Shorter really can be sweeter in the ad industry. Just ask the host of TV networks and social platforms betting big on these bite-sized, six-second ads right now.
Video advertising’s answer to the tweet is sweeping across Adland at the moment – and with very good reason. They not only work for brands and publishers but also today’s time-poor consumers, particularly younger audiences.
The average attention span of consumers has dwindled in recent years to just 8 seconds – shorter than a goldfish’s – with recent research carried out by Realeyes and the FreeWheel Council finding that digital natives are four times more likely to engage with videos that are fewer than 10 seconds long.
So the six-second ad format is much more in step with today’s unforgiving attention economy.
Shorter formats are also perfect for mobile – with our research (in the chart below) finding that smartphone users are 26% more likely to be emotionally engaged by the shorter format than desktop viewers.
The shorter duration of the format is also good news for advertisers and media owners concerned with low completion rates and is ideal for popular social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.
But can you tell a story within six seconds?
In today’s climate of limited attention spans, the fickle finger of fate is inevitably poised, waiting to stab any ‘Skip’ button that gets in the way of the viewing experience. When a viewer wants to watch a quick clip, even a 15-second ad can feel disproportionate.
So can you tell a story that will engage viewers in such a short time period? Of course, author Ernest Hemingway once won a bet by being able to write a story in just six words: “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”
But then Hemingway is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, famous for his minimalist writing style. Being able to pack that much emotion into six short seconds is a feat that will challenge even the most creative of marketers.
However, our study – run in conjunction with the FreeWheel Council – found that six-second ads can pack three times more emotional punch per second than longer formats (below).
Less really can be more. So get creative! If you are looking for inspiration, YouTube recently challenged creative agencies from around the world to give a modern slant on classic fairytales using a variety of short and long-form video content. The results were incredible and definitely worth a look.
Generally, however, you need time to build a story. Having measured thousands of videos, we know that usually the longer the duration, the stronger the emotional engagement. So longer ads certainly have their value in terms of storytelling, while the limitation of the six-second duration presents an interesting challenge for advertisers.
Essentially, six-second ads work best when added to longer form content – not as a replacement for them. According to our research, they are 43% more emotionally engaging when placed alongside longer premium video formats, so think of them as smaller pieces of a larger puzzle. That way, they can be so much more than just a cut-down.
Brevity can be very effective, but it’s not about cutting down a longer story to an abbreviated version that becomes hard to decipher as a result.
They grab attention, which makes them ideal for starting a customer on a campaign journey or alternatively used to trigger the memory of a previously-shown longer ad.
Six second videos are much more effective as a follow-up to drive home a specific message after being primed by other ads from the same campaign (see chart below).
The following video features some examples of how brands have used Snapchat’s six-second format.
As you can see, Giffgaff uses the format to kick off a campaign journey, with the creative completely focused on the call-to-action to “swipe up”. Emotionally, the audience gets it. It’s a positive experience.
Whereas the responses to the Hellman’s ad, which is a lot more audibly and visually busy, are a lot more negative.
Overall, marketers need to look at the bite-sized format as a complement to their overall marketing mix, giving their video campaigns breadth and freshness, not just a cheaper alternative to longer ads.
The secret to an effective six-second campaign is embracing the immediacy of the format and making a feature out of the constraint – making every second count.