Unskippable,Too: YouTube Touts New 6-Second Ad

Here comes a disruptor. YouTube says it will begin offering advertisers six-second-long Bumpers starting next month, allowing brands to get in and and get out quickly before YouTube videos. It seems like a perfect little chunk of time coming before YouTube videos that users access via mobile phones.

It sounds especially perfect to YouTube, I’d imagine.

But a couple of things: Unlike many YouTube ads, you can’t skip these little buggers -- which, all things considered, is quite a big change in the constellation. YouTube’s TrueView perfected the skippable ad, which was touted as this liberating way for consumers to call the commercial shots -- and to let YouTube charge advertisers after viewers saw just five seconds. Ads have always been skippable, of course, except Change The Channel, Quick was probably never copyrighted, or monetizable.

Not so, Bumpers. YouTube Product Manager Zach Lupei, in a blog post, said YouTube had been looking for an ad format to go along with the kind of “snackable” video viewing smartphones uses are prone to, and from that, Bumpers was born. They will be sold through the AdWords auction on a CPM basis, and Lupei wrote that they are “ideal for driving incremental reach and frequency.”

“Given the succinct nature of the format, we’ve seen Bumper ads work best when combined with a TrueView or Google Preferred campaign,” Lupei wrote. “In early tests, Bumpers drove strong lift in upper funnel metrics like recall, awareness and consideration. We also see that Bumpers work well to drive incremental reach and frequency when paired with a TrueView campaign.”

I don’t know how much research went into this -- I’m always amazed when brands conduct research to discover “hidden” keys to consumer preference and discover that things like “taste” and “quality” are right up there. It would seem if YouTube were looking for an ad format designed for mobile viewers, short ads, at the beginning, would be kind of, um...obvious.

The six seconds also seems familiar, right? When Vine began with its six-second videos, people did find that length a little odd. Now that it exists, not so much. But in the short life of Vine -- it only hit the mass market in 2013 -- it was first considered novel. Now, as more social network sites have emerged, its value as an ad vehicle has diminished. Adweek reported late last year that in a review of 40 major brands, Vine’s presence had become negligible.

But on YouTube, where those same six seconds front for (somewhat) longer content, six seconds could seem just right. And if so, the viewing clout of YouTube could quickly turn those six-second Bumpers into the new normal, as much as I hate to write “the new normal.”

Already, Lupei wrote, Atlantic Records-artists Rudimental used Bumper ads to flash images of famous rock artists appearing on its new second album. Audi used Bumper ads to introduce its new Q car series, using a bunch of “Q” words to show off its attributes, and piggy-back to Audi’s more-conventional TrueView ads.

“We like to think of Bumper ads as little haikus of video ads -- and we’re excited to see what the creative community will do with them,” Lupei wrote. Indeed. After Tuesday night’s primary results I had nightmares imagining the damage Donald Trump could do with six seconds of prime offensive space.

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