A recent piece in Adweek, Why Brands and Agencies Are Preparing for the Era of 6-Second Ads, is predicting that these “snackable” ads – even shorter than the time food takes to get from your mouth to your stomach – will begin to come into their own, if not by the end of this year, then by 2018. And the future may already be here. The NFL started using 6-second spots during this season’s games on Fox. The reason: the bite-sized videos are ideal for attracting Millennials and Gen Z, who, at least stereotypically, have little patience for longer-form formats.
And research shows that they work, at least when it comes to building brand recognition, especially in targeting new customers. A Google-sponsored study found that 90 percent of the mini ads succeeded in driving ad recall, while six in 10 moved the needle on brand awareness.
With advertising moving in this direction, what opportunities does it create for public relations?
To start, the trend validates what we have long known, that PR is far more effective for creating context than advertising can. We may not be able to compete with ads when it comes to sheer frequency, particularly if we can now be bombarded with ads in six-second increments, but when it comes to engagement, to connecting with consumers beyond an emotional level and to showcasing expertise, public relations has always excelled.
But given the gathering success of six-second ads, should we be considering a public relations equivalent? Not necessarily. One reason for the micro-ads’ growing popularity is that this kind of advertising by its very nature is disruptive. They stand as the price of admission before web users can access their desired content. And let’s face it, no matter how creative they are, they are as annoying as that car driving 45 in the highway’s left lane. You can’t wait to pass by clicking the “Skip this ad” arrow. So, the thinking now, of course, is that six seconds is less bothersome, begging the question, “when will we see five-second spots?”
The difference with PR is that we create content developed specifically for certain target audiences. By and large, they have likely either actively sought it out or, given their demographic or consumer profile, has been delivered to their social media news feeds. Because audiences are seeking out information and expertise that we have developed, when they find it, they don’t have to endure a secondary distraction, but can delve right in. If our targeting is accurate – i.e. boosting content via online ad platforms – the content will resonate with the desired audiences who will ultimately spend time with it. The point is, if users are finding the right content, we don’t need to rush them through.
Even so, there could be some learning for PR practitioners based on the growing popularity of yawn-length ads. The same rationale for six-second spots could also be the reason that research tells us why images do so well as a form of content – it’s a quick way to get a point across. It’s also why employing Twitter as part of your content strategy is worth considering – a means for summing up longer-form content that you can link to. These are perhaps the six-second equivalents in the PR world and tactics to keep in mind, especially when Millennials and Gen Z comprise your target audience.