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?”

Dave Trott’s new book Predatory Thinking. My thoughts so far…

Following on from my blog post titled Five second marketing; Ideas for a distracted world and Nicholas Carr; What the internet is doing to our brains I have found some wonderful writing that supports that view in both style and content.

I am currently 20% through the book (according to my Kindle) and for once I actually wanted my South West Trains service to London Waterloo to slow down this morning so I could read more! Predatory Thinking is a series of short stories written by Dave Trott which is often written in short sentences, which really helps us digital natives focus.

I love the quote “If you weld a JCB to a Ferrari you don’t get a machine that can dig roads at 200 mph. You get something that can do neither job very well” A quote used when Trott describes how advertising should have only one strong message per campaign.

The title of part three should also make marketers sit up and take notice as well. ‘90% of advertising doesn’t work’ is a great story that demonstrates just how hard advertising has to work just to be seen in the first place.

I really believe this, especially in the digital space when there are so many different stimuli trying to attract a consumers attention. As I said in Five second marketing; Ideas for a distracted world brands should say just one thing, say it quickly and say it often in order to stand a chance of cutting through the clutter and being noticed. Mobile in particular sees consumers interact hundreds of time s day for a very short period each time, so your chance of connecting relies on brevity, standout and clarity of message.


Nicholas Carr on What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

I came across this YouTube video by Nicholas Carr on What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, and thought I’d give it a home on my blog.

I am trying to read The Shallows; What the internet is doing to our brains by Nicholas Carr at the moment but as you might expect when you consider the subject matter, I am constantly distracted by something else and so I found this video much more manageable.

The point made by Nicholas Carr has far reaching consequences for marketers, as I wrote in my piece titles Five Second Marketing, Ideas for a Distracted World

OOH! New message, I’m gone …


Five second marketing; ideas for a distracted world

In 2006, Lord Maurice Saatchi gave a speech at Cannes about “the death of modern advertising”, going on to explain that in the new digital world, brands needed to own a single word that epitomised their business to achieve cut through in a cluttered world. He called this concept One Word Equity.

Back then, many in the industry scoffed at the idea, perhaps because finding one word that represented an entire brand seemed far too difficult or maybe because ‘one word equity’ sounded an awful lot like shorter TV adverts, a trend that would almost certainly reduce creative production fees and media spend on television.

The overall takeaway from Lord Saatchi is perhaps best summed up by another of his legendary quotes: “It’s easier to complicate than to simplify. Simple ideas enter the brain quicker and stay there longer”.

Fast forward from Cannes 2006, and mobile devices are changing the media landscape more quickly, and more profoundly than any other media has ever done in our lifetime. Smartphone owners don’t understand what we used to call downtime because, when you own a smartphone, every single second that would have been deemed downtime before is now mobile time. At an IAB event earlier this year, James Chandler, head of mobile at media agency Mindshare, said he couldn’t remember what he used to do at a train station before he had a mobile phone. He got a laugh, but I suspect he wasn’t joking.

In March 2013, Trevor Beattie, the man responsible for famous Wonderbra and FCUK TV advertising said “I’m announcing the death of the 30-second TV ad – it is too long, it is bullshit,” speaking at the Advertising Week Europe conference in London. He said that five seconds was the right length. Click here to see his interview.

Smartphone addiction is making it increasingly difficult for us to concentrate on any one task, or to think deeply about anything. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr offers scientific proof that people living in a digital age have only a fleeting attention, and ruthlessly edit out most of what they see.

This is hardly a surprise; our smartphone has the ability to inform, entertain or connect us in an infinite number of ways, and all at the precise moment convenient to us. The downside to this connected world, however, is that people are finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything at all. We already have the ‘second-screen’ phenomenon where consumers are sat at home in front of the television, and reach for their phones as soon as the TV either makes them want to share the TV experience, or bores them into looking for fresh stimulus.


Google research shows that smartphone users look at their device on average 150 times a day. Status updates, Twitter, Google searches, checking a map, reading the news headlines … all short tasks, done often.

Mobile has an extremely high frequency of short interactions with its audience, and so it’s a little and often medium. I therefore believe that advertising on mobile should follow that trend. The following formula then seems to make sense to me:

Say one thing – just one brand message per campaign

Say it quickly – Beattie’s 5 seconds or Saatchi’s one word, you decide. Just be quick!

Say it often – Frequency of message will drive your message home.

If you have three things you need to say about your brand, run three campaigns rather than trying to make three points in one creative. One point at a time, and and don’t start another until the previous message has sunk in.

VW won a reputation of being reliable through a high frequency, single message TV campaign in the 80’s with the tagline ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’.

I often ask people what they think of VW to test this theory, and sure enough if they are old enough to have been exposed to the high frequency, single message campaign, reliable is a word that comes up time and time again. Last year What Car conducted a study, which placed Volkswagen 20th in the reliability stakes so their reputation for reliability would seem to have been built through single message, high frequency advertising.

As consumers move more and more to an online world, and in particular to smartphones and tablets you have less time, and less space to make a connection. So marketing needs to adapt to this new world.

Say one thing; Say it quickly & Say it often

Mobile industry has to move beyond the click.

According to Google the average smartphone owner looks at their smartphone one hundred and fifty times a day, and more than half of the UK population now have a one which often stays with them day and night. The same study reveals that 84% of smartphone users notice mobile advertising, and 56% have performed a search after seeing a mobile advert. Not clicked, searched.

The smartphone is creating a mass brand building channel by anybody’s standards, and it is growing by the day. If you need proof just speak to any publisher in the UK and they will tell you that an ever increasing percentage of their digital audience now choses to access content via a mobile device.  I know some huge publishers that already see more page impressions generated on mobile than desktop, and I know many others that will find themselves in that situation before long.

So with more and more eyeballs moving away from the fixed internet and onto mobile, how are brands taking advantage of the mass market branding opportunity that smartphones offer? The answer is, in the main, they’re not. A huge percentage of campaigns on mobile are chasing clicks, not building brands.

To execute a successful brand campaign I have always understood that the fundamental requirements are the right message (the creative) in front of the right people (target market) in the right environment (selected media owner) and then repeated a sufficient number of times for the message to sink in (repetition).

Unfortunately, as inconvenient as it is, it is simply not realistic to expect consumers who have read and understood the message to then click, just to give us a heads-up. Look again at the stat from Google. 56% of people that saw a mobile advert searched for that brand as a result.

A senior marketer at a huge global company told me they were “desperately trying to stop our media agencies optimising on just the click” yet with no other tangible ROI metrics available, the click remains the sole metric of success in most cases.

Another problem with chasing clicks is that clicks can be accidental, especially on gaming apps when the frequency and speed of tapping is much higher generally than on a news site for example. Many performance agencies will buy and optimise campaigns chasing these clicks, and understandably so, because it is often the sole metric on which they are being judged and paid.

Look at the screen grab from the Talking Tom app below, a game played by kids, then look at the advert. My five year old has this app and likes it when he makes the cat pass wind a lot. I have lost count of the times I have had to correct an accidental click, by closing a browser and re-opening the Talking Tom app for him.

talking tom

I am pretty sure that despite it being an outstanding quality newspaper that my son has not once clicked with a view to engaging with the brand. He’s five. Around 43% of mobile usage is gaming, and there are billions of impressions in the market like this every day. This blind faith in CTR as a metric can give rise to crazy situations where a Sunday Times campaign that delivered lots of clicks on sites such as Talking Tom could be deemed a success, yet the same campaign with another network could have been positioned in front of an AB audience, who like to ready quality journalism, but because the CTR was far lower it was measured as less of a success.

A recent article in The Guardian backed up this trend. Parents have been hit with bills for hundreds of pounds from iTunes, because they have downloaded free apps for their kids to play, and the children have then accidentally clicked on the in-app purchases that tend to litter these apps. The default setting on iOS devices means that once you have entered your password once (to download the app) you don’t need to enter it again for 15 minutes, and that window of time is enough for little fingers to tap up big bills.

I think we really need to trust what we know about marketing a lot more, and use mobile to build brands. Then, we of course need to find a way of measuring that as we do with any other mass media. The click however is not the answer.



Tip for anybody worried about their iPad 3 battery life

When I first got my iPad 3 (The new iPad) it had some charge in it out of the box, and I charged it from that point to 100%

I used it a lot the next day, and the battery seemed to be draining far quicker than the iPad 2 ever did, and it was getting rather warm.

I trawled through the Apple forums, and saw a top tip to let the battery run out completely and then charge it from there. That worked the first time, but it appeared that every time you wanted to charge it, you needed to let it drain completely first which isn’t always possible.

So if I charged from anywhere other than zero, the second I pulled the power lead out of the iPad it would drop to 99% and then 98% very quickly afterwards.

So I tried charging from about 25% with the power off. I unplugged it, turned it on, and it was performing in line with expectations.

So, charge with the power off. Take the power lead out and then turn it on. Voila!

Examples of ‘pay it forward’ in marketing

I read a lovely article yesterday by Nicola Clark at Marketing Magazine titled ‘Why Brands Should Pay it Forward’ which you can read by clicking on the link. You can follow Nicola on Twitter also @nickykc

The article reminded me of two specific examples of ‘pay it forward’ type thinking that I wanted to share, and while they are not at all digital, this is the best place I have to share them!

The first came when I first started out in media 20 years ago (gulp!) I was working in media sales for the South London Guardian. A big category of advertiser for me at that time was restaurants, and in particular Indian restaurants, which is handy because I have a near obsession for Indian food!

I remember visiting restaurant after restaurant to sell space in our monthly wine & dine feature, which consisted of a double page spread full of restaurant advertising, with an editorial piece at the top for one of the paying advertisers.

Almost every restaurant owner wanted to offer a ‘free bottle wine with a table of four’ or ‘your first beer free if you spend a certain amount’ and they wanted that prominently displayed in their advertising copy. The message was very much if you dine with us, we will chuck something in to sweeten the deal and it worked.

One restaurant refused to lead with offers, however. It was the Asif Balti House in Beddington, and it had a fantastic reputation for excellent food and service. Ali, the owner, believed that offering a free bottle of wine devalued his restaurant, and refused no matter how many times this young, eager salesman tried to convince him that it would increase his response.

What Ali would do instead, is he would accept a lower conversion rate by not offering anything free in his advert. However, when a new customer had finished dining and had paid the bill, he would present them with a free bottle of wine to enjoy at home. I witnessed exchange may times and I can testify that the surprise and good will generated was so higher that way round. Customers would walk out with a spring in their step and a big grin, ready to spread some more word of mouth advertising for Ali. The ‘free bottle of wine’ doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels more like a manipulation – a part of the price. The free bottle of wine as you leave feels like a present, and there are no strings attached as you have eaten and paid. I learnt a valuable lesson from Ali all those years ago, which has stayed with me ever since.


The second example was more recently at Pret. I was working near Bond Street underground station, and my morning patronage was split between Starbucks and Pret, depending on who had the shorter queue. I hate to queue!

One morning I walked past Starbucks into Pret, ordered my coffee, and waited as patiently as I am able for it to be prepared. When it was ready, I offered a note in payment, and the lady said ‘not today sir, this one is on the house’. I was shocked & delighted in equal measure. The monetary value of that coffee may be low, and getting it free had no real effect on my finances, but the goodwill it generated saw me lean more towards Pret than Starbucks from that day onwards and I went straight into work and told the entire office about my great start to the day and have told many people since as well.

I guess the morale of the story is that if you offer consumers something free up front, it feels more like a negotiation, but if you offer nothing free upfront, but offer something freely from time to time the levels surprise and good will generated are significantly higher.

UX v privacy

If I register for a site, and give that site my personal email address, then shouldn’t that site automatically log me in to my account if I click on a link embedded within an email they have sent me?

My smartphone and tablet are still full of wonder to me after all these years, and they have undoubtedly streamlined my life and made me more productive. However, it really irritates me if I receive an email to my personal email account and a link within designed to make me re-visit said site takes me to the login page!

I may be mildly curious as to what content lies beyond the link, but if I get to the login page, I’ll just move on.

M…I…k…e…SHIFT…#+=…UNDERSCORE … N..i…c…h… Just log me in would you!!!

I realise even as I type that this makes me sound super-impatient, which I guess is true, but I can’t be the only one abandoning a user journey at the login page can I?

The Listserve.com – World peace, or toad in the hole?

The Listserve.com says that they are an email lottery, and if you sign up to receive just one email a day from another subscriber, then you are automatically entered into the draw to be the author of that email.

Their tagline is “If you had the chance to speak to one million people, what would you say?” I was kind of inspired. I thought that the idea that people could use this platform to spread messages of hope, tolerance, love and human kindness across the entire world was a great idea, and so I signed up at www.thelistserve.com All you have to do is enter your email address, and you’re done.

Today’s message was from a guy who “wasn’t expecting to be given the chance” to email us all, and who by his own admission “can’t really cook” and yet he decided to send the world a recipe for toad-in-the-hole.

Yesterday I had pearls of wisdom such as “you should brush your teeth before you eat, or wait 30 minutes after (for PH reasons).

How funny that people see an opportunity to message the masses, and think this is the important stuff. The masses, at last count, by the way are 18,331.

I do hope that the subscribers numbers sour, and those who get the chance to write up their game, because it could be like the world’s speakers corner.