Reposted from Forbes
by Derek Rucker

Like a number of households, after our Thanksgiving dinner, we sat down with the television on and watched NFL football. Aside from the typical experience, we were also treated to a new experiment in advertising. In particular, during the game at several points in time—in between plays—the screen that featured the game was minimized on the left and an advertisement popped up on the right for 6 seconds. For example, both Duracell and SoFi were featured in these “6-second ads.”

Can these 6-second advertisements be effective communication strategies for brands?

On the one hand, the idea of 6-second advertisement interspersed with content has some potential advantages. First, as with any new format, it tends to be which can garner more attention regardless of the specific brand or spot featured. Disruptions in the environment are classic triggers that cause us to shift our attention to the disruption. As such, where we might walk out of the room or turn to our device when a typical commercial appears, the disruption pulls us towards, not away, from the advertisement. Second, it is harder to ignore content presented in short form; by the time a person has identified the advertisement it is practically over. In a similar vein, Geicoran a series of ads on YouTube that were so short that by the time the skip feature activated (i.e., 5-seconds) the entire message by the brand had been conveyed.

The idea of “unescapable content” is very attractive to advertisers. And, the idea that the 6-second spots is presented alongside the game content makes it perhaps all the more difficult to turn away from. Finally, the short-form of the advertisements also force brands to “get to the point” quicker, which can be a means to help keep a message on brand. Thus, one can see several reasons why the endeavor of shorter spots could become an effective media strategy.

On the other hand, as a strategist, it is also clear that potential limitations in 6-second advertisements likely exist. First, the short and tight landscape might serve as a barrier for some brands to tell powerful stories or create truly emotional ads. Often, a great story is done in a manner that draws the reader in, creates tension, and then resolves it in a manner with the brand as a hero. For most brands and agencies, it is hard to properly convey all these elements of a story in the span of 6 seconds! Second, as we have seen with the evolution of digital communications, brands have to be even more cognizant of what the 6-second ad is meant to do and what it is not meant to do. A six-second ad is unlikely to serve all objectives a brand might need to ultimately make a sale (e.g., awareness, favorable attitudes, intent to purchase, etc…). Such an outcome is fine—but the brand will have to know what it has done successfully and what must be accomplished in other platforms. A final point of caution: brands must gauge how consumers both respond to, and adapt, to 6-second ads. Consumers have shown a strong ability to be “banner blind” with respect to web advertising, and it’s possible that overtime they would adapt to 6-seconds ads in a similar fashion. In addition, networks will also have to assess whether interspersing ads alongside the game does not disrupt the consumer viewing experience as well.

 One final comment that merits mention. Although the idea of 6-seconds ads as more effective means to engage the consumer, it risks shifting attention to the media channel as opposed to the creative. Put simply, in some ways, efforts to figure out how to make it hard for consumers to skip content is the wrong approach. The better approach is to create advertising content that consumers want to watch. Advertisers should not lose sight of this goal. Indeed, the Geico advertisement I mentioned isn’t great purely because it’s not skippable; it’s great because it’s also entertaining.
Regardless, the idea of experimenting with the 6-seconds ads is an interesting one. Given the potential advantages and costs of 6-second advertisements, time will tell whether the 6-second advertisement will end up as a new communication channel for networks and brands.