Tips for creating six-second commercials

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You’ve probably heard that YouTube and Facebook are selling six second ads with FOX, the first TV network to experiment with the format. So how should marketers think about this new format that will gain steam in 2018? For one, don’t think of it as new. Anyone remember print advertising? Anybody remember Vine? Yep, the platform that Twitter bought and shortly thereafter closed, is now the “new” format for advertisers to embrace. How long do brands have to catch the average consumer’s attention in print? Two seconds. Most of the media buys on YouTube allow users to skip your ad after five seconds of watching. And have you looked at your data analytics on those ads? Not many people continue to watch your commercial in its entirety unless it’s very relevant to the viewer. Maybe YouTube is actually giving advertisers an additional second with this format. Now you get six seconds instead of five! Hopefully the format will force advertisers to again be disciplined about messaging, ideas and storytelling.

Here are some ideas to help marketers think about the new six-second format:

  1. Focus on a moment, not an entire story. There’s no time for a traditional set up, arc and resolution in six seconds. Show how your brand helps or relates to a situation, leaving viewers with a strong connection to a relatable moment.
  2. Think of this new format as you would a great print ad. With only six seconds it can almost be thought of as print with motion. Of course, like with print, more value will need to be put on the simple, pure IDEA for it to get etched into consumers’ minds. If you think about some of the best visual-solution print ads or strong headlines coupled with amazing visuals, it tells a story quickly, succinctly and memorably. On average, consumers spend 2-3 seconds with print ads and decide if the ad is relevant to them within 0.3 seconds. Maybe smaller, independent agencies that were traditionally great at print ads, will shine with the new format.
  3. Create a Brief specifically for this format. Or at least give it clear definition within a campaign brief. It’s not a :30 that’s cut down to a :15, that is now cut down to a :06. That won’t work here. The Creative Brief needs to clearly state the goal and mandatories of a six-second commercial. It needs to have real expectations on what can be communicated. It needs to be signed off on by all internal decision makers, otherwise you will do yourself, the brand and the agency a disservice.
  4. Cut the clutter. The six-second commercial will be great for pure branding and for marketing messages related to a certain event or day of the year. Again like all great advertising, it will need to have one simple message and can’t be cluttered with too many mandatories, explanations or lengthy CTAs.
  5. Contrary to what I say in point one, if you want to tell an entire story in six seconds you should consider using time lapse, hyper-lapse, stop-motion, jump-cuts and fast/slow speed video techniques to tell your story. Many brands are already successfully using these techniques in social media and these formats may not be that different from your social content efforts if you already take these storytelling approaches.
  6. Of course, this format will be best used as part of a larger campaign. It will have definite messaging limitations and it should probably have budgets more on par with social content or print ad creation. In fact, as agencies and marketers begin to experiment with the format, you may realize it aligns more with your social media or print concept efforts but that doesn’t mean the brief and approval process should be handed of to an in-house social media coordinator.
  7. If it doesn’t “give away” the idea, quickly show your logo at the opening of the video. Sony was brilliant with this on all of their Playstation commercials in the past. You can also consider as an option, watermarking your logo on a bottom corner of the video (like a station identifier), although we prefer the opening blip instead of a continued “distraction”. We also believe the blip creates better brand recall with viewers.

Have fun, think differently and be disciplined in your approach. It will take the expertise of creative agencies and disciplined marketers to do it well, but it’s exciting to think about and get ahead of the curve as it may become a part of your media plan in the near future.

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