Commentary

Six Second Ads Require New Storytelling Format

According to a Digiday report, presented by Lucia Moses. Fox Networks Group announced it would start supporting the six-second unskippable ad format, following YouTube’s example. David Levy, Fox Networks Group’s EVP of nonlinear revenue, said the company has gotten a positive response from advertisers, with some starting to create ads of that length.

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Earlier this year, says the report, Facebook began inserting short ads in the middle of publishers’ videos. That followed news from Google that it would get rid of its 30-second, unskippable pre-roll ads on YouTube, and push its six-second unskippable ads. But even in 2017, says the report, many advertisers are still focused on the 30-second spot and aren’t set up to adapt to all the new formats, agencies and publishers say.

“The introduction of new formats is theoretically good news for publishers desperate to make money off the content they distribute on the platforms, but it’s hard to shoot a storyline that is adaptable to a variety of formats and lengths, and expensive to produce ads that are just for one format or platform,” said Lisa Cucinotta, VP of accounts at Adaptly, which helps advertisers scale their campaigns across social media.

Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, says “Change in the ad ecosystem takes time. Six seconds requires an entirely new storytelling mode. Thirties are still common on TV, so they make their way into the digital ecosystem frequently.”

But Greg Manago, co-president of Mindshare Content + Entertainment in North America, said his agency’s preference is to shoot a campaign for each platform and format from the start, which can cost anywhere from 10 to 20% more than taking a 30-second spot and recutting it.

It’s not just the skills and expense that’s the issue, says the report. The creative ecosystem has been built around the 30-second TV spot and, more recently, the 15-second spot. The investment is both financial and emotional. And publishers need the money so they take them and repurpose them as pre-roll.

“I think there’s still a mentality of, ‘Don’t take away our 15s,’” Mallin said. “They don’t really love the idea of taking that content and versioning it. So it becomes this push and pull, says the report. A six-second ad may be more audience-friendly,” Noah Mallin, managing partner of MEC Wavemaker, said, “but it isn’t often the first thing that comes to mind when the client’s thinking about a big idea.”

It’s a mentality agencies are trying to change. “I’m sure there are some frustrated creatives who want to create the feature film, but there’s a great way you can communicate in GIFs,” Manago said.

Change is happening, though, says the report. In June, Fox Networks Group announced it would start supporting the six-second unskippable ad format, following YouTube’s example. David Levy, Fox Networks Group’s EVP of nonlinear revenue, said the company has gotten a positive response from advertisers, with some starting to create ads of that length.

Levy concludes that “while the six-second format is good for reaching people at the top and bottom of the purchase funnel, longer formats are still needed to explain a product’s benefits.” For that reason, he doesn’t think that the 30-second spot will go extinct anytime soon. “You need different types of attention to communicate a message to a consumer,” he said.

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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 21, 2017 at 9:50 a.m.

    Six second spots are not going to represent the main communications platform for branding advertisers except for those few who have very little to say. Which means that six-second spots will probably not draw the big bucks that some anticipate unless other action is taken. If digital wants to capture a major share of TV branding spending, it needs to figure out how to format its content with what amount to commercial breaks that acomodate not just 6-second ads, but longer, more effective units. Also, digital audiences need to be conditioned to accept breaks at regular intervals in the content they are perusing as the price to pay for having access to said content---just like the same people are accustomed to doing when watching commercial TV. Some may not like it and opt out, others may not pay attention to the ads---just like TV-----but if the content is worthwhile enough, many will watch the ads often enough to attract major advertiser spending. So what's needed is a lot more engaging content and a major effort to acclimate consumers to at least accept commercial breaks in the content that can include not only very short ads but longer ones that tell a more complete story for the advertiser.

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