Creative rethink: Standalone 6-seconders aren’t memorable

In 2016, YouTube introduced their 6-second bumper ad format. In a blog post in 2017, they suggested that brands use these ads for their upper funnel goals like increasing recall and awareness. But it doesn’t look like brands followed YouTube’s advice because most 6-second bumper ads look like this.

Brands weren’t buying that 6-seconds ads could be memorable. They thought it was more likely that they could introduce the customer to a new product with a traditional 30-seconder and follow up with 6-seconders to aid recall and make them aware of other aspects of the product.

Now, all the major social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have adopted one form or another of 6-seconders. But wait, these platforms don’t work like YouTube, so why are they experimenting with 6-second ads?

Statements and reports released by these platforms say that it is all because the attention span of millennials has drastically reduced. The old adage ‘memory of a gold fish’ might actually apply to us!

Content, says YouTube in the blog, will always remain a big factor in the success or failure of 6-seconders, but ads like this are still able to make a high impact.

With a 6-second window to tell your stories, most stories end up requiring a punchline much like a joke. YouTube also suggests brands to ‘Think of your story like a joke’ when attempting to write a script for a 6-seconder.

But you can also experiment with shared experiences. As Anuraag Khandelwal, ECD and Creative Head – Mumbai, 82.5 Communications, puts it, “A moment like your child’s first words could be stuck forever in one’s memory. Whereas a long movie, bereft of any real story, could sometimes leave you dazed and empty.”

A lot of things can go wrong in a 6-second viewing. You may not be in a right frame of mind, impatient to watch a piece of content or listening to music. Playing a 6-second ad at such a point can be a cause of frustration for the viewer.

A recent report by Kargo, a mobile advertising company, stated, “Research shows that factors such as ad creative and messaging, ad placement and the digital environments in which brands advertise in are critical to the overall advertising mix.”

Few would choose to watch a standalone 6-second ad as a piece of content, but we know that larger format ads have an immersive element that makes for enjoyable viewing.

Most 6-seconders we looked at failed to strike an emotional chord spoken of by Khandelwal. In fact, the awareness and recall are mostly driven by re-targeting the ads towards the same audience again and again. A combination of music and vivid colours aid in recall.

Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner, BangInTheMiddle, concurs, “If it’s a standalone 6-second ad, then it has to drive an action, like making you land in a destination, aid the consumer journey, etc. If it’s a smaller cut from a larger ad, then it can be a reminder. A standalone 6-seconder may not be memorable.”

The creative challenges of hitting all the right notes in a 6-seconder are immense. But if done right, it could give your brand the creative edge it needs to bring the user your doorstep. It is important to remember that it is not just what goes in the ad that is important, but also what goes around getting that ad to the consumer.


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