Finally, a guide to short-form video. Since the introduction of 6-second ‘bumper’ ads by YouTube in 2016, short-form video (i.e. video under 10 seconds in length) has become a staple of the marketing mix. However it’s only last month that this, to our knowledge first, reliable guide to best practice in the form was made available.
The guide, published by WARC, notes that the use of short-form has exploded in the last 18 months – in fact short-form now accounts for around one in 20 of all online videos worldwide.1 This is due at least in part to the fact that their short length makes them far less intrusive, and therefore far less resented by viewers, than typical interruptive 15- or 30-second ads.
6-second ads can and have been used in a number of effective ways:
– Stand-alone, single execution: ‘Done well, they impart the brand message in a short space of time’2
– Multiple short ads: allowing for repeated exposure highlighting different aspects of the product or brand
– As part of a broader campaign: ‘Mixed with longer form 15 or 30 second ads they can provide a complement to [those] videos.’3
BUT … in order for such short bursts to be effective, the quality of your short-form comms is at least as important as its quantity. Here, the WARC report offers some principles to help guide you to best practice:
1. Have a clear purpose
Six seconds isn’t long enough to waffle, or to convey multiple points. Spend time in strategy, refining your messaging for the video to a single point that may be conveyed with clarity. Understanding how the video fits into your overall campaign is also crucial, and can prevent feeling the pressure of cramming too much into too little time. This Mammal-produced bumper for Rejuvenail, for example, is direct in its message.
2. Integrate your brand or product
Tacking a ‘reveal’ onto the end should generally be avoided. Indeed, doing so tends to reduce brand recall and association.4 Instead, put your brand/product at the heart of the video, and ensure your messaging is directly relevant to it. This Old Spice bumper does just that with a memorable problem/solution approach.
3. But avoid starting on your brand or logo
This seems potentially counter-intuitive, but opening with a logo or brand name significantly increases the likelihood of viewers skipping or ignoring. Apparently it puts a mental barrier up, as people ‘feel no further need to engage with the ad.’5
4. Likewise, avoid starting too ‘weird’
A confusing or very unusual opening image ‘creates too much of a cognitive load and risks putting viewers off from watching further’.6 It seems the most engaging short-form ads open with an image or scene that’s immediately recognisable: ‘Highly relatable situations can help viewers to quickly orient themselves in the video [especially] in the absence of sound’.7 The optimum approach seems to be to give viewers a second to settle in, and then provide an original or distinctive twist, like this spot for Bounce.
5. Be emotive
Even short-form ads can and should evoke emotion to ensure memorability. Humour, surprise, a sense of knowledge, arousal and even fear can all be triggered quickly.8 As this quirky spot for Chipsmore cookies shows.
6. Remember though, this is a guide not a rule-book
Just as a poster is the distillation of a print idea, so 6-second ads are the distillation of a video idea. So first and foremost, the strength of the concept is key. As the WARC report clearly advises, ‘there are no clear-cut rules … [but] these best-practice principles can help you get it right’.9
1. Waring, R., ‘How to Engage Consumers With Short-Form Video’, WARC Best Practice, June 2018
2, 3, 4. Waring, R. ibid.
5. Griffiths, A., ‘5 Major Reasons Why People Skip Video Ads Online’, Unruly (Blog), July 2017
6, 7, 8, 9. Waring, R., ibid.