L'Oreal has seen the future of advertising and it's six seconds, according to Marie Gulin-Merle, CMO, L'Oreal USA, who spoke at the 4As Transformation Conference in Los Angeles on Monday.
"We come from a world with universal standards [e.g., 30- and 60-second ads], and we are starting to see new emerging standards," says Gulin-Merle. The six-second spot is a "great canvas. It is both short and long enough. You can grab attention without risking it being skipped, but it is long enough to tell a story."
One key challenge with this shorter time frame is crafting narratives that evoke emotion, she says. It's a mistake to take a 15-second clip and just cut it down to six seconds. "You lose value when go to 15 [seconds] and [then try to] make it fit into six."
Rather, L'Oreal treats each ad as its own separate narrative instead of simply repurposing the content over multiple lengths. The beauty brand's "On The Go" digital campaign, for instance, included a short invitation from model Gigi Hadid to visit clips online and find out more about the "Wing Effect."
Online clips included five-second, 15-second and 30-second clips with completely different narratives.
"The canvas is massively expanding," says Gulin-Merle, adding the proper orchestration of these various components has never been "more important."
It remains to be seen whether TV will accept these shorter messages. For her part, Gulin-Merle hopes this format will soon migrate to TV, as she believes it will "unleash new creativity."
L'Oreal's transition from a more traditional advertiser rooted in print and TV has been driven by digital content. And the biggest players within this space remain Google and YouTube, despite recent controversies over brand safety.
"We are working to make offerings better," says Tara Walpert Levy, VP agency solutions, Google and YouTube, during the same presentation with L'Oreal.
Google and YouTube have already introduced stronger content packaging and viewability standards, and now the focus has shifted towards brand safety, says Walpert Levy. "We are tightening policies," including strengthening enforcement over flagged content. "We know we must and will do better."
There is the question of whether advertisers are getting ahead of consumers when it comes to ad length. While brands may be increasingly embracing shorter clips, the top 10 most popular ads still average nearly two minutes, says Walpert Levy.
One solution, as L'Oreal illustrates with its Hadid campaign, may be separate and varying time frames that collectively form a cohesive narrative but stand individually. Don't think of six seconds and two minutes as the same thing, says Gulin-Merle. "They may be two relatives that share the same last name, but they don't have a lot in common."