10 to 15 Seconds: Your video intro shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds for a 90-second video. Its role is to hook your viewers into watching more of your video.

Problem – 5 to 10 Seconds: The problem stage is where you showcase your audience’s problems. It’s where you tell them what they won’t get if they don’t use your product or service.

Solution/Benefits – 30 to 50 Seconds: Here, you’re to highlight the benefits of using your product or service. You can even use an explainer video case study that features customers who have succeeded after using your product or service.

Call to Action – 10 Seconds: The call-to-action stage is where you use the power of video marketing to convince viewers that they need what you’re offering. You want to end it with a clear statement of how they can get in touch with you, buy your product/service, or sign up for your service.

Factors that Affect Explainer Video Length

Many factors can affect the length of your explainer video, especially when you’re writing your video’s script. Here are some of the factors that are likely to affect your video explainer length:

  • Your Video Topic

The type of explainer video you’re planning to create will have a direct effect on the length of your video. For example, it would take longer to explain technical concepts in an explainer video than a product demonstration video.

  • Product or Service Complexity

The more complex your product or service is, the longer an explainer video should be. If you’re offering simple products/services like food, clothes, and electronic devices – keep your videos short to avoid confusing viewers with too much text and unnecessary details.

  • Your Video Audience’s Needs

Before writing the script for your explainer video, think about the needs of your target audience. For example, if you’re targeting teenagers and young adults, keep your script simple; it shouldn’t take more than 90 seconds to get the point across.

  • Your Video Format

You can choose between various types of presentations like live-action, whiteboard animation, 2D character animation, and 3D character animation. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Select the type that best suits your product/service.

  •  Industry Standards for Video Length

Each industry has established standards to help you determine the ideal explainer video length. For example, videos for financial companies should be short because viewers will be looking to gain as much knowledge as they can in the shortest time possible.

So, no fluff and overstretched intros. 

  • Your Video’s Purpose

Explainer videos for sales and product demonstrations should be shorter than explainer videos created for branding and awareness purposes. The former requires you to offer all the necessary details, while the latter focuses on building brand awareness.

Your Video’s Role: To Be Brief, Or Not to Be-Brief?

When it comes to explainer video length, there is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your video’s purpose and the type of product/service you offer. Many factors affect explainer video length. Use the factors listed above to help you decide on an explainer video length that works for your business.

Debunking the Myth of a Perfect Explainer Video Length

We’ve analyzed data from HubSpot, Wistia, Animoto, and Vidyard. We’ve compared average explainer video length vs. engagement rates across different industries using our own company’s data. We’ve conducted surveys of businesses that have purchased an explainer video from us to determine what they thought of the length, perceived value for money, and whether or not they felt it was too long or short.

Finally, we’ve analyzed the data to determine how much impact explainer video length has on engagement rates. 

What we found surprised us – there’s nothing like the perfect explainer video length – long or short. Our conclusion? The best explainer video length for your business depends on many factors, including industry standards and what you’re offering to your target audience.

If you’re creating an explainer video for your business and want to determine the best length, we recommend testing different lengths and seeing which one works best. Remember that engagement rates might increase or decrease, depending on how long or short your explainer video is. So be ready to test out a few versions before deciding on a winner.

When to Go Short

By short, we mean explainer videos less than 2 minutes.

These tend to work best when announcing a new product feature, service, or launching a new product/service. Another reason is if your target audience is filled with quick decision-makers who don’t have the time to spare for anything that’s more than two minutes long. That might include app developers looking for design inspiration and the likes.

When to Go Longer

On the opposite end of the spectrum, going for a long explainer video length also has its share of advantages.

For example, you can use longer videos to showcase detailed demonstrations or tutorials about the features and benefits of a product/service. You could also create a ‘teaser video with more information about your brand, its mission statement etc. This way, viewers have the option of viewing the full explainer video if they’re interested.

When Not to Go Longer

Just because you have a great, compelling story about your business that doesn’t mean you need to go longer. If anything, it means you should figure out how to tell that story in less time. Otherwise, viewers might find themselves bored and not want to continue watching.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Social Media




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