For decades, we’ve been told that attention spans are shrinking, and advertisers have followed that logic in shortening TV ads from older one minute spots down to quick hits as short as six seconds.
But, are they missing their mark by following trends rather than sticking to quality content, properly targeted to a brand’s demographic and brand community?
We’ve all seen, over the last few years, the rise in popularity of pre-roll ads on YouTube. The short ad spots run before a viewer’s selected video plays, with either the choice to skip or not. And while it has always been an imperfect system, it has helped push digital video advertising forward by leaps and bounds. The advent of streaming television shows on network websites (CTV, City, TSN, etc.) has provided additional platforms for these ads, and bridged the traditional viewer-broadcaster agreement of trading commercials for content with the newer Netflix model of content without any of the interruptions.
And now, as time has gone on and YouTube has noticed more and more skips of optional pre-roll ads, they are preparing to shorten the length of these spots to appease viewers and increase overall satisfaction. The move to six to 15-second videos, that can’t be skipped, but take up less viewer time before allowing them to continue to the content they desire, is coming soon.
A recent piece in the Globe and Mail featured these six-second ads, and talked about the change. The article highlighted the creative challenge this has presented to ad agencies to create super-short spots, while keeping them relevant. And yes, it will take creativity and great storytelling to make those six-second spots work. But brands and advertisers would be foolish to abandon longer format video storytelling, whether it’s 30 seconds or five minutes, in favour of these stripped down pieces.
This story, and the hype that will continue to surround it as YouTube rolls out their changes, is about this platform’s desire to milk more revenue out of advertisers and generate better results for their content. To YouTube, shorter is better and more profitable because advertisers will place more of these ads.
Yet, the Internet is full of platforms for longer videos that can be targeted to the right audience – an audience that is less likely to skip past great content, and instead engage with it. The most celebrated Canadian ad coming out of the Super Bowl in 2017 was Loblaws’ #EatTogether, coming in at a full two minutes and thirty seconds. It was a great piece of storytelling, brand leadership, and community building that could not have been accomplished in 15 seconds – and that‘s okay. That ad doesn’t belong as a pre-roll piece on YouTube, but it certainly deserved to be created.
That is why at Blade, we continue to look at video for its entire potential. Yes, the new shorter pre-roll ads will be part of our campaign planning; it would be irresponsible not to include it. But it will not stop us from creating great video content in longer forms that can be shared elsewhere on the Internet, through blogs, alternate platforms, and social media opportunities.
Blade clients have seen consistent success with the longer and shorter form videos we have produced for them (Blade Creative Branding, Vimeo.com). Corporate videos that range from three to five minutes, brand story videos that sit in the same range, and even 30-second ads, traditional to the TV model, have performed well, creating increased brand awareness, community growth, and leads.
The point here is not to dump on six second advertisements, but to outright quash the notion that:
1) Brands should only focus on ultra short videos.
2) People have no interest in watching anything longer than a quarter of a minute.
3) Some stories must be told with the detail and finesse they deserve.
As accomplished storytellers, At Blade, we know the value of keeping an open mind and creating the right format of content – in every media – that will best support our client’s branding ambitions.