6 Tips For Creating 6-Second Ads

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Some things never change. Okay, so computing and commerce have altered somewhat over the years. For example, it would be hard to explain to a home computing pioneer of the ‘70s and ‘80s the domination and all-around usefulness of public cloud applications today. 

Let’s just consider the recent history of TV advertising for a moment.

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The first-ever paid TV commercial was shown in 1941; ten seconds long in total but with only two seconds of voice-over. Since then, the average ad length rose to a minute in the 1950s, dropping to 30 seconds and then 15 seconds in more recent years. So, in TV advertising, it appears after giving long-form a go, things are returning to how they were and less is becoming more once again.

However, the digital world has that beat – there has been massive growth in the use of six-second ads. Why is this?

Well, the first reason is pretty obvious. If the user can’t skip them, they might as well watch them. And watch them they will, in their entirety. Your whole cinematic vision digested there and then. Quite a result. 

On top of that, it’s good for both seller and buyer to make advertising concise. Brevity is the soul of selling. It pays to cut the hot air. If you can get the pitch down to six seconds then you’ll have something really snappy, potent, and, most likely, effective.

In fact, it’s been shown that it only takes half a second to trigger an emotional response in an ad viewer. So, you’ve got time to spare, right? Well, not quite. You need to be sure that you include material in your ad that will trigger that much sought-after response.

There are some principles it’s worth sticking to in order to make your ad as hard to ignore as possible. When you set out on this road make sure you think about what will stand out from the crowd. Remember that even the best affiliate marketing programs can be hugely effective, what we’re talking about is a one-way selling street, albeit a short one. So, buckle up.

1.    It’s Not Titanic

Put bluntly, you don’t have much time. This will be significant, whether your company has a simple product or you need to engage in something a bit more complex, like SaaS pricing strategies.

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You can’t cover a complex story like how to start a contact center. You can either cover a simple story in its entirety like “We make bagels. They’re amazing.”, or you can cover part of a more complex story. The latter route requires serialization or focussing on one particular feature of your product or service.

Serialization isn’t always the best idea: you’re depending on user familiarity with the narrative up to now (however, see below for what you can do with combining different length ads). It’s much better to bring the focus in on one killer feature you want to promote. 

Try to really hone in on the characteristic that makes what you’re selling better than the rest. It’s not like you have the freedom to expound on the quality of your product, so always include product reviews or provide the company history. Think about what it is that people like and show it to them. Quickly.

Let’s say you’re selling something pretty technical, like cloud integration. One thing you could highlight is how successful cloud integration enables you to get your products to market quicker. This is using the speed of the medium to chime with the speed in the message.

Whether you’re telling the whole story or focussing on one aspect, simple is best. Although, simple doesn’t always have to be simplistic.

2.    Open Big

Be immediate. Grab them by the eyeballs. Get a shot in right from the off that makes them want more. If you’re selling food or drink, get the most arrestingly delicious shot you can get on the screen. This is no time to be subtle. 

If you’re very lucky, that single shot paired with your brand image will be all you need. Yes, that’s a wrap ladies and gentlemen. 

Most times, though, you’ll need to follow up with more material. Just don’t overdo it. Try to cut all superfluous shots and get down to the bare bones that tell the story. 

If you have characters and activities that need explaining, they need to be explained within the first two seconds. A big ask. But if a picture can tell a thousand words, think how many words two seconds of video can tell.  

What if you have a killer idea for a six-second ad but you don’t have the tools for the job? Easy. There are great packages out there – try this one: YouTube Video Maker. Problem solved.

3. The End

Sometimes, an abrupt ending is good. Done right, it leaves the viewer wanting more. This can then work as a strong CTA. If you’ve done it correctly, your call to action will include all of the information for finding the best meeting invite samples for your daily conferencing call needs.

Luckily, the time limit means it’s very hard to overstay your welcome. It’d take some remarkable talent to be able to bore the viewer rigid within six seconds.

Use the time restriction to your advantage. In the right hands, the ad will leave the viewer on the edge of their seat wanting to know more. Make sure they know what to do next. Don’t depend on them taking the initiative. 

By the time they’ve thought about Googling you, then taken the time to actually do it, who knows how many distractions will send them off course into the arms of something more tempting? A nice simple CTA at the end is what’s needed here.

4.    Silence Is Golden

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A lot of users watch their online content with their devices on silent. Bear this question in mind when putting your ad together: will it work without sound? Get visual. Strong imagery married to simple text will do the trick nicely. 

Hitchcock said that silent films were the purest form of cinema. Unsullied by audio distractions, everything was concentrated on the visuals, so it was possible to work in small gestures. Potent glances and communicative expressions carried the whole picture.

So, learn from the masters. When it comes to imagery, don’t be tempted to use big flashy actions – too much of this in six seconds will be baffling for the user. Try to keep movements small-scale and use them to, for instance, draw attention to the logo rather than just trying to make them eye-catching for the sake of aesthetics.

5.    Know Your Screens

It almost goes without saying that you need to remember that what works fabulously in a 16:9 ratio on a PC will be somewhat different on a portrait format phone screen. Yes, you can go extreme with effects and green screen but uncomplicated imagery is still the best choice for a smaller screen.

Given the short running time, don’t expect users to grapple with their phone settings and reorientate the viewing angle. It’s just not going to happen. Ensure your ads are optimized for the lowest common denominator, in this case – for your ad to viewed in profile.

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6.    If All Else Fails…

You’ve tried to trim the tone, simplify the story and shave the shots and it’s still just not happening. Well, you could maybe re-address things by using the six-second ad in conjunction with a longer one. The longer one has the whole story and the shorter one just refers to it.

One approach would be to make the six-second ad a follow-up which exists purely to give the viewer a nice sharp reminder of the original.

The idea is that the viewer is in tune with the material so that a short pointer will bring up the memory of the rest in the viewer’s mind, a bit like a predictive dialler.

Or why not turn the idea around? Teaser trailers have been used by movie distributors for decades now. They establish a mood and generate excitement. They get the audience ready for the advent of the real trailer and then the movie itself. You can do the same. Get the buzz going with a brief “bumper” and the longer ad will benefit hugely from the anticipation that no doubt follows.

Both of these are very effective ways to combine the incision of snapshot advertising with the detail afforded by more conventional ad work.  

Conclusion

As users have become more exposed to short-form content such as TikTok videos, they have become increasingly receptive to even shorter ads. This makes total sense.

Why? Well, firstly, the viewer has become more adept at processing imagery and messaging concentrated into a short timespan. Secondly, the viewer expects the ad to be very short – you’re not going to want the ad to be as long as your primary choice of content.

Consequently, it’s been shown that six-second ads create nearly the same response as 15-second ads.

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As a result, this appears to be a significant growth area to discuss and include in your best meeting minutes template for your next marketing alignment. However, let’s not get carried away. All that’s really changed here is the length of time that each ad lasts.

A six-second ad is a very short ad. There’s no getting away from it. But, it’s still an ad. So, remember your advertising basics: define the need, then set out how you address that need better than anyone else. Simple. 

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