How to Master the Six-Second Ad

By Emma Fitzpatrick  

Six seconds doesn’t sound like much, but a surprising amount can happen in that short timeframe. Really! Think about this: Every five seconds, Americans consume 1,750 slices of pizza. Also, every five seconds, six hours’ worth of videos are uploaded onto YouTube.

Before viewers can actually watch those YouTube videos, though, they first have to sit through an ad (while incessantly clicking ‘skip’). Social networks and online platforms know users are losing patience.

That’s why in the coming months you’ll see snackable six-second ads replacing standard 30-second digital advertisements. Get ahead of the curve, and learn how to deliver a better ad experience.


Where to find six-second ads.

At the end of 2017, YouTube is nixing their 30-second, non-skippable ads. Unsurprisingly, YouTube users have long disliked these lengthy, must-watch videos. Google, which owns YouTube, confirmed. A Google spokesperson told Campaign that YouTube is going to “focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers.”

In its place is the six-second, non-skippable ad, also called a bumper ad. Since Q1 2017, YouTube has seen a 70% quarter-over-quarter increase in companies running six-second ads. Plus, 90% of advertisers saw a lift in ad recall after it tested 300 mobile bumper campaigns. This new ad format is made for mobile, presents a short-and-sweet ad experience that users prefer, and improves viewers’ ad recall. Around here, we like to call that a win-win-win.

Facebook is now following suit. After testing six-to-thirty-second ads with Tropicana, Facebook found the six-second ad had the highest brand metrics across the board and was the most effective. In fact, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, said there was a 16-point lift in brand awareness compared to a six-point lift in longer formats. For now, you’ll have to wait to use Facebook’s six-second ads because the company is currently revamping its video ad offerings.

The success of six-second ads, though, is clear. Even Fox is testing the ad format during NFL games.


Why shorter ads are better.

  1. For six seconds, you have your audiences’ full attention. Microsoft research found that since 2000, the average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds to a mere eight—one second shorter than that of a goldfish.
  2. Short ads work best on mobile. More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices. When users watch on phones, they’re likely using mobile data, and a 30-second, must-watch ad eats away at a data plan. As a result, users often abandon the video—and your ad—entirely.
  3. People expect them. Kantar Media found that 2016 marked the first time on network television that there were more 15-second ads (47%) than 30-second ads (44%).
  4. Ad recall is better. This is so good we’ll say it twice—90% of advertisers saw a lift in ad recall after it tested 300 mobile bumper campaigns on YouTube.


Tips to master your six-second ads.

  1. Less is more. But more of less is still more. Stay with us. Short-format ads work best, but these shouldn’t function as one-off videos. They should be part of a bigger campaign. Focus on one idea or concept, and bring that to life in a series of ads (usually three-to-five videos).
  2. No shortcuts. Trimming down your 30-second ad into a six-second ad would be super easy and convenient. But don’t do it. A six-second ad is its own beast. You need to rethink how ads work. Go back to the storyboard, and start fresh. From the first to the last shot, the entire set-up is different.
  3. Keep it simple. With six-second ads, you must quickly establish a scene, evoke a feeling and leave an impression. Essentially, you have one shot and one message.
  4. Get inspired. To fully get the six-second ads, you have to see them in action. Then, it all makes sense. Here are some of the best.

Emma Fitzpatrick is a Philly-based freelance writer and marketer, whose specialties include content marketing, social media marketing and short, snappy writing. Pick her brain at [email protected].