“Don’t tell them how the watch is made, tell them what time it is.” That’s an old marketing-communications axiom that’s as true for direct marketing as it is for landing page copy an explainer video.

When it comes to helping people understand your business, product or service, less is more. In today’s world, people don’t have time to sit through long videos. They don’t have the interest in understanding the intricacies of an issue. And they have too many other mediums crying out for their attention to devote time and focus to one specific explainer video.

It’s the reason journalists write their stories so a fourth-grade student can understand them. It’s the reason the top-viewed videos on YouTube are short, simple and sweet. And it’s the reason your explainer video needs to get in, get its point across and get out.

Keeping your explainer video short

How much time would you spend watching an online video about a company? Three minutes? Four, five or six minutes? How about 60 seconds? One minute – that’s how long an effective video should be. Shorter and you won’t have time to tell your audience what they need to know. Longer and you’ll lose your audience to a different blog, video or tweet. Think about this for a few seconds: According to the Associated Press, the average attention span is eight seconds. So you’re probably thinking: Shouldn’t my explainer video be eight seconds long, then?

No, one minute is right – if you hook your audience early with something sweet.

Keeping your explainer video sweet

Have you ever clicked on an online video, only to have the first 10 seconds entirely devoted to branding–a logo appears on the screen and nothing happens, a mildly clever piece of animation appears or worse, nothing happens?Frustrating, isn’t it? Chances are, you clicked away before the video even got started. Remember, the average attention span is eight seconds. If you don’t give your viewers something sweet right off the bat, you’re going to lose them. That means hitting them with something clever and engaging them with the voiceover from the first frame–ask a question, share an “a-ha” statistic or fact that will blow their mind, tell them that your company is all about them. Think of your explainer video as entertainment. Delight your audience. Tickle their funny bones. Surprise them. Give them something they can’t get on any of the other 5 billion internet videos. Okay, maybe that’s asking a bit much, but at least make your video interesting right from the start.

Think of it as a television commercial. In fact, watch a little TV tonight and pay close attention to the commercials. How do they start? How long does it take the best to engage you? Which ones could you see promoting your company? Find them. Emulate them. And you’ll have a good video.

Keeping your explainer video simple

You know that friend of yours who has a pretty interesting story to tell but goes in to entirely too much detail. By the time he gets to the point, you’ve stopped listening? Don’t be that guy. Keep it simple. Know with precision what your key messages are. Figure out how to explain them to a nine-year-old. Don’t worry about the fact that you have a lot more information to share. Of course later, after you’ve already hooked your audience with your initial video. In the end, people will spend more time watching videos  just not the initial video.

Remember, keep your explainer video short, sweet and simple.