Ashley Parker in the October 5th edition of the New York Times wrote an article entitled Digital Ads Sell Candidates and Causes in 15 second Bursts.” She writes:

“Fifteen seconds is not a lot of time in this world of political advertising to make a compelling statement or share a riveting candidate story. But in the attention – deficit era of politics, with voters consuming more and more news on mobile devices, campaigns and the groups supporting them are devoting significant resources and energy to the micro ads that dominate the digital landscape. The result is an explosion of shorter, attention grabbing spots that have made political messaging all the more blunt and, at times, creative.”

The article points out that on television advertisers have more time to present a “hook” to capture a viewer but in the social digital world it is a matter of milliseconds. Therefore one has to be much more creative visually and with a very tight message with a hook that’s upfront to be successful.

The IAB research Council undertook a study of video advertising campaigns for a national retail brand. The findings of the study include the following:

  • 15 seconds appears to be in operable link for digital video. Five second spots had trouble conveying a message; while 32nd spots risk turning off a viewer waiting to watch something else.
  • 32nd spots too well at conveying a complex or emotionally resonant message, but work best in places where longer messages are appropriate.

The New York Times article says that while there is no single formula for success there is an agreement on several basic rules for grabbing voters attention. First is frontloading the ad by placing the most important message in the first few seconds. It is important that there are dynamic visuals, eye-catching graphics and compelling music to help attract at to and keep attention. The content that works best in shorter form is content that smart, funny and inviting. In addition, just like television, the article points out that content reigns supreme. As one political consultant is quoted as saying in the article: “you can make any 15 second ad you want, but if they’re boring, and people are just overwhelmed with the amount of advertising out there, then they’re not going to stick out. That is part of the blessing and the curse of the actual ad format online. ”

Certainly it makes a difference as to the generation the listener or viewer falls into. The short attention span is most common among the younger generation who have largely abandoned printed newspapers and printed books for all things Internet and digital. They even prefer to watch television not on television sets or large screens but on various digital devices.

However, it seems clear that almost all Americans have come to expect and demand brief to the point information. They want sound bite information. They expect the news headlines to be a minute and a half in length with visual. They want the information upfront in the first paragraph and are not inclined to read the background information.

Retail sellers and politicians are usually the first to realize a change in how to communicate with customers and voters.Those of us in the trial profession seem to be the last to be willing to change our communication style to meet the demands of the people who end up on our jury. We continue to do what we’ve always done which is to talk too much, too long and being too complicated. Applying these lessons of brevity and attention getting opening to communication is foreign to our training and our belief that people are intellectually analyzing the information we are presenting. In the meantime politicians and marketing experts apply the research by accommodating the present demands of their listeners. They do this through communications which attracts attention and appeals to the subconscious impressions that really persuade all of us.

As trial lawyers we need to consider the demonstrative evidence we present to see if it conforms to the expectations of the 15 second digital ad. We need to talk to jurors with these ideas in mind during jury selection and make opening statements that are evaluated from the standpoint of this new information. When we present our witnesses and when we cross-examine witnesses we should have these ideas in mind. Our trial communications should be in conformity with  research about today’s juror expectations in communications. A bored jury is not usually a friendly and generous jury. A bored jury is one that has stopped listening long before the end of the trial.

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