Making it to the fourth second

Fun Fact . . . If the lifespan of the Earth was condensed into 24 hours, then the time that mankind has spent on this Earth represents only three seconds. But look at all the damage we have caused. This is the premise for the winner of Film4Climate’s global video competition. But more than powerfully convey an important environmental message, this video also contains some very clever insights into turning something educational into entertainment.

In our era of hyper-connected information overload, it is incredibly difficult to get any potential audience to pay attention to a piece of art, an educational message or basically any message that isn’t specifically crafted for them. In fact, Facebook measures every person who spends three seconds on a video as a view. Seriously? What is anyone going to pick up in three seconds? But much like this video pleads to help get humanity to the fourth second, how do you get them to the fourth second of your message.

The winning entry in the Film4Climate video competition provides some insight into this:

  1. We’ve already set out attention span

When communicating a message you need to work with the limits that are outside your control. And the most important of those is time. Our attention span has been set and constantly reinforced due to one thing. Music. Our attention span quite happily sits around the 4 minute mark. We are used to paying attention to a song which runs for 4 minutes and rewarded by something new to listen to at the end of that four minute chunk. So while Al Gore’s seminal classic ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ may be important, it is too long to communicate with today’s minds.

This video? 4 minutes and 18 seconds.

  1. Delivery is everything

There is nothing that will put an audience to sleep quicker than an insipid delivery. Scientists are great, but communication skills are not something which are widely found throughout that industry. If Hamilton has taught us anything this year it is that rap works. Rap manages to take a tedious, detail-filled subject and turn it into a catchy series of beats which make us listen and predict the next rhyming line while also giving us a neat, little mnemonic device to remember important phrases.

This video? Rapping its way through complex science

  1. We are visual creatures

Kids these days don’t grow up with radio. They don’t grow up with CDs, tapes or LPs either (well, hipsters do, but let’s not count them at the moment). If they are watching a song, chances are they either have the cover in front of them on their Spotify app or are watching the music video on YouTube. Apart from that, radio has been replaced by on-demand television, movies and the incredulous rise of YouTube. Facebook and Instagram are even surging ahead of Twitter thanks to a highly-visual design at the expense of text. If you have a meaningful message, then you need to have meaningful imagery.

This video? Like they say, a picture tells a thousand words.

Using these three simply techniques, this video has managed to inspire a much stronger call to action and a memorable experience than many attempts that have come before. But they aren’t limited to only this subject matter. These should be rules that every content creator should live by to make content that is meaningful, impactful, memorable and powerful because it will get the audience to the fourth second.