"On TV And Video" is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.
Today’s column is written by Bryan Noguchi, media director at Caffelli.
So, can I ask an open question about the six-second TV spot?
I know both networks and advertisers have been playing with them over the past year, and I think Toyota and NBC did a bang-up job with them during the Winter Olympics. But I haven’t seen a lot out there on how effective they’ve been for advertising early adopters.
I know that T-Mobile and Duracell were early testers of the format, and that at least T-Mobile’s feedback was largely positive. Toyota seems to have been the marquee tester of the unit so far in 2018.
My question: What does the future hold for the six-second spot?
I’ve been fascinated by this unit, namely because of the widely used argument that no one in the YouTube era has anything resembling an attention span to speak of anymore. Six seconds is about all the time anyone – especially younger people – care to give to advertising messages. I get that argument, but I think it only holds water in the context of shorter content. (I agree, it doesn’t make sense to sit through an ad that’s as long as the content I’m trying to watch.)
So, in a cable or broadcast scenario, I’ve struggled with what I think of the value of such a short unit. I’m not sure how these six-second spots have been getting priced out, but I could see where these might be easily justified on a CPM basis. It reminds me of my earliest days in print media, when everyone learned that while a fractional black-and-white ad has the same reach as a two-page color spread, the cost (and therefore CPM) of the spread could be 16 times that of the fractional unit.
Bargain pricing and low out-of-pocket expense might be a good way to attract new or cross-channel advertisers who don’t even have 30-second ads, but is there not a danger that these tiny units could become the same smokescreen that throwaway digital impressions used to offer? Is the six-second spot not somehow simply the big brother to the bumpers and billboards that TV buyers tend to get as added value?
The quantifiable media metrics on these are what pose a certain danger. On the surface, what’s to stop you from believing that the six-second spot is the better deal because it has the potential to deliver that same GRP as a 30-second ad?
Frequency as the new Impact
In my mind, the central issue is impact. What is the real impact value of a six-second TV spot?
This really bothered me until I saw the Toyota ads during the Winter Olympics. Sports, as it turns out, are ideally suited for micro spots, but what really struck me was that frequency is what gives these little units real legs. Frequency becomes the impact that the truncated length imperils. And with short units, you definitely need a lot of it.
Our current reality seems to indicate that frequency is death in emerging media, such as over-the-top, largely because there’s little to no variety in the execution from a given advertiser. This issue is compounded by the fact that so far in emerging channels, excessive frequency has been a super tough solve.
I would posit here that it becomes unnecessary to fix frequency if we can find a way for advertisers to benefit from it. And I think they can benefit from high frequency only if two fundamentals are delivered.
First: Platforms need to make short units widely available. Repeated exposures to the same 30-second ads over and over again are probably mostly doing the advertiser harm in an on-demand environment. But a lot of these little snacks served in a pleasing mosaic with limited repetition of the same snack has the potential to build impact through frequency.
Second: Advertisers need to come prepared with a lot of variety. Impact through frequency can’t be earned with three or four executions: It’ll take maybe a dozen. And these executions will have to be unified under a coherent thematic umbrella, perhaps even cut from one cloth. Collectively they need to function as the vanguard of a larger idea.
It’s the difference between confetti and streamers. And nobody is overly impressed with confetti that is all one color.
Bridging the digital divide
Interestingly, now that we don’t necessarily have to broker in the currency of 30 seconds or longer, the door opens to other advertisers – potentially sophisticated advertisers from the digital realm who perhaps have been working with short video content this whole time.
We’ve come a long way from Apple’s 1984 triumph. I think now it might be possible and even strategically prudent to pursue the idea of scores of small ripples creating the positive disruption we all hope comes of good advertising and media.