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Insight for Marketers about Ad Lengths

Here’s the long and short of it—ads on YouTube, the platform that pioneered short-form “bumper” ads, are getting longer.

According to MediaRadar, an advertising intelligence platform that examined video ad trends across the most popular digital platforms, short-form spots on YouTube declined by 20% between 2018 and 2019—despite YouTube’s ongoing efforts to promote them. What does the rapid reversal in the popularity of single-digit spots say about the ad market? Here are a few take-aways from the study.

A Perfect Storm
As noted in our 2018 Full-Year Video Benchmarks report, the explosion in 6-second ads in early 2018 seemed to predict the demise of traditional 15- and 30-second commercial lengths. But when the opposite occurred and 15-second spots surged back into favor, it became clear that the market will support numerous formats in accordance with marketing goals and market trends.

For example, MediaPost tied the resurgence of 15-second spots on YouTube  (47% of total ads vs 16.5% for 6-second spots) to the emergence of a video everywhere world. YouTube CEO Todd Krizelman saw it more as an outcome of the growth in programmatic auctions.

Proof is in the Pudding
Regarding 30-second ads, our Benchmarks report identifies the rise of CTV as a bigger factor in their resurgence than any skepticism about the efficacy of super short ads.  Many of the industry’s long-form-only advocates maintain that 6 seconds is not enough time to make an impression on viewers.

But the reality is that 6-second ads can and do make memorable impressions on consumers. YouTube found that 90% of advertisers saw a lift in ad recall after it tested 300 mobile bumper campaigns. In addition, according to Digiday, 6-second ads have three times the emotional impact per second of 30-second videos and digital natives find short spots 40% more engaging. And this study, which made quite an impact on the industry when it was released earlier this year, uses neuroscience to show how human brains are capable of taking in visual information and making judgments in one or two seconds.

It’s Always about Context
The benefits of 6-second ads aren’t boundless, however. Context matters. Better known and well-liked brands benefit more from quick spots than lesser known ones since consumers already have specific impressions of the brand that only need quick reinforcing. And engagement is always higher when combined with premium content—no matter what length the ad.

Ultimately, as always, campaign success is not determined by a specific channel or length or targeting practice—it’s comes more from the judicious use of all the tools in the toolbox.