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If you’ve been on Youtube lately (and I know you have been), you’ve probably seen a bumper ad. Youtube launched this six-second pre-roll format last year and It didn’t take long for it to catch on, with Fox and other major networks testing out the format too. Recently, Youtuve found that 90% of advertisers saw a lift in ad recall after testing 300 bumper campaigns. As content shortens, it’s only natural that the ads that go along with it shorten too. While almost all six-second ads are a part of a larger campaign with 15 and 30 second spots, they can be the most difficult of the formats to master. We explore four ways to make the most of the time you have, and four great ads using those tactics.

1. Know Your Message Inside and Out

There’s nothing worse than a drawn out story whose point could have been addressed in a few words. The benefit of six-second ads is that they force you to be hyper-concise about what your message is. You have barely a sentence of dialogue or 180 frames of video to tell your viewers what you want them to know. Taking a 30 second idea and being able to condense it to six seconds means having to cut through all the industry speak, unnecessary visuals and cluttered wording to get to the core of what your video is about.

In this campaign, Kia is advertising a new feature, their blind spot detection. In these six seconds, they are able to assert the true value of the feature and show it in action. This ad features no drives through Colorado mountains or off-roading in Arizona. It gets to the point and stays there.

2. You need a punchline

Whether it’s a single image, a word, a sentence or a sound, your content needs to have a straightforward and punchy message. Think of this as your punchline. This is all your viewer is going to take away from your ad, so make sure you use it wisely. Every frame you spend needs to lead to that punchline.

This video from Mother NY illustrates a great use of punchline. Their message is that global warming is real, and the way they build up to that statement is effortless and smart, like any good joke should be.

3. Build curiosity

This format is great for reeling in your viewers without giving it all away. The job of an ad this short is to seduce your viewer with a quick thought or image, and leave them wanting to know more. This is an effective way to introduce viewers to your brand messaging without overloading them. To really raise the stakes, include a quick call to action that provokes people to get more information, watch more content or visit your site.

This trailer for Neighbours 2 builds curiosity and gets us laughing all in a six-second window. Why is Seth Rogen being flung at a wall? We don’t know, but it’s funny. Do we want more of that crude humour? Of course. 

4. Be relatable


They say a picture says a thousand words. That’s because a single facial expression can give you all the information you need to understand a situation. A moment of recognizable emotion is a great way to capture people’s attention. Because emotional content is relatable, people will be able to fill in the gaps of what’s missing from your six-seconds.

This Air BnB ad demonstrates the pure joy of sharing a laugh with someone you love. By combining the expression of bliss on the little girl’s face with the text “Book your family home”, they are effectively relating that emotion with their home rentals.

While the six second ads seems daunting, accepting the challenge is a great exercise for creatives. It forces us to minimize clutter, be concise with our messaging and ultimately pin down what drives our ideal consumers. In some ways, it’s taking us back to the days of print advertising where you had one image to captivate an audience. Use your copy and your visuals wisely and always channel your inner Don Draper.

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Madelaine Sawyers

Author Madelaine Sawyers

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