The Age Of The 5-Second Hook

For decades the commercial – or “spot,” in industry parlance – remained fundamentally constant in format. Advertisers typically had 30 seconds to grab the audience’s attention and achieve their campaign goals. While creating an effective commercial is far from easy, the technicalities in video advertising were certainly simpler.

At the advent of online video, the digital medium was understood by few and utilized properly by even fewer. Typically, a 15- or 30-second TV spot would be re-used in rich-media banners and other placements.  Digital was seen as just another tactic in a larger advertising campaign, and an afterthought when it came to commercial production.

While TV still generally reigns supreme for ultimate scale and reach, the times are changing. In the past few years, online video has exploded in popularity and is being far better monetized. In fact, according to eMarketer, digital ad spending will overtake TV by 2018. That means more and more opportunity for advertisers to reach their audience online, as well as a whole new set of considerations when creating commercials and branded content.



The 5-Second Hook is a simple concept, but an entirely new consideration for advertisers. The rise of native advertising and YouTube’s TrueView has made the “skip” button a ubiquitous artifact in online video viewing. As more and more publications have attempted to monetize content online (especially in the shrinking print industry), the use of interstitial video ads has exploded.

Typically, the user has to watch at least 5 seconds of video before being allowed to skip. This little window of time is precious. And a TV spot made to be played in a full 30 seconds may not do the job. Advertisers need to consider these first 5 seconds and either plan for it in their main spots, or create alternate cuts for these placements.

 In the best-case scenario, you’ve created an introductory 5 seconds that’s so interesting, so alluring, so amusing that your audience simply can’t help themselves. They must watch. Some brands have gotten clever with it, creating ads that parody the skip button, or directly address the skip button while breaking the 4th wall.

However, in most cases your commercial is usually going to get skipped, no matter how interesting your content is. So make those 5 seconds effective. Make sure the viewer moves on with at least an impression of your brand or campaign.

Advances in technology have made considerations when creating a spot that much more daunting. Even outside streaming and online video, there’s other challenges that technology has presented us in advertising. For example, rampant DVR usage has created the need to consider how a spot looks when being skipped, necessitating “key frames” that allow a message or brand imprint to resonate during fast-forward.

To be more effective advertisers in the age of the 5-second hook, brands must begin campaign planning by acknowledging and embracing these new challenges.


3 comments about "The Age Of The 5-Second Hook".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Joel Rubinson from Rubinson Partners, Inc., April 17, 2014 at 3:56 p.m.

    It is an illusion that marketers once had 30 seconds to tell their story. Viewer boredom was harder to observe but always there. I think the 5 second skip is the marketers best friend to finally combat self-indulgent creatives and marketing teams caught up in the artistry of a story arc that consumers couldn't care less about. Enrobe your story by telling 'em your brand right away and then remind them.

  2. Nick Koutsopoulos from Cronin & Company, April 18, 2014 at 7:27 a.m.

    Its amazing that the industry is still lagging behind with more common short form placement. If you think about radio which has been a traditionally fragmented medium, the :02 adlet has been around for a handful of years as that channel recognized that whether or not your a "P1" listener; channel surfing is inevitable. ... With DVR penetration at scale its ridiculous for any media buyer/planner to think that a :30 should still be a rule of thumb. Moreover new ways to cut through the clutter whether that's cross-platform or new creative executions like "imprinting" through fast-forward, the model is going to change. Although let's not forget programmatic will likely help reduce some abandonment with addressable messages - still advertisers have to rethink their TV buying strategy.

  3. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, April 20, 2014 at 5:56 a.m.

    @Joel. Exactly. The difference now is that people have more alternative activities while they wait for the ad to finish.

Next story loading loading..