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The Bane of the Video Generation

  |  February 1, 2008   |  Comments

Is online video the ultimate solution for the advertiser who wants to cram as much as possible into an ad?

We've been watching events unfold on TV for a long time. Over the last 50 years, a large amount of television programming has been archived, though much may never make it online.

And that's OK. We don't have to relive everything that was ever done in a video, kinescope, or HD format. In fact, most of what's been on video is fairly uninteresting or just plain banal.

Yet here it is, that form of communication that slyly worked its way into our homes and just about everywhere else, making it possible for us to spend time ignoring our environment. Remember portable TVs? It's a format that has delivered more visual information to more people in the history of the world. Though cause for debate, the Internet is probably fast approaching that mark on some scoreboard somewhere.

We can all see the good in how humanity can share hope, joy, and grief in our terrestrial video play. But what about the other times when the TV is on and things aren't so notable?

This form of communal ignorance is guised in the form of entertainment. A few decades ago, entertainment was long form, aptly based on classical techniques and practices: the three-act play, the soliloquy, subtext, and the story arc.

That isn't to say these kinds of practices are outdated. But in some ways, we're seeing the multitasking populous with its frenetic attention span influence the art of visual storytelling.

Have you ever watched "CSI"? Maybe most of you have. But the first time I did a short time ago, I felt like I'd regressed to a 9-year-old sugar freak. Not that it's a horrible program, but I wouldn't recommend it to a Shakespeare fanatic.

Online video is here, and it's changed the consumption of dramatic, comedic, and tragic content into bite-sized pieces. If you prefer subtlety and nuance in storytelling, online video won't do. This new language is designed for the "sound-bite generation," for whom a story must be told in 30 seconds or less.

Is video, then, the ultimate solution for the advertiser who wants to cram as much as possible into an ad? Does the new generation of consumers who consume video provide a gateway for higher message consumption?

As much as the hopeful might want to think so, that trend won't last for very long.

Some TV ad studies show that only 5 percent of people fully pay attention to TV advertising. No matter how funny and how good, the ad's got a small chance of getting exposure. Combine that fact with the multitasking nature of online viewers, and that fraction is reduced even more.

No matter what you think the next best thing will be online, remember short attention spans are fleeting like the wind. Just because you can say it punchier and in less time doesn't mean anybody will be listening.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dorian Sweet

Dorian Sweet is the vice president and executive creative director of GSI Interactive who leads strategic development and innovation in online advertising, Web development, e-commerce, and customer relationship management programs. His work has brought award-winning online solutions to such clients as Clorox, Miller Brewing Company, GE, Visa, eBay, British Airways, Wells Fargo, Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, Sears, 20th Century Fox, and others.

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