There are a lot of things you can do in six seconds. TV commercials should not be one of them.
Here are just a few of the reasons why:
Any time TV networks try to change ad formats or lengths, there is one basic reason: money. If a network can charge half of a 30-second commercial for something that is only six seconds, they can reduce ad clutter and become significantly more profitable.
In an environment where commercial avoidance is easier than ever, making ads even shorter is not the solution. Roughly 40% of the typical original scripted prime-time series is not viewed live. I’ve conducted research that has shown commercial brand message recall is about three time greater for programs viewed live than on DVR. I have little doubt that this disparity would be even wider for six-second spots, which you wouldn’t even notice if you fast-forwarded through them.
If you are able to buy five six-second commercials scattered throughout a program, it could have more impact than a single 30-second commercial simply because five locations have a better chance of not being fast-forwarded than one. But paying more than one-fifth the cost of a 30-second commercial is ridiculous — until the networks can demonstrate the impact warrants a premium cost.
And impact does not mean eye-tracking, a dubious way of measuring attentiveness. It means people actually watching and remembering the message.
What works online, when you’re leaning forward watching YouTube and find any advertising to be intrusive, will not necessarily work well when you’re leaning back watching television. The two media are viewed very differently, even by younger viewers.
The argument that millennials in the YouTube generation have shorter attention spans, is the same rationale once used about the MTV generation. It was largely not true then, and it is largely not true now. Or rather, it has less to do with content duration than with the pace of the content. This might have some relevance for programming, but not for commercials (The idea that millennials do not have the attention span to sit through a 30-second commercial is nonsense, as anyone who has millennial children can attest.)
Six-second spots are essentially billboards. Their effectiveness might be limited to sports events, which are mostly viewed live, or teases/intros to longer spots later in the same program.
Experimenting with new ad formats is always a good thing. But there is not yet any compelling evidence as to how effective six-second TV commercials are relative to 15- or 30-second commercials – essential to justify any premium cost beyond one-fifth of a 30.