Five seconds, is that enough for a brand to tell its story? While Todd Sampson says otherwise, Tyler Greer, head of strategy APAC, Exponential, believes it’s where the industry is heading.
I was recently watching Gruen and, like you, yelling at the TV that I know more than any of them and “where is my spot on the panel??”, when Mr. Sampson made a comment that made me pause. The discussion was around pre-rolls and whether delivering them in shorter bursts, given they often proceed short form content, might be wiser. Five seconds, for instance. Sampson suggested that five seconds was too short a format through which to deliver a brand story. This is a principle which needs exploring.
Pre-rolls are a strange beast in advertising – loathed by consumers, loved by media agencies, often misunderstood by creatives, worth a fortune to publishers, and arguably the driving financial force behind the fastest growing channel in the online world, video. Studies consistently suggest that pre-roll outperforms TV placement on a range of brand health metrics. This may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: they ain’t going anywhere. The question is whether or not the industry is using the space in the right way. It may be, in fact, that five seconds is actually the optimal way to go. The idea that TVCs can be shunted into the digital video space as a way to gain incremental reach presupposes that all screens operate the same way for consumers, and that reach trumps impact. Possibly right. But perhaps there are ways better suited to the boundaries of the medium.
Buying models often seek to address this. Cost per Completed View is a simple buying method, but it respects a format in which the user has the option of skipping, rendering the video of lesser value. User opt-in Cost per Engagement models also recognise that, the importance of charging only for those who elect to take a deeper brand journey.
Sampson’s idea that five seconds is too short a format through which to deliver a story is perplexing, particularly if this format is shown to carry less-annoyance, stronger impact, and offer a more efficient buying model for brands. Focusing on the limitations of the environment rather than the creative solution seems an unhelpful.
In fact, limitations are more often than not what fuels creativity – they foster a process that forces us to think our way through and problem solve. A canvas is static, so when the artist needs to convey movement he is forced to deploy technique and colour and brushstroke to achieve this. The limitations of the medium means he needs to find creative solutions. When it’s done well we call it genius. This applies to many of the great human achievements we admire; the ability to create something astonishing or functional with limited tools or parameters. We even have a saying for it: necessity is the mother of invention.
Outdoor advertising has known this for decades. Constricted to the short amount of time in which the freeway driver whizzes past and looks up, the medium found a way to deliver a brand message in a very short window. Boundaries are not always a barrier to creativity; rather a problem which must be solved using available techniques and tools. If five seconds is too short a format through which to tell a story, then change the story.
Edward de Bono, he of the ‘six thinking hats’ theory, speaks of being ‘blocked by openness’, a situation by which the easiest way forward robs us of experience and creative thinking. To illustrate this, he places a roadblock on the freeway you take to work every day, forcing you to take an alternative route. Along this route you see things you have never seen – houses, streets, shops – but also discover that the path is a more effective way to reach your destination. The openness of the freeway precluded this exploration in the first place.
Why does this matter? Because right now the industry is faced with an ever expanding array of formats through which to speak with audiences, and few adhere to traditional creative structures. Some are text based, some only image and some video, some aural and others interactive; in each case they differ and so too will the creative solutions brands must bring to them. The ability of a brand to connect with its audience will require each channel be taken on its merits and, if need be, the story telling method altered accordingly. This is the most critical challenge in media and advertising today.
This is no doubt a challenge, and if you’re reading on for an answer as to the best way forward here’s a spoiler alert: I don’t have one. Traditional advertising has sculpted our thinking around story-telling of 30 second TVCs supported by outdoor, magazine and radio. And it has also defined how we measure success and the attribution models we bring to these – reach, awareness, brand health, etc. All are up for re-evaluation because consumer touchpoints are so varied. It is the most interesting and exciting time in history to be working in media. So many channels, so many ways to tell brand stories, and so many ways for creative exploration.