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The Six-Second Ad: Here To Stay Or Gone In The Blink Of An Eye?

Last year YouTube unveiled the 6-second mobile ad, described by YouTube as “little haikus of video ads.”  Shortening attention spans, the consumption of media on handheld devices, and an expectation for content-on-demand has brought us here.  While brevity points to the future of advertising, it’s fair to ask whether six seconds is enough time for truly meaningful content, or just enough time for entertaining content.  It seems that more and more, media companies are betting on both, or at least the probability that advertisers and consumers will see it that way.  

  Cannes Liones Festival of Creativity 2017
Cannes Liones Festival of Creativity 2017

At this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Fox Networks Group and Google’s YouTube announced Fox’s decision to adopt the 6-second ad across their digital and on-demand platforms.  The move includes the possibility of selling the 6-second content to traditional television advertisers after a few months of initial testing.  Fox Networks Group is the first television broadcaster to adopt the format.  

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, David Levy, Executive Vice President of Nonlinear Revenue at Fox Networks Group states, “We’re getting to a place where there’s just too much noise and people are seeking environments where there is a lot less clutter.”  Levy argues that 6-second ads aim to drive content to consumers without wasting time:  “How do we get more efficient with consumers’ time and attention?  Everything you see us invest in has that as a backdrop and premise.”  

  FOX, YouTube, Getty Images
FOX, YouTube, Getty Images

And, that may be the case, but can an unskippable six second blitz make an impact and transform the way advertising content is made?  Mark Duffy, a freelance copywriter and blogger, thinks the answer is yes, and with good reason.  This past May, just weeks ahead of the Cannes Lions Festival, Duffy shared his thoughts about the condensed ad format in Digiday:  “It’s a great opportunity to create greatness – as long as you have the right creative.”  He also took it upon himself to come up with some delightfully brief content hacks for well known brands, including Chipotle, Coors, and Clorox.  

For Tara Walpert Levy, Vice President of Agency and Media Relations at Google and YouTube, six seconds is the sweet spot for keeping eyes on an ad.  “Since we piloted this format last fall, we’ve seen on YouTube that six seconds is both long enough and short enough – it’s great for on-the-go users who appreciate the succinct message, for creatives who appreciate the constraint, and for brands who value the consistent results.”  

This might be the case, but on the ground at Cannes, New York Times reporter Jim Rutenburg walked away feeling that the advertising world might not have a complete grasp on the gravity of these trends:  “there was the creeping realization that no one really knows where it’s all going – how the digital media innovations will reshape politics, culture and even the world order.”  

The rising urgency for fresh content in a range of lengths suited to curate and hold the consumer’s gaze is no small challenge for freelance creatives, agencies, and brands in today’s market.  From hours to minutes to just a few seconds of content, successfully activating, evoking, informing, entertaining – and selling – requires us to move faster, think strategically, and innovate in ways we may not think possible. We’ll be watching.  

Are you fully satisfied with your current brand activation and creative strategy?  Want to get started on some 6-second content?  Let’s talk!  

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