Welcome to the 1 second ad. Coming soon to a phone near you.


In a finding that reflects both the time poor nature of our current world, not to mention more proof of the considerable processing power of the human brain, mobile ads with duration of less than a second can be effective in driving brand awareness, brand consideration, key message recall and purchase intent, according to research by Facebook.

Consumers across Asia-Pacific spend significantly more time on mobile than on TV, but social media bosses argue that marketers have lagged behind when it comes to investment – just 20% of media spend across Asia Pacific is on mobile platforms. Well, “they would say that, wouldn’t they”, but as we have discussed previously, that is probably merely a wise reflection that mainstream advertising still works hard – so it’s more a question of ADDING mobile advertising to the mix rather than replacing more traditional media.

According to Reynold D’Silva, Head of Strategic Marketing for Brands & E-Commerce APAC at Facebook, and Sachin Sharma, Global Brand Partner at the social media giant, marketers should focus on short, sharp mobile advertising to capture the interest of audiences. In a recent study, people were able to recall content from their mobile newsfeed with as little as 0.25 seconds of exposure.

D’Silva and Sharma assert in an article for research reporters Warc that marketers must also rethink traditional metrics of success as they apply to mobile advertising. They argue that brands can leverage new, smarter ways of storytelling with shorter creative, and should push for impact-driven outcomes – such as brand measurements or sales uplift – rather than traditional (and, they argue, redundant) metrics such as likes or view duration.

“People are spending more and more time on mobile, and even though the time is divided into a number of short individual sessions scrolling rapidly through content, people are fully immersed and are able to take in information and make decisions much faster,” D’Silva writes. Marketers can boost the effectiveness of the mobile advertising, particularly in social media newsfeeds, by focusing on four key areas: taking advantage of auto-play, establishing the brand early, developing creative specifically for the smaller screen, and delivering the key message in the ad as quickly as possible – even in the first second.

Meanwhile, as more video consumption moves to mobile, back in April YouTube launched a new ad format for brands designed specifically for quick snippets of content.

Bumper ads—six-second, un-skippable video ads—that run before videos, are similar to YouTube’s skippable TrueView ads. But unlike TrueView—which lets advertisers create an ad of any length—Bumper caps promos at six seconds, forcing marketers to build campaigns with mobile in mind, since smartphone users have shorter attention spans.

YouTube describes the new ad format as “little haikus of video ads”- they are geared towards advertisers interested in testing the difference between TrueView and shorter video clips.

For example, Audi Germany has been testing the ads, and chose to run a 45-second TV spot as TrueView ads but with the six-second format, the brand focused on two shots—one of a soccer player and one of car spinning in a circle. According to YouTube, early tests with bumper ads are particularly effective when, surprise surprise, they are paired with TrueView and Google Preferred ads – its premium ads that run alongside the platform’s most popular content from creators.

“Bumper ads are ideal for driving incremental reach and frequency, especially on mobile, where ‘snackable videos’ perform well,” Zach Lupei, Product Manger of video ads at Google, said in a blog post. “In early tests, Bumpers drove strong lift in upper funnel metrics like recall, awareness and consideration – complementing TrueView’s strength in driving middle and lower funnel metrics like favourability and purchase intent.”

Or in other words, exactly what we would have expected the finding to be. Short ads are good reminders – agreed – but people still need quality, long-form content delivered somewhere or other – online or on their TV – to form an emotional tie or make a decision to purchase.

MOP logoAll well and good. But MOP would also counsel against the current bombardment level of social media advertising, which, in a desire to make the platforms profitable, has reach epidemic proportions.

Marketers should reflect on themselves as consumers, not just as merchants. Everyone hates their “feed” being interrupted too much, or too intrusively. While 1 second ads might sound like a smart way not to make too much interruption, we also expect shorter online ads to be served much more often, if not virtually repeatedly. Neither the advertisers nor the platforms will be able to resist.

And that is a recipe for both burn out of the material, which will have to be replaced more often (creating both an administrative and cost burden), and for consumer irritation, which might be much more costly.

Meanwhile, fellow advertising tragics might also remember from 2009 that 1 second TV can work, too. And work hard. We think “One Mississippi” is inspired, but that’s just us.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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