Six-Second Ads That Work, as Told by Advertising Week Speakers

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If I learned one thing at Adweek, it’s this: we’re getting smarter about video.

In between the elevator rides, the comfy movie theater seats and the dreams of more popcorn, conversations about video advertising reverberated throughout the venue.

To put simply, there is a lot the industry is still trying to unpack.

But one thing is clear, if you’re flip-flopping with video, it’s because your goals aren’t.

“What’s the single takeaway you want your audience to have in that moment? Focus on that.”
– Kaitlin McGirl, Creative Strategy Lead, Snap

“You can engineer relevance and use video just for recall or tie it to action.”
– Stacy Minero, Head of Content Creation, Twitter

“It’s being realistic about what you can do, being very focused and trying to drive impact in that moment versus doing too much.”
– Rachel Bien, SVP, Strategy, Blue 449 USA

All three participated in a panel on six second ads alongside Adam Singolda, our CEO, and Tanya Dua, Sr. Advertising Reporter of Business Insider as the moderator.

They thoroughly covered six-second ads but also discussed what truly makes a great video great—here’s what they had to say.

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Six-second ads are all about awareness.

These popular short-form ads were beaten with the “goal” stick, but there’s good reason for that.

A video that’s only six seconds long probably isn’t the solution to all of your problems, unless your problems are awareness related.

“I think a lot of it stems from what you’re trying to achieve. A great format is something that invites you to lean forward if you want to, but you don’t have to.

If you’re trying to convert or create a relationship [with me], six seconds isn’t the best for you. If you want to get me to recall [your brand], I think it’s a great format,” Adam said.

Whether or not a six-second ad is successful also depends on how you measure it, where it’s positioned on the page, and how it’s built.

Speakers cautioned against racing towards an ad format that has a great completion rate for the sake of improving that metric—ask yourself what impact that format really has on your brand.

“I just hope we don’t get to next year and there’s a panel on three-second ads,” joked Adam. “More people will make it through a six-second ad than a 30-second ad, it’s just simple math.”

“Six-second ads are set up for success. Right now they’re in more premium pods in standalone positions and they’re gravitating attention because they’re unexpected,” said Rachel.

Their concerns make a lot of sense and can be summed up simply—stick with your strategy first, and figure out how to use this new toy strategically. Once you do, they had a couple of tips for making your video great.

Give your ads a “signature something.”

This creative piece of advice, given by Rachel, stuck with me.

She was referring to a signature mark on all of your videos that consumers will recognize—like T-mobile’s magenta logo, Red Bull’s use of branded sports gear, or Beats’ strategic use of celebrity partnerships, for example.

She also added, “if you think it’s wrong don’t do it,” and at the end of the day, make sure you’re producing something that people want.

Here are some guidelines for video creatives from all of the panelists:

  • Keep it simple, stupid. Don’t tackle a complex narrative, six seconds is not a lot of time.
  • Simplicity sells. Don’t pack in too much imagery—research indicates this helps drives recall, not just resonance.
  • Don’t rely too much on audio. Sounds can increase emotional intensity, but think about how your video can work with or without sound so it works across audiences.
  • If recall is your goal, use your logo. Place it in the upper lefthand corner of the screen.

And finally, even though it’s often the last thing we think about, context should be top of the list for your most important creative considerations.

Think about context first. Don’t annoy consumers.

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When it comes to six second ads, panelists discussed context in two distinct ways.

  1. The context of the website on which your ad is shown.
  2. Being contextually relevant to your consumer’s emotional state and needs.

First, context of the website is extremely important and should never be an afterthought. Trust is so hard to build, and like Adam said, borrowing from the trust of quality sites on the open web can be an effective way to tackle context:

“I don’t think people are forgiving of anything that’s annoying them. I think people expect perfection fast.

It takes a lot of time to build trust and it takes a second to destroy it. The biggest challenge [advertisers face] is to create relevance on a platform that invites them [consumers] to participate,” Adam said.

His example extends to Taboola, which lives on the open web and presents branded content in a context that consumers already trust—their favorite publishers.

Second, the way your consumer feels should always be a targeting consideration.

“I think humor is still really important for that tight of a timeframe [six second ads]. But overall, be contextually relevant to the person.

What’s their emotional state, what are they looking for right now, what’s the political climate? All of these things matter,” Rachel said.

The video trifecta that guarantees success.

As I listened to the four of them, from very different backgrounds discussing video strategy, I was struck by how often they brought the conversation back to advertiser goals and not just the success of their own platforms.

My favorite piece of advice for the evening was not about video overlays, awareness or format, it was about truth for the consumer.

The most valuable inventory should not be the cheapest, it’s the inventory that will deliver to the right person, at the right time, in the right context.

The trifecta that guarantees success.

I’ll leave you with one parting thought from the panelists—you’re going to fail and that’s okay. That might be what you need for success in the future.