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What Advertisers Need to Know about 6-Second Video Ads

At South by Southwest 2017, the annual festival of marketing, music and technology, Google and YouTube showcased their new six-second video ad format. YouTube is, of course, not alone in experimenting with new video ad formats. Other industry players like Snapchat are trying to sell advertisers on vertical video, and film studios have been experimenting with new “pre-trailer” creative elements. How should advertisers think about these new ad formats in light of the time and money they’ve already invested in their 15- and 30-second creative assets?

The biggest takeaway for marketers considering YouTube’s new six-second video ad format is that it is designed to be a complement, not a replacement, for existing ad campaigns. As YouTube has explained, the shorter ad format is intended to act as a “teaser” or a means of amplifying the message of a bigger campaign. Music company Atlantic Records, for example, used the spots to promote the album of one of their new artists. Atlantic stuck with the more traditional 30-second TrueView ads to highlight the full band and album while using the bumpers to promote some of the guest artists featured on the record.

YouTube has been advising advertisers who test the format to avoid telling an entire story in a single six-second message. The company encourages brands to think about the six-second bumpers as an opportunity to share a series of “micro-messages” or chapters in an ongoing story. It’s also an opportunity to further sub-divide the business purpose of each piece of ad creative. One six-second element might be devoted exclusively to driving brand awareness, while another might focus on a more specific call to action. This can free up the campaign’s 15- and 30-second ads to focus on the brand’s most creative storytelling capabilities. And given the fragmented nature of today’s digital viewing environment, where consumers are constantly switching between devices and screens, these short bumpers provide an opportunity for brands to quickly connect with viewers in different ways.

The initial industry response to six-second ads suggests they offer an innovative new canvas for brands and agencies. But even though this new format is getting more attention, it doesn’t mean that 15- and 30-second advertising is going away any time soon. Instead, six-second ads simply serve to extend and complement these industry mainstays, opening up new opportunities to create better scale, and more innovation too.