Does the Six-Second Commercial Have Staying Power?

July 7, 2017 Kevin Kohn

The six-second commercial may find its way to linear TV in the near future. At this year’s Cannes Festival, Fox Networks announced they will roll out the super-short form ads on their digital and on-demand properties, where they will not be skippable—just like the YouTube versions. Fox also indicated that these types of spots could be available on linear TV in the near future, as well.

Of course, the buyer-seller landscape first needs to reach an agreement on pricing and structure to make this more commonplace, but Fox’s movement may give the industry a reason to start considering. As networks seek ways to compete with OTT and digital platforms that give users the option to opt-out of ads altogether, the six-second commercial may be an interesting alternative.

It’s no secret that the traditional TV industry must get creative to stay relevant with the changing viewer landscape, but the reality is, this medium is still commanding a large piece of ad budgets—about $70 billion a year to be exact. The six-second commercial may be one way (of many) for TV ads to stay the course in a digital world, but one thing is for certain: proper measurement, attribution and benchmarking of these mini-spots will be crucial to understanding if they are really worth the shift.

And therein lies another potential hurdle. Traditional TV has been one of the industry’s longest-standing holdouts when it comes to getting a measurement and metrics overhaul. TV measurement methods simply haven’t been updated to offer advertisers the same speed, accessibility, accuracy and transparency they enjoy on digital. One reason for this is that doing so requires the industry to retroactively “tack on” emerging technology to a legacy medium, whereas digital was built from the ground up with measurement in mind.

The bad news: we don’t yet have evidence of what a six-second spot may be worth in terms of brand recall, media and audience values, or customer attribution—let alone if they are worth a higher going rate than a traditional 15 or 30.

The good news: as advertisers and networks collectively assess new ad models, the six-second spot isn’t the only experiment. In addition to traditional paid TV ads, many brands are also investing in sponsorship of events, sports and athletes. This means their on-screen real-estate is smaller and their on-air time is usually shorter, but brands’ expectations for exposure with these captive audiences are just as high.

Unfortunately, available metrics—such as reporting on logo appearances by time or size—work hard to meet these expectations, but don’t actually result in any tangible value for the brand. For instance, a logo far off in the screen, not within the same focal point as the on-screen action, is likely completely off the casual viewer’s radar. Nevertheless, it’s reported as an impression, and isn’t distinguished in any way from true impressions that drive value.

But TV has a lot more to offer than “impressions”, but without standards for “ranking” these appearances and classifying them according to visibility and completeness, it’s nearly impossible to attribute any true value either. The six-second commercial could suffer from this same fate if measurement standards aren’t adopted alongside an adjusted ad-buy.

While there are many TV-specific variables at play on both the creative and measurement sides of the equation, brands are discovering new ways of understanding what their huge (or in this case, short!) investments mean for the bottom line—and how those investments impact efforts on other channels. So, the six-second digital video ads may work for TV or may help TV work better. Time will tell, but proper measurement will be key.

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