The rise of the seven second ad

Limitations can be strengths when it comes to short-form advertising. / Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash.

Everyone is looking for a way to differentiate from the competition. Sometimes a short ad is the best way to do so. It seems more and more that customers have shorter attention spans. As such, this type of ad might increasingly become the way companies capture attention. Here’s a complete breakdown concerning the seven second ad, including some hints to help you build one of your own.

What’s the purpose?

Imagine this scenario: suppose there are two separate movie trailers (previews) for the same exact film. The first trailer is three minutes long and shows you the relative plot, story and genre of the film. It provides some interesting scenes and some intrigue as to what will happen. Surely, this might be effective and you could be excited to see this movie if you’re into the type of film it is. However, even if this trailer excited some moviegoers, chances are it failed to land successfully on others. Maybe they liked the plot but thought the trailer gave away too much of the hearty parts of the movie. Maybe they don’t like the type of genre the movie falls under. Maybe they dislike the actors.

Now, picture another trailer. It flashes a few moments of danger across the screen and then, just as quickly as the audience sees them, gives the film title and release date. This trailer lasts only briefly, like seven seconds. Even though it’s advertising the same exact film, chances are this trailer was more effective. It created intrigue and an aura of mystery. It also left the audience wanting more. It even differentiated itself from other previews, as they all were roughly two minutes. Lastly, it didn’t wear the audience out with an extended preview that couldn’t hold their attention.

The above scenario describes essentially the power of the seven second advertisement. Not only is it easier to consume, it also differentiates itself from multitudes of other ads. Though a company advertisement certainly has different elements to a film trailer, the characteristics and purpose are pretty similar. Sometimes an ad is so mysterious and intriguing that it warrants more customer and audience involvement. Sometimes it lands because it didn’t bore them and lead their mind to wander.

How to create one

Before creating a seven second ad, realize of course that each company’s is going to be different. It’s going to depend on things such as the style of ad you wish to create, the type of brand you are, the location and time your ad is being placed and more.

You then have to decide the message you intend to communicate. Do you want your customers to come away from your ad with a lot of information despite such a short time seeing details? If so, this would require some creative cramming. Would you rather leave things more mysterious? If this is the case, you’ll need unique visuals and audio, as well as some storytelling (albeit minimal). Remember that whatever you choose, it needs to be appropriate to the confines of the seven second ad.

The most important thing to embrace is an ad where limitations are strengths. If you try to condense a two-minute ad into a seven second time window, you’re going to fail. Instead, turn the game on its head and create an ad that excites, inspires and whets the appetite for more information. Leave your audience with intrigue instead of indifference.

Comparison to longer ads

Certainly, there are things a longer ad can do that the seven second ad cannot. For instance, a two-minute ad gives companies the chance to breakdown key details about their products or services. It allows for detailed storytelling and branding. It offers more chances to display a logo, play a jingle and fill customer’s heads with company colours. The longer advertisements allow businesses to show why they’re better than their competitors, through detailed price and value comparisons that a shorter ad just can’t possibly do.

So how does the shorter ad compensate for each of these? Its basic power lies in its ability to deliver its message without interruption or discontinuation. For example, let’s say there are two stories. One is a novel and the other is a short story. A reader decides to read them both and give them each a rating. Imagine that, if they completed the novel, they would surely enjoy it better. However, for the sake of this example, they get bored of the longer novel and cut out halfway through it. They do, however, finish the short story. They end up rating it higher. This is one of the advantages a shorter ad has over a longer one.

Regardless of whether the shorter ad has less material to offer (and some could argue is essentially 'worse' as a result), if more audience members are completing its story, it’s winning.

Now, it’s fair to argue that this only applies when someone is unwilling to watch the longer advertisement. Furthermore, in some mediums, skipping the ad is tougher. Though this is valid, it doesn’t erase the growing trend of people with diminishing attention spans. Similarly, the ad game is expanding to systems where skipping ads is more and more possible.

Now that you have a solid understanding of the why and the how, it’s time to make your own seven second ad. Figure out the details and create something so powerful that not even a short timespan could stop its efficacy.

Cory Schmidt is head of marketing at Canto

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