The Rise of The 6-Second Ad – How They Can Work For Your Institution​


Screen times are getting higher and attention spans are getting shorter and it’s important that video ads adapt to accommodate this.  This has resulted in the rise of the six-second ad, the much shorter cousin of the thirty-second standard format ad. Whilst the thirty-second ad still has a higher level of engagement, the six-second ad can be very powerful at making the same emotional connection in a much shorter time period.  Many brands are turning to them and your institution shouldn’t be left behind.

However, there are so many different directions to go with the six-second ad.  Do you add sound and music? Do you want a narrative theme? Do you want celebrity endorsement?  Some companies have been tempted to just used clipped down versions of longer ads, to save time shooting entirely new content, but is this really the best thing to do?  Luckily, there are some answers.

Research performed by Caroline Hugonec and Realeyes – a company that provides face scanning technology that can map emotion and engagement levels – gave some fascinating insights into what six-second ads performed best.  The research involved 12,000 respondents watching a variety of six-second ads, monitoring their responses. Based on that data, we’ve compiled a guide of the best practices of what your institution can do to make this work for you.  

Five Things to Include in Your Six-Second Ad

Purpose built is important; Whilst it’s more labour and time intensive, it is crucial that your six-second ad is purpose-built.  Shortened/clipped down versions of a longer thirty-second ad lack the key components needed for an effective shorter ad.  The six-second ad should be treated as a separate entity with its own checklist, not as a ‘mini’ version of the longer thirty-second ad.

Simplify; You can’t fit as much into six seconds as thirty, so keep things simple.  A major mistake made by many advertisers was trying to cram too much into such a short period of time, resulting in one in five consumers reporting they didn’t understand what the ad was about.  Cut the excess content and get right to the point.

 Make them smile; Whilst the ad needs to be simple, it still needs to have an underlying message.  Engagement lifts by one third when a narrative is present. Humour is always a classic (lifted engagement by 50%) and there is a preference for real-life footage (increased engagement by roughly one quarter).   Tugging at people’s heartstrings is a tried and tested method, no matter your product – the best performing ad of the study was a close up of a puppy for Royal Canin. Having said that, we wouldn’t recommend flooding your campus with puppies for the sake of social media ads.   

Think of the sound; Whilst the classic TV ad format relies heavily on sound and music to establish an emotional connection, we would advise steering clear of this for six-second ads.  Many people watch on mobile phones set to silent these days, so you’d be better off adding closed captions integrated into the video and forgetting about music altogether.  The ads in the study that showed the highest levels of engagement often did not have a musical backing track.

Give them a call to action; Whilst it sounds like an obvious thing to do, a surprisingly high number of ads in the study did not have a ‘call to action’.  Only one in six actually asked for a response from the viewer. Despite this, there is no suggestion from the research that viewers are turned off by a call to action, so we’d recommend including one in all your ads.

And one final thing not to worry about with regard to the ads is including any kind of celebrity or brand endorser.  Engagement actually was 35% lower when famous faces were present compared to other ads. A great option for education institutions is using your own students or alumni.  This both looks more natural and ensures you’re attracting the right kind of students for your institution.

Six-second ads are a crucial part of many social media platforms, so getting savvy with them could help your institution immensely in the long run.  

To find out more about how you can make six-second ads work for your institution, please get in contact with Touchpoint Digital today.