The Age Of The 3-Second Ad Is Upon Us

"There will be three-second ad units some day.”

That was one of my favorite insights from yesterday's Mobile Insider Summit wrap-up -- focusing a day of programming on aspects of mobile video, Instagram and Vine. Ian Chee, chief strategy officer at MRY, said that as creatives moved away from the 15-second and 30-second ads that still dominate the desktop to mobile, the formats will shift and advertisers will develop new ways to tell stories in snapshots. He went on to emphasize how mobile video is different even across platforms on devices. The “culture” of Vine is different from that of Instagram or the app. “You have to adapt to the culture of the medium and not look at it as one thing. You will be ridiculed because Vine Viewers won't see these [videos] in the same way Instagram users will see it.”

Adobe's Tamara Gaffney added that the video makers often fail to appreciate the real implications of screen size, not only for length but for visual scale. “Creative teams work on ginormous screens, and it looks gorgeous.” Not so much on handhelds where the detail becomes microscopic.



Former CBS Interactive SVP Jason Kint cautioned publishers about undermining their user relationship with bad video experience. The app environment establishes a more intimate relationship between media brand and user than does a Web site. The negative impact that a bad app experience can have on the brand far outdistances whatever revenue you are getting from it. Mobile merits greater investment and care than the current business models seem to merit, in part because the down side to brand reputation can be that much greater here.

Our panel on Instagram and Vine explored further what the micro-video world of the future looks like. Ed O’Keefe, editor in chief of NowThisNews, said that the mobile video channels like Vine, Instagram, Facebook and even Snapchat have become the place where the video news service found its format and its traction. The original app experience with longer video news stories performed well, as it extended the formats the company had started on the Web. But when the NowThisNews clips were re-engineered and distributed through the social channels, things really took off. In fact, the company is now working with Facebook to share the learnings about nano-video formats that comes from 10,000 clips they have made in the last few years.  An especially interesting insight he shared is that short-short video needs to dispense with the normal story arc and put the most enticing and impactful image/information in those first two to three seconds.

Doner's ECD and Chief Innovation Officer Justin Smith said that immediacy of these channels is one of the key challenges to both the agency and the brand. Neither is used to moving this fast. “There is a tension when you just want to get it out,” he says. This is where the younger digital natives are invaluable within the organization. They are wired differently. “New creative don't draw a distinction between ideation and building something,” he says. Being faster and more efficient in building video will distinguish the agencies and even the brands that come out on top.

A number of these insights come together in the superb Vine videos from juice brand Bolthouse Farms. Their Director of Brand Engagement Pamela Naumes was with us, and explained that their mobile video and image strategy maps the brand to the medium and the practical needs of the customer. The Vine videos are 6-second juice drink recipes. The Instagram program has users snap any bottle of Bolthouse product to get back a coupon. The tactic goes far beyond just being on these platforms to have a presence. She believes it is giving the upstart juice company a way of competing against much larger and better funded rivals in the healthy juice space. Their approach drives purchase and expands engagement with the product itself.

All of the panelists agreed that the rise of the mobile nano-video format was not just about brevity. The channels underscored a future where users reject ads in certain venues altogether. Chee warned against kidding ourselves that we are being hipper and more native than we really are. “Ads are not content,” he said. Stop pretending or deluding ourselves into thinking they are. Trying to pitch people on these channels is a dead end. Better not to be there at all than risk the ill will engendered by transparent attempts to reformat the 30-second spot. 

5 comments about "The Age Of The 3-Second Ad Is Upon Us".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, January 30, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.

    +1. I can see 3 second ads working. Long enough to make an impact and short enough that most people won't switch away.

  2. Adam Tuttle from _, January 30, 2014 at 10:42 a.m.

    Yes indeed. It's a new medium. Be creative and use shorter versions that match the market and the medium. Addroid makes it so easy.

  3. Sarah Prater from LIQWID, January 30, 2014 at 11:31 a.m.

    We have found that having a 3 second minimum view time on our campaigns works well. We have data showing that on most sites the content easily holds the attention of most viewers on the page for at least 3 seconds. The real beauty is in delivering a single 100% viewable and responsive LIQWID Ad unit to any device, any screen size AND at a minimum size or larger for 3 seconds or longer. Also, seeing that some publishers are delivering average view time of 23 or 36 seconds and how this effects performance is fascinating.

  4. Tim Berney from VI Marketing and Branding, February 5, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.

    If I may, my firm ( created the :04 television ad about 9 years ago for a very large independent energy firm. We wanted to drive home one short message showing our support for literacy and thereby supporting the corporate brand in the marketplace. It was serendipitous because we wanted to revive the old 10 o'clock announcement for that client- but with a different message than 'It's ten o'clock. Do you know where your children are?' Since that adjacency leading into the late news (that's 10:00 CST) is not available these days, we took the :04 that came down from the networks as a :64 and turned the :04 into a spot and revenue for the local affiliates. We took this idea to many local markets, starting from scratch each time because it was not part of their inventory. But today, the :04 local spot is being sold in scores of markets across the USA- long before Vine was even a a concept. Like every media asset, you have to use it for its strengths- which are prime placement and unique spot length. We have developed other media assets and tools in our 24 year existence. More @TimBerney and @TheVIBrand.

  5. Patrick Cardamone from The Cardamone Company, February 6, 2014 at 11:40 p.m.

    When I created Moviefone in 1987 the technology darling was Interactive Voice Response. We were ahead of the curve at the time by being the first company to sell 3 second ads for current movies that inbound callers heard before we gave them access to show location and show times. The film distributors ate it up. It was a big part of our bread and butter in the early days.
    - P. Cardamone / Los Angeles, CA.

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