Where are all the five second video adverts?

Reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message and in the right environment. I don’t believe that the holy grail of marketing excellence has changed despite the stellar rise of digital media, but looking at the state of mobile video advertising I can’t help but be concerned that round pegs are continually being hammered into square holes with terrible results for the user, publisher and brand alike.

mobile video

I first started working with mobile video in 2007 and my biggest challenge back then was to convince advertisers to supply creative that was shorter than 30 seconds. Often the content that we were producing was only 60 seconds in length, yet the 30-second TV ad was still the format of choice. In reality, it was the only format the media agencies had to work with, and eight years later in a conversation with a senior exec at a leading mobile ad network, it pains me to say that little has changed. Brand-advertising campaigns continue to come in the shape of 30-second, TV like, ads.

A series of creative legends such as Sir Maurice Saatchi, Trevor Beattie, and Dave Trott have spoken publicly about the less is more maxim. As reported in AdAge.com this week Brad Jakeman, President of PepsiCo’s beverage group said “My particular peeve is pre-roll. I hate it,” he added. “What is even worse is that I know the people who are making it know that I’m going to hate it. Why do I know that? Because they tell me how long I am going to have to endure it – 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds. You only have to watch this crap for another 10 seconds and then you are going to get to the content that you really wanted to see. That is a model of polluting content that is not sustainable.”

I don’t think the pre-roll is the problem, but the 30 second length of them harks back to a time when the biggest distraction a 30 second TV advert had to compete with was probably the lowly kettle. No remote controls, no smartphones, no games consoles, no internet. To change channels and avoid advertising would involve getting up, going to the TV, and switching channels. In today’s world in which there are infinite opportunities to click to educate, entertain or simply waste our time online attention is more fleeting. We have email, Facebook messenger, IM, Skype, WhatsApp, push notifications … a plethora of apps, pings and beeps that break our concentration constantly.

“To test this theory, imagine that you have your mobile phone in your hand now. Imagine you have been moved to open your favorite news app, and then press play on the following video. Imagine this video has launched, between you and the news content you just clicked to access, and then press stop on the video at the point you personally would have pressed the skip button of it were available on a video interstitial….

Then, ask yourself, what brand message did you get in that time you viewed the advert? The likely answer if you are like the majority of mobile viewers, is that you wouldn’t have the first idea what the advert was all about. That is because you had likely quit before the brand had even been mentioned, as it took 23 seconds to even mention the brand in this 40-second video advert

As a disclaimer, I have no idea if this particular campaign was ever run on digital publishers, and I am in no way suggesting that Heinz are at fault, but I know that 30 and 40 seconds brand adverts are regularly run on mobile devices and it has to be too long to makes sense? In fact this Heinz ‘Magic Beans’ advertisement is a really wonderful example of how the power of sight, sound and motion can create emotion. No doubt, if it were played to packed cinema audiences, in the dark, with a huge screen and deep, rich sound and all while mobile phones were switched off it would have been a resounding success. However, by the time the vast majority of users have clicked the close button Heinz, or their ‘Magic beans’ had not even been mentioned. What a waste of an opportunity.

In a previous blog post I suggested that brands should ‘say one thing, say it quickly and say it often’ to fit into the consumers use of their mobile device. Consumers are constantly dipping in and out of their mobile phone, so to me it is a little and often medium. Surely then, advertising should follow that pattern?

In this example, imagine if Heinz had managed to reach a good audience on TV and in cinema, who had watched the entire 40 seconds and thus consumed the Jack and the Beanstalk inference and emotional connection. Then, once the message was lightly planted, if you’ll excuse the pun, they could use mobile video to remind and reinforce that 40 second story with a simple 5 second summary advert that read “For truly magic beans, it has to be Heinz’.

The IAB standard on what constitutes a view on display advertising is ‘50% of pixels must be in the viewable portion of an internet browser for a minimum of one continuous second’ so what makes us think that we will get 100% for 30 seconds with video?

Say one thing, say it quickly and say it often. Trevor Beattie has spent a career making famous TV advertising and using the 30 second format to tell stories. However, at an Advertising Week conference in London in 2013 he announced the death of the 30 second TV spot, as reported in the Guardian, and went on to say “5 seconds is the right length”. I agree with Beattie, five second video ads need to be the future of video advertising on mobile devices if the holy trinity of the consumer, the publisher and the brand are all to extract any value from the exchange.

I’ll finish with another quote from Brad Jakeman, President of PepsiCo’s beverage group “We are still talking about the 30-second TV spot. Seriously?”

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