YouTube is Pushing Creatives to Reduce Video Advertising Under 6 Seconds

Catching someone’s attention and motivating him to buy your product, or at least searching it online, is already enough difficult in 30 seconds. What if all you had were 6 seconds? That’s what YouTube is challenging advertisers to do. In April 2016, YouTube presented the “bumper ads”, six seconds un-skippable spots played before videos that, according to the company, in 90% of cases are much likely to drive a significant lift in ad recall (Google, 2016).

During the TV era, video advertising spaces were sold by slots of 30, 45 or 60 seconds, and viewers had little control over the choice of advertisements to watch, other than changing channels. Online video ad formats like YouTube TrueView ads have created a paradox for marketers. They remove traditional 30-second time constraints, giving brands more time to tell their stories. But introducing a “skip” button after five short seconds also means that advertisers have to create more engaging stories that not only grab their audience’s attention but hold it, too.

Getting attention within those first 5 seconds is essential, and more agencies are honing their skills creating videos able to engage the audience for a longer time than those 5 seconds, eventually leading them to the final call to action, tagline or product shot. However, when 6 seconds are all the time available to introduce the product or service, benefit, and overall message, things get way more complicated. With video being projected to claim more than 80% of all web traffic by 2019 (Tredgold, 2017), and video advertising’s revenues are skyrocketing over the last 12 months (+53% year on year – Rothenberg, 2017), is time to delve a bit deeper into the elements that makes six seconds ads effective, so in this article I analyze three Bumper Ads that YouTube promote as best examples of the genre, to understand what elements from Heath and Heath’s “SUCCES” framework (2010) and Barry’s Advertising Concept book (2016) can help create sticky stories in less than 6 seconds:

  1. TIDE Rescue – FIDO

Simple: TIDE Rescue is a washing machine product, whose USP is the ability to restores up to three shades of white. What a better way to explain what it does, then showing a use case?

Unexpected: A dog circling on a bed is cute, and the voiceover saying he might have walked or not on the petunia leave the viewer puzzled.

Concrete: The brief story is based on something all dog owner might relate: changing sheets after one’s dog walk on them with dirty paws.

Credible: a simple USP is credible if the results are easy to understand based on the story, as shown in this case.

Emotional: Harnessing emotions don’t mean being dramatic, and this ad shows it well. Despite its briefness, the relatable situation create provokes an emotional response that facilitates the understanding of the ad.

Story: A story needs a beginning, climax, and conclusion. In this case, two frames encapsulate the whole story: the dog walking on the bed, the voiceover raising the possibility of an issue, and the product shot, that introduces the resolution of the issue.

Strategy adopted: Showing the before, and letting the viewer imply the after-consequences through the product proposition. The consumer will figure out the after stage without having to see it.

Type of idea: exaggeration. The ad remarks that the product is so great that can restore the white even in very dirty conditions.


  1. Old spice – Sweat

Simple: some people sweat a lot, and Old Spice deodorants stop all the sweating. A simple concept is materialized visually with an Old Spice deodorant actually stopping a man’s armpit sweating like a shower.

Unexpected: The impossible combination of elements leaves the viewer puzzled, but the voiceover resolves the puzzlement explaining the product’s benefit.

Concrete: Sometimes concreteness can be avoided if the metaphorical meaning of the story is easier to understand. This video is the case.

Credible:  Credibility is not on the list of priorities of the creatives that made this short video. Despite the value proposition is clear, the video gives a little hint to the ways the product work, and reasons to believe.

Emotional: As for the video above, the emotions that can be provoked by an ad can differ along a wide range of possibilities. In this case, the silly situation and the voice-over talking directly to the viewer create an effect of surprise and interest, that sticks in mind even after time.

Story: On such a short timing, there is not always an opportunity to tell a full story. As in the video above, the story that Old Spice tells is simply one of the oppositions: there is a problem (sweaty armpits) and the product offer a solution (no more sweating).

Strategy adopted: before and after. One of the most used strategies in advertising: showing the life before and after the product is used.

Type of Idea: Exaggeration of a truism. Everyone knows that some people can sweat a lot. The ad exaggerate all elements of the story to make the effects of using Old Spice deodorants even more clear to understand.


  1. Mercedes Benz – Reminder

Simple: Mercedes wanted to show how fast is the acceleration of the new AMG: from 0 to 100km/m in less than 3 seconds. How to show it? By making an ad that lasts as long as it takes to the AMG to accelerate from 0 to 100.

Unexpected: the unexpected factor comes from the concrete and credibility factors: the new AMG can go from 0 to 100 in only 3 seconds. Showing the audience how short is such time enable to experience the sensation coming from such unique feature.

Story: in less than 3 seconds there is no space for a story, just the time to communicate a message, and let the audience understand the emotional value of its feeling.

Strategy adopted: demonstration of the product benefit.

Type of idea: Analogy. The length of the video highlights the key feature of the product.


So what’s in this article? 

The trick with bumpers, of course, is to maximize your 6 seconds. It’s natural to want to try and do a little bit of everything, to literally cut a 15- or 30-second spot and capture everything it once had in 6 seconds. But that’s not how to succeed. The message would just drown in a sea of noise. Rather, success comes from creating a series of vignettes and stringing them together. Don’t try to focus on three elements in 6 seconds. Instead, create three distinct ads that each focus on one element. In addition, voiceovers, music and emotion — particularly comedy — play particularly well in bumpers. When these things are combined, the message becomes clear. Short-form messaging has also allowed brands to take more chances and be more creative with longer-form Trueview content because the purpose each ad serve can be definitively divided: one for reach and awareness, the other for deep-level engagement, etc.

In Conclusion

YouTube’s push behind the bumper ads is only one in a series of ad-unit innovations. From new variations on Trueview products to the recent announcement that 30-second unskippable ads will be deprecated from the platform in January 2018, YouTube is indicating their understanding that the advertising experience matters. And whether it is YouTube, Facebook or Snapchat, it is fantastic to see platforms innovating with new solutions. But it’s even better to see the brands fully embrace them.

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