Why Brands and Agencies Are Preparing for the Era of 6-Second Ads

2018 is the turning point toward snackable spots

The movement toward short-form video is alive and well.
Yuliya Kim

Let the upcoming fourth quarter be known as the incubator phase of the six-second video ad unit, a few industry players echoed in recent days. Next year, they say, it’s go time.

The format has built up buzz since Google threw its stake in the ground when the best examples of its six-second hackathon were highlighted at Sundance in January. Then in June, Fox announced it was on board with six-second video ads. And, at the end of last month, Facebook revealed it was going to work on its six-second ad game during its second-quarter earnings call. Now, brands and agencies are starting to state their motives for getting out in front of the movement. Michelin this week started testing the snack-sized clips on YouTube, the Google-owned video platform that calls them bumper ads.

“The format allows us to continue on our quest to reach a younger demographic,” said Candace Cluck, director of consumer experience for Michelin North America, suggesting that such spots could be ideal for reaching millennials and Gen Z consumers with shorter attention spans. “What’s so unique about this format is the way you distribute it. You have to think about these six-second videos in succession. It’s a frequency play.”

TBWA Worldwide is leading creative for her brand’s six-second spots. “They force you to be more focused,” commented Theodor Arhio, a global director of creative and content for the Omnicom-owned agency who partook in YouTube’s previously mentioned hackathon.

Another YouTube hackathon alumnus, Maud Deitch, attended the event as a creative for Mother New York and had her global-warming-minded work, called The High Diver (see below), honored. She’s since moved on to Instagram’s creative department, which she declined to go into detail about—but she had a lot to say about six-second ads’ potential.

“You can really get to a level of poignance and a level of human connection that you cannot get to even in a 15-second spot,” Deitch explained. “It’s because you sort of have to understand your subject matter, your medium, your production tools so much more intimately in order to make use of six seconds in an effective way. I think it’s one of the most important ad formats—if not the most important ad format—that we are going to see more of.”

A recent Google-led study on its bumper ads found that nine out of 10 of them drove ad recall, while 61 percent lifted brand awareness. Jake Malanoski, customer acquisition director for meals service Green Chef, said he’s recently seen positive test results from shorter-form videos across ad networks while working with DIY-minded video ads platform Steelhouse.

“We tend to use seven-second spots,” Malanoski said. “Interestingly enough, if we are trying to reach someone for the first time, the shorter the better. If we are retargeting, we can play a 15 or a 30. Part of the theory there is that if somebody hasn’t heard of you, they are not going to give you the time of day.”

“Short-form is going to play a role,” added Mark Douglas, founder and CEO of Steelhouse. “Six seconds is actually a pretty decent-sized canvas to play with.”

The movement toward short-form video, or “snackable content,” isn’t entirely new. In September 2013, Dunkin’ Donuts created considerable chatter by using a six-second video—made on the since-shuttered Vine app—for a Monday Night Football spot on ESPN television.

The buzz around snackable content then subsided over time, but now it seems to be back in full force with industry players predicting that six-second ads will gain real traction in 2018. Seasoned marketers likely won’t be surprised if the ad units prove more viable among younger folks compared to 15- and 30-second ads.

“I watch the clock tick down (on longer ads), waiting for the video to be over so I can get to the content [I] want to watch,” said Mike Racic, a Gen Xer and iCrossing’s president of media operations. “Now you have to tell a concise story.”