Opinion

Has anyone stopped to consider why we’re all making six second ads?

As YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook push forward with shorter and shorter ads, Y&R ANZ's Henry Innis wonders if 'snackable' truly is the way forward.

I must ask — does anyone seriously think six second ads are a good reflection on the advertising industry?

When TV networks announced that they were going to introduce six second ads, it marked a change in the media world. For once, TV networks were explicitly following the lead of Google. No longer was big tech trying to mimic TV. TV was now mimicking big tech to compete for ad dollars.

It follows a theme in ads — the shorter, the better. You hear this all the time. We went from content and native advertising to ‘snackable’ content.

Brands created ‘mobile-first’ advertising using short GIFs and other formats. Even Snap, the darling of experimental advertisers, only permits seven second ads across their videos.

But we should be asking— why?

Google will tell you it’s performance. People remember ads and brands better when they sit in the six second format, and therefore using the format is better bang for buck.

Others follow the same reasoning. Facebook will tell you shorter content is more consumable, as will Snap. Publishers will point to metrics showing their audiences consuming more but in less depth.

The challenge with all this data is it’s based on a false assumption. Six second ads probably aren’t better for everything. They’re probably just better for terrible ads and cheap content.

Hear me out here. If you have a great piece of content, people are willing to watch it. For hours, even. Look at Red Bull’s content machine (their jump from space, for example, was fairly lengthy). Or the Terry Crew Old Spice commercials (watched over 11 million times on a channel that isn’t even official).

In the hunt for advertising performance, we’ve all gotten lazy. Instead of trying to produce things that people want to watch, we’ve started looking at the data and optimising for pure numbers.

That creates the fallacy that shorter advertising, is, well, better. All because it gives us a better spreadsheet.

Six second ads land the story quicker, faster, and get to the brand proposition in shorter time. So, if you’re a consumer, you don’t even have the time to tune out before the ad shifts to ‘sell’ mode. Brand recall is better? You betcha, if you take the average shoddiness of our advertising to date.

The real story is that these ads aren’t that much better. If your ad was good, people would watch it longer. Look at how many people YouTube Super Bowl ads. Or how many people have watched Volvo Truck’s ‘The Epic Split’ ad.

Good ads are watched. Good content is watched. But when we’re too lazy to interrogate beyond the numbers, all we can do is make our ads shorter and shorter to get out of the way of people.

When we just take data at face value, we’re not going to get value from that data. Let’s interrogate it more. Because I guarantee if we were making compelling ads, great experiences and interesting creative, people would be saying they liked longer ads as well.

That’s just far harder to do.

If there’s one thing to take away it should be this — let’s as an industry focus on making advertising great instead of trying to make it shorter. Now that’s a little more exciting than a six second ad!

Henry Innis is engagement planning director, Australia at Y&R ANZ.

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