Can advertising get much shorter? Marketing is adapting to the rapidly shrinking attention span of consumers. YouTube and Facebook have made six-second spots part of their platforms. Many media experts expect this to become an industry standard this year. Fox has already experimented with airing six-second “bumper spots” on broadcast TV.

Many creators were skeptical that strong messaging could flourish under such tight constraints, but brands and agencies are coming around to the advantages of bite-sized content. New research has found that shorter ads boost awareness and recall, especially on mobile devices.

Britt Nolan, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett, told Fast Company: “Images are incredibly powerful — your eye can process images much more quickly than words. So, in six seconds, if you construct something with very powerful imagery and a fast-paced edit, you can fit a lot in there, and it can be a super powerful medium.”

Here are some tips on creating effective six-second spots and some examples of brands who are making the most of the format:

Short spots need a clear purpose.

At first, many brands were just cutting down longer spots. That may work in some cases, but the most effective spots are specifically designed to work in six seconds. They reduce the message to associating a feeling with the brand — an immediate impression. The viewer is expected to use the imagery to fill in the missing pieces.

Example: Storytelling: YouTube Advertisers, “The High Diver” (Note: This was put together as part of a workshop at a film festival in January 2017.)

Don’t try to cram in too much.

Creating a strong immediate impression means being deliberate about what you’re not saying. There may not be time to flash the logo or urge people to buy.

Example: Honesty: City Lodge Hotel Group, “We Will Make You Feel at Home”

Don’t sweat the sound.

Facebook reported that roughly 50-85 percent of videos were watched without sound. Consumers are more likely to listen to sound on YouTube, but there is a rapidly increasing number of auto-captioned videos. Sound is an important element of storytelling, but it may not play as strong of a role as it had in the past.

Example: Typography: Mercedes Benz “Reminder 1”

Think of short spots as part of a whole.

Some of the most effective six-second advertising uses the short spots to explore different aspects of a brand’s theme. They build on each other. Shorter spots can be used to amplify existing (and longer) spots. They can also be used to creatively tease an upcoming campaign.

Example: Celebrity: Under Armour, “It Comes From Below”

Leave them with a clear final thought.

The best advertising leaves the audience with a clear final thought. Even with only six seconds, you need to leave enough time for your message to sink in. Some advice from Google: “Two seconds is a good length to aim for. Sometimes there’s a rush to pack several elements into the closing, especially if you are cutting down a longer ad.”

Example: Humor: Old Spice, “Smell Legendary"


This article was researched and written by Pavone. Find out more about us here.