Six-Second Ads: It's All About The Context

Six-second ads have become commonplace in digital video advertising -- securing prime placements on social networks like Facebook and Snapchat, video services like YouTube, and even on traditional linear television.

And yet it is still early days for the short-form ad genre, and where it fits into media plans is still very much up for debate. At Advertising Week, New York, a panel of executives discussed the topic. 

One big takeaway is that context is key. Six-second ads work best when placed alongside other content that makes sense, and as part of larger media buys.

They are a particularly powerful tool for brand recall, and if a brand has some sort of iconography (whether a logo, a signature sound or color -- i.e., T-Mobile’s magenta color-way), it can be effective in driving home that message.

The big benefit is that these shorter ads can be a way to hold a user’s attention at a time when media consumption is ever more fragmented.

“Everyone is looking for the next thing to really grab that split-second attention,” Rachel Bien, senior VP of strategy for Blue 449 USA, said during the panel. “This is going to be the next phase of how we grab that split-second attention as people are multitasking.”

Of course, for marketers, it also means rethinking how an ad works. Thirty-second ads may seem like a luxurious length to tell a story by comparison.

“Generally stories have protagonists and heroes and narrative arcs,” said Stacy Minero, head of content creation for Twitter. “[In six second ads] You can land a key message, you can showcase a key feature or product benefit if you are laser-focused.”

That also means not just relying on cut-downs of longer ads. 

“Most of what you need to convey can actually happen in five or six seconds, even if the ad is 30 seconds," added Adam Singolda, founder and CEO of Taboola.

Kaitlin McGirl, creative strategy lead for Snap, said that taking one piece of content “and trying to retrofit it to lots of platforms or mediums” is not going to be the most effective approach. Sometimes a gif or still image could be more effective than an entire video.

One of the issues facing these ads is that their efficacy is still unproven. Bien cited a study showing that right now these ads are placed in prime ad slots — particularly on TV — which positions them for success. How they will perform when they become a more regular part of the media mix remains less clear.

Singolda, meanwhile, noted that traditional metrics for success don’t necessarily make sense for the format. For example, completion rates for six-second ads are significantly higher than longer ads, but that may not necessarily mean the same thing that it would for longer ads.

“The bad-ish reason for why six seconds is better is that it looks like it is performing better,” he said. “I am not sure if it performs better, but it looks like it does.”

5 comments about "Six-Second Ads: It's All About The Context".
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  1. Fei Guo from Pace, October 2, 2018 at 9:57 p.m.

    Great ideas about short-form ads!
    Check out the Future of Mobile in 2019 with Randi Priluck on the #MobileWatch report from @AdAgeIndia.

    #mobilemarketing #digitaladvertising

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 3, 2018 at 4:30 p.m.

    There are questions other than the ability of very short commercials to convey effective and motivating messages, not just reminders of longer ads.For example how would such short ads be placed on the networks and cable channels if they became commonplace---as some think is possible. Would the short ads appear only in short breaks with other short ads---or would they be submerged with "15s" and "30s" in much longer breaks that contain 10-15 separate messages? And what would the sellers charge for the short breaks? Would they go with the same formula as with "15s"---basing their CPMs on the amount of time  in the ad? Or would the sellers insist on substantial CPM premiums for 6-second ad buyers? And how would "audiences" be tallied? Does anyone seriously believe that Nielsen knows whether anyone is watching an average minute of commercial time--the current rating currency? How will Nielsen come up with a credible per- commercial "audience" projection for 6-second spots?

    Most likely the issues raised above, will never be resolved and the major stumbling block will probably be questions about ad effectiveness. I doubt that for most branding campaigns that 6-second spots can serve as anything but as low cost reminders---providing that they are made available in a manner and at a price that makes such usage cost effective. Sure, there may be some exceptions---but these won't make the rule.

  3. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, October 3, 2018 at 7:07 p.m.

    If you are looking for keywords, "Sweepstakes" and "Contest" have been and will continue to be the best attention getter. When you offer a sweep as part of the advertising campaign, this will get you the clicks you are seeking.  Yes, you can pretty up a ad and make it look great, but it is still reputation of the brand and contents that sells in any ad.

  4. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate, October 5, 2018 at 10:17 a.m.

    Anyone bother to check if anyone is actually airing six second ads on tv after the intitial hype?

    I did. In the last 6 months on the five major broadcast networks,  2 six second ads have aired out of 240,000 total spots (both for for Subway).

  5. Rain Bennett from Flying Flounder, Inc. replied, October 31, 2018 at 4:36 p.m.

    Didn't some air during the World Series this year?  I wasn't able to watch but I heard that they did (could have been 15 second ads...).

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