Is The Future Of Advertising The Six-Second Spot?

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."



12 comments about "Is The Future Of Advertising The Six-Second Spot?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 4, 2017 at 12:20 p.m.

    So if we take a typical TV commercial break which has, lets say 4 "30"s and 4 "15s" and this is all converted to 6-second spots that would translate into 30  6-second spots in that break-----if this length became the new "norm". I wonder what the attention span would be for the average 6-second announcement in such a situation? I also wonder how advertisers who actually have something to say---like a story or an explanation, for instance---unlike most cosmetics advertisers---could cram all of that into a 6-second message?

  2. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER replied, April 5, 2017 at 8:25 a.m.

    I think if memory serves Mars and BBDO attempted this in early 90s on college basketball games....spots of what appeared less than five seconds. I assumed that they considered that it didn't work. But I recall having a tremendous need for Snickers and One Musketeer.

  3. Gerard Broussard from Pre-Meditated Media, LLC, April 4, 2017 at 1:42 p.m.

    Hopefully, TV will retain longer-duration ads because of an already higher ad load than digital video, where there is usually one pre-roll ad potentially followed by a mid- and/or post roll.  TVision, a firm with a 1,500-home panel that measures face-to-screen attention using infrared cameras, has found that longer TV commercial pods tend to degrade viewer attention more than the number of ads within the pod.  Of course, the 3-minute, 30-spot scenario that Ed depicts is unprecedented and might likely spur viewers to reach for their remotes, smartphones or a snack.    

  4. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, April 4, 2017 at 1:52 p.m.

    6 seconds spots work, EP keep wondering.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 4, 2017 at 2:12 p.m.

    I see that LZ if off his medication---again. Sad.

  6. Rachel Rosenfeld from NA, April 4, 2017 at 11:18 p.m.

    I found this article interesting because just recently in my marketing class, we watched a video of a marketing researcher speaking about how 60 second commercials were a thing of the past. He mentioned how new advertisements must capture the audience in the first 5 seconds otherwise the viewer will skip or tune out the content. I agree that this is the new wave of advertising, because as a consumer, it has to take a very intriguing piece of content for me to NOT choose “skip”. L’Oreal is one of the first companies moving in the right direction and if consumers are truly interested in those 5 seconds, they will click to learn more. I have also noticed a lot of conversation about legal and brand policy issues floating around the digital marketing world, but with new evolving needs of consumers, it is normal to have growing pains issues at first. I believe that these shorter ads will allow the consumer to digest more content than before working as “less is more”. However, as a marketer creating this content, I can imagine it could be extremely challenging to decide what is important enough to showcase in just 6 seconds. This would be especially difficult for a new brand or a change to an existing brand because it simply is not enough time to share with the viewer what needs to be said. For those better-known companies that do have the ability to story tell in 6 seconds, these shorter ads will be successful on social media outlets like twitter and Instagram too. 

  7. John Grono from GAP Research, April 5, 2017 at 1:41 a.m.

    It reminds me of what one of Australia's best creatives used to say when I worked in a full service agency.

    Q. How do you make a great 30-scond ad?

    A. Take a 15-second ad ... and give it time to breathe.

    The truth is that all ads that are seen 'work' in some way.   It's just that some work better than others.   Call-to-action can work well in short-format but if you are brand-building longer is better (cet. par. and as a norm).

  8. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, April 5, 2017 at 10:17 a.m.

    For now, this is likely to be a digital - especially mobile based format, targeted as precisely as possible based on behvaioral and location signals derived from the device being targeted. It could be presented to someone on a beauty or hair care site or app, or who just landed on one and then  moved on. Six seconds can also work for OoH settings. Go past the retail drug - personal care store in the airport or train station, for example, and see the spot flash on the nearby digital billboard display, then perhaps also on your phone if it is on. Technically possible, value in terms of ROI still an open question. Collecting view and conversion data will guide the value determination.

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 5, 2017 at 12:29 p.m.

    It makes perfect sense to those who have some knowlege of how advertising functions, for very short, 'reminder", ads to "work" for brands with little to say in the first place---on digital platforms where attention spans are very low. However, this limitation relegates platforms like mobile to secondary or support status for most brands with something a tad more complex than L'Oreal's message to tell to consumers. When advertisers pushed the TV networks to sell 15-second commercials at half the CPMs of "30s" it was assumed that everyone would soon switch to the shorter, more "efficient", units, especially since their recall value was about 70% as high as "30s". But the evidence soon mounted that recall did not necessarily equate with persuasiveness and getting the brand's complete message across, so most TV advertisers continue to rely on "30s" to state their case, often using "15s" to remind those who saw the longer ads of their exposure. And sometimes, stand alone "15s" proved effective---but, as I said, mainly when the basic claim or message is extremely simple. Thinking that 6-second ads might become the new standard for TVadvertisers---assuming that the ad sellers would even allow it----- is dreamy at best.

  10. Bob Gordon from The Auto Channel, April 5, 2017 at 3:27 p.m.

    once again nothing new an account exec for WCBS in New York I developed and sold 5 second time check spots ... "its 5:50 a great time to go see Deep Throat (or whatever)" the message is direct coimplete and takes advantage of any top of mind awareness the product has already earned. On to today... video prerolls are in effect 6 seconds or less as the virtualy alll viewers opt out immediatly...the editorial context in which an advertising message is delivered is the difference between success and failure of that ad... 

  11. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group replied, April 5, 2017 at 4:01 p.m.

    Right Bob, I even remember doing that in my (way back) early radio sales days...sell time/weather checks. OK for brand awareness/reminders...but not so hot for messaging.  Have noticed however some sponsors are book-ending in same spot pod, 15 or 30 in first position, 5-10 in last.  

  12. Ann Scholhamer from Brenda Borri Company, April 6, 2017 at 1:58 p.m.

    :10 national video spots are available on a variety of network and syndicated programs offering advertisers efficient linear opportunities in a safe environment.

    These often have premium placement adjacent to show content and many closed captioning sponsorships, which offer additional benefits for clients to promote their socially conscious marketing values. At Brenda Borri Company, we work with many well-known advertisers who help build their brands using :10s, and who continue to use this linear television to sidestep clutter AND deliver messages in a world of shrinking viewer attention spans.

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