Six-Second Storytelling

By Mark Fenton

Even if you’ve never heard of “Bumper Ads”, you’ve likely seen them precede a YouTube video. We’ve all exhaled an audible groan as a long non-skippable ad played before our favorite cat video. Content creators and distributors (like YouTube and Facebook) have been responding with shorter and shorter messages, opening up a new genre of bumper ads: 15-second or even 6-second ads.

As a content creator, I could find this shorter format daunting, but I believe storytelling in 6 seconds can be a freeing and exciting new way to share a brand story with an audience. Additionally, studies by done by Google have found the bumper ad format to be incredibly successful with audience awareness and recall, and even more successful than 15- or 30-second ads in some cases (see “Testing Video Ad Lengths With Netflix” by Think With Google).

Essentials of Brand Storytelling in a 6-Second Format

In my experience, there are a few essential things that should be top of mind when putting together your own bumper ad:

  • Don’t repurpose your 15- or 30-second ad. Simply put, it’s like fitting a round peg in a square hole. A 30-second ad repurposed for a 6-second ad can appear fractured and confusing, and your brand story won’t connect with your audience.
  • A bumper ad works best as part of a larger campaign. Look at your digital marketing strategy and make this shorter format serve your larger goals. A bumper ad can work well in a series of bumper ads staggered over time, or in a mix of different mediums in a larger digital campaign.
  • Focus and simplify. Free yourself of over-complication and boil down to the essentials of your brand story…and then simplify it even more. Rinse and repeat. It can be difficult to cut out creative ideas if they are too long or too complicated to work in 6 seconds, but this culling of ideas is crucial.
  • Focus on details, details, details. Be very intentional with each word and each image. Every detail counts more when you have a short format.
  • Be clear about your tone. Crazy for crazy’s sake isn’t necessarily always good. Some brands can get away with this (e.g. Old Spice), but some overdo it and it’s just annoying (looking at you, KFC). The tone you set can win or lose your audience, especially when each image and word is so essential.
  • Tell a great story. This may sound obvious, but you will have to work hard to make sure your story works in 6 seconds. Even if you get the perfect idea right away, great ideas that are poorly executed will most certainly fall short of your goals.

Take a peek below at a few of my favorite examples of bumper ads on Youtube, and remember that these shorter ads are an exciting, not daunting, way to creatively tell your brand story!

The Greatest Stories Retold in 6 Seconds (these aren’t exactly ads, but they are a great exercise that show how compelling a 6-second story can be).

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