That’s not a whole lot of time to do much of anything, really. You’ve used it up already reading this article, and if you’re to believe the comScore study on the matter, you’ve probably already determined if you’re going to continue reading in that time. This data has fueled the transition to six-second ads on platforms like YouTube and Facebook, and now television has found itself with some questions: are six-second ads worth pursuing? Will they succeed?
Is it too late?
Shorter ads are nothing new. 30-second ads soon gave way to the 15s of the MTV generation, and now with the rise (and fall) of numerous short-form video services, it seems the trend of fitting more and more content into a shorter amount of time will only continue. According to Fox Sports president Eric Shanks, this is only a good thing. But it may be a strategy too little, too late for a traditional medium such as television. According to a recent Nielsen study, millennials, while less inclined to change the channel compared to their demographic counterparts, lay claim to the lowest levels of ad recollection and program engagement. The problem? Multiple screens and apps fighting for attention, such as millennial dominated apps such as Snapchat, which sees four out of five millennials frequenting the service. The solution?
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Fox dipped the first toe into the pool, staging 29-second advertising blocks during their presentation of the Teen Choice Awards. These blocks featured a five-second intro message imploring users to stay tuned for the rest of the programming, followed by ads of similar length promoting various products and services, all within their own contained six-second window. After announcing the success of the test run, they announced the placement of such ads into their NFL programming. It’s a move anticipated to keep in younger crowds a la the strategies employed by Facebook and YouTube, but according to Dave Penski, a chief executive of Publics Media Exchange America, there now exists a whole new set of challenges with shorter form advertisements. Six-second ads, he insists, may not be a good fit for advertisers looking to sell more complicated products and services, and should largely be used by larger brands to reinforce brand recognition and image. He remains optimistic about the transition to six-second ads, calling it “an innovation that’s more cross-screen than others because there’s already…a huge amount of six-second advertising that’s going on out there.”
So where does this leave you, the average television viewer?
Well on the surface, this change is nothing new: the internet has slowly shaped the direction of television for years now, as companies like Netflix and Hulu drive the increasing shift towards subscription-based, video-on-demand services. Cable TV is a dying medium, and this move to incorporate six-second advertising, (a move prompted by, you guessed it, the internet), is akin to showing up on Christmas with last year’s hot item. Many of today’s youth are rarely subjected to traditional advertising to begin with, let alone live in a household with a traditional television service. While these services owe their existence, and for a large part their content libraries, to television, they continue to innovate while TV is left in the early 2000’s. If the medium truly wishes to succeed in this six-second world, it’s time to innovate, rather than replicate.
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Advertising is a fickle industry. Sometimes, ads are viewed as works of art unto themselves, and cause us to laugh, cry, and experience every emotion in between. Other times, we download third party software with the explicit intent of never seeing an ad again. Some ads utilize data to inform, entertain, or even aid us, while others embody an almost stalker-like presence through their targeting. All ads, however, share one common trait: they are a mirror of our inner desires.
If an advertisement is supposed to play to a person’s base desires, doesn’t it make sense that those same ads speak to the current state of our society? This raises another question: what do we desire?
When you watch a well done, thoughtfully crafted advertisement, you’re investing your time in more than a product. You’re investing in a narrative. As 2016 has mercifully wound to a close, we take a look back on the narratives that resonated the most with our society from the past year. These selections appeared in multiple “Top X” lists throughout the year, and begin to paint the picture of how we perceive ourselves and those around us.
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Nearly half the planet is expected to watch the 2014 World Cup on TV this summer, giving advertisers a diverse group of viewers to reach through a 31-day span. This opportunity has sparked some brands to branch out of their advertising comfort zone and look at different approaches to World Cup-themed campaigns.
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