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Embracing short-form ads - storytelling in six seconds

Feb 28, 2018

How often have you watched a YouTube video and hovered the cursor over the ‘Skip Ad’ button until it lit up? You’re not alone.

With the proliferation of content options online, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for advertisers and content marketers to cut through the noise and capture attention.

"We’re so conditioned to dislike ads. Any advertising content that isn’t over ASAP grates on us,” WME Group Content Manager Donal Stott said.

Six seconds is barely long enough to tell a joke, let alone communicate a message.

But it can be done.

The solution harks back to the golden days of Vine - creating short, super-focused six-second ads and advertising pre-roll.

Web Profits Content & Digital Marketing Specialist Alex Mason says the approach not only works, but can deliver massive rewards when executed well.

“There's certainly a lot to be said for making sure you grab someone's attention and let them know what they'll get out of it at the start, before you can expect them to invest more time,” Alex said.

Once you have a viewer’s attention, it’s easier to encourage them to watch a longer piece because you’ve already piqued their interest.

 

Make an impact, make it early

“With only six seconds to communicate your marketing message, it's essential the brand is front and centre,” Donal said. “If the only thing the audience retains is your brand name, then your six-second video has been successful."

A Think With Google study of six-second ‘bumper ad’ campaigns revealed short-form video can be an incredible branding tool.

The study, which reviewed 329 bumper ads, found that 9 out of 10 produced a significant lift in brand recall among viewers.

While it’s clear that branding must play an integral role in six-second ads, storytelling is equally important.

“You need to create the 'feeling' or 'brand voice' of your business within the ad,” Donal said.

“This can be a difficult proposition, but if you're successful, you'll have the audience knowing your name and what your brand is like – that’s when they're ripe for remarketing."

When used as an introduction to longer content, six-second video can offer an immediate insight into your business. This presents a challenge given the time constraints, but it can work if you plan it well enough.

“You need to get creative,” Donal said. “Mix advertising messages with storytelling to engage audiences in a subtle way.”

 

Storytelling in six seconds

Even though six-second video ads could be seen as a response to shorter attention spans, Alex says people have always wanted information quickly.

“There’s a reason we’ve gravitated towards shorter content, and we’re less willing to wait to get it - [an example is] the need for the ‘skip’ button just to keep people on video platforms,” he said.

To promote the power of concise storytelling, YouTube devised a challenge for ad agencies and filmmakers at South by Southwest 2017 - to condense a classic story, play, or novel into six seconds of video.

These examples illustrate that creativity doesn’t have to be hindered by time constraints.

 

 

“Six seconds is barely long enough to respond to a CTA,” Alex said. “Aim to stick in the viewer’s mind, so the next time your ad comes up, they know exactly what’s going on.

“Give [them] what they want without having to think about it.”

 

Short-form video for businesses

For Donal, short-format video ads remain a versatile tool for communicating with both consumers and other businesses.

“Online video is very much diverging along the lines of B2C and B2B content,” he said. “B2C is heavily weighted towards entertainment, with the growth of short videos and the public’s addiction to storytelling.

“But there’s also huge potential in the B2B market for educational short and long-form video. The future will be dominated by material that both teaches and sells.”

While attention spans are diminishing and videos are getting shorter, the clear message is that consumers are demanding meaningful and entertaining content, regardless of duration.

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