Gone in Six Seconds – Making Connections Short and Sweet


The six second ad format is well suited to social video platforms like YouTube where a 30 second pre-roll ad might be longer than the content itself, but some remain skeptical over whether six seconds is really long enough to form a connection between brand and consumer. Here Ant Hill, head of creative agencies at Google UK, describes some of the best example of how brands and agencies have been using the format effectively to convey their messages in a way which makes the six second limit a benefit, not a hindrance.

You can do a lot in six seconds. If you’re Felix Zemdegs you can solve a whole Rubik’s cube and still have time for a sip of water (4.22 seconds). It’s about the amount of time it takes a bite of hamburger to reach your stomach (remember to chew, chew, chew). And, it’s the amount of time it took 605 ads to boost their recall by nearly 40 percent (38 percent).

YouTube’s six second bumper ad format launched in 2016, challenging brands and creatives to get messaging across to consumers with minimum disruption and maximum impact.

A comment from Mia Kuhn, Producer at TBWA/Chiat/Day, really encapsulates why – far from being a constraint – six second ads are an opportunity to deliver something really powerful:

“One word, one image, one second is enough for someone to be drawn in. The story we chose to tell, of a little girl blowing out her birthday candles, can spark a myriad of thoughts and emotions, leaving the viewer with a desire to watch more. That’s the beauty of storytelling.”

We thought we’d really explore the potential of six second storytelling. At Sundance and AdWeek Europe, we pulled together some of adland’s best storytellers and handed them some of the world’s best stories to see if they would be beaten by the six second barrier. They didn’t disappoint.

BBH China X Eagle Media took Hansel & Gretel and reimagined it for architectural services, while The Richards Group launched Rumplestiltskin.com with six seconds of aspirational images and a voiceover worthy of Dior.

But six seconds doesn’t need to rely on princes, princesses, gods and monsters to succeed. Six seconds is more than enough time to make everyday heroes of us all. Take this simple ad from Asda.

In six seconds there is brand positioning (Save Money. Live Better and ‘Just add Asda’), price points, value proposition (getting the kids outside) and aspiration (upgrade kickabouts to shootouts). That’s a whole lot of messaging in a small amount of time.

Creating short ads requires focus and planning. Planning, because an effective six second ad is rarely a stand-alone beast. Many of the ads created in the Retold series above were sequential. They teased customers to want the next chapter or piqued their interest to stay the course with longer ads. A long ad that, without a bold opening viewers may have skipped.

The Swan by BBH London was a series of enigmatic, art-house shorts that compelled viewers to watch on, if only to find out what on earth ‘The Swan’ was all about. Goldi’s Locks by 72andsunny took one simple message and hammered it home in multiple different ways, all with the fast and forceful tone of a US car lot salesman.

Focus is needed because there simply isn’t space to cram everything from a 30 second ad into a six second-long one. But don’t think of that as a negative. The timeframe challenges marketers to really look at what they need to say; what is the single most important message and the clearest way to put it across.

There is a common thread to all these ads, whether the imagined Goldi’s Locks or the very real Asda football goals: Clarity. All too often, brands create ads that demand the customer’s attention, throw around noise and visual, distract and disrupt.

Six second ads are the opposite. With a single, compelling idea they have the potential to command attention. Their purpose is clear, their message is direct. And when used to tease or draw the customer down a creative funnel, the message may be enigmatic but the execution is uncompromising. Purpose, focus, clarity – those sound like excellent advertising benchmarks to me, six seconds or no six seconds.


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