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.”