The Rise in Short Form Video Ads – Opportunities and Challenges

This article was featured in WARC in December 2018.

By Jim Berridge

Short form advertising is not a new phenomenon. In our daily lives, short form ads are arguably the most common form of advertising we interact with, especially for those who spend a lot of their time online.

What has changed however, is the number of brands that have started using short form ads (5-7 seconds) on traditional media such as TV.

Changing TV Landscape

There have been many recent disruptions to traditional TV ad formats, such as split screen insertions or even commercial ad break takeovers, a format that has had a lot of success on ITV in the UK. However, it looks like shorter form ads will be most likely to drive disruption of traditional TV ad breaks.

Over the past decade, the TV media landscape has evolved hugely (especially in the past four years). According to data from Phoenix Brand Effect (previously Nielsen’s TV Brand Effect) published in 2017, 30 second ads make up less than 50% of TV ads, dropping 11% since 2014. As David Lubars, chief creative officer of BBDO told the Financial Times, “There will never again be a single dominant format for television commercials”.

Recently, we have seen an increase in short form ad proliferation, with media weight using short form ads showing increased growth since Q2 2017. This growth in media spend suggests that not only are brands becoming more familiar with shorter form ads, but they offer good value. However, when it comes to effectiveness, how do short form ads compare to traditional 30 second ads and even their slightly longer cousin, the 15 second ad?

Short form ad effectiveness

To gain an understanding into the rise of this new format and help set expectations and roles for clients and the industry alike, Phoenix MI conducted a study of 100 short form TV ads. Using Phoenix Brand Effect, we tested ad memorability in a panelists’ natural environment 24 hours after they were exposed to the ad, to understand the ad resonance and impact. We then compared the results of short form ads to our historical norms of longer forms in the Brand Effect database. From that we can analyse Ad Memorability (% of consumers able to remember the content) and Brand Linkage (% of ad aware consumers able to name the advertised brand). When combined, these scores create the Brand Memorability metric (% of ad viewers that remember both the ads content and advertised brand).

So, how do short form ads perform?  According to the data, short form ads are almost as effective at driving brand memorability as the 15 and 30 second formats. In a real world TV environment, short form ads were only slightly less memorable. For Ad Memorability, 39% of respondents were able to remember the short form ads they were exposed to, compared to 42% for 15 second ads and 43% for 30 second ads.

When asking consumers to remember and explain the content of an ad, short form ads are at a significant disadvantage. Usually consumers remember a theme or a significant part of an ad that then drives them to remember the rest of the content. But when remembering a specific theme of a short form ad, there is a lot less content to remember. Therefore, it is unsurprising that short form ads are outperformed by their longer counterparts in ad memorability. There is a greater amount of creative shackling on short form ads as the brand really needs to deliver its message quickly. In addition to the creative restrictions around short form ads, the lack of media weight and consumer familiarity to shorter form ads impacts ad memorability scores. However, as short form advertising become more commonplace, we expect consumers’ memorability of the content to increase as they become more familiar with the format.

If a brand is just looking to generate memorable content and increase memorability of the content in an ad, then short form ads may not be the way forward, at least until they become more mainstream.

However, advertising is not about a consumer just being able to remember the content of their ad, it is also about remembering the brand and driving sales. The second half of the equation to create the overall brand memorability metric is brand linkage, and this is where short form ads really start to prove their value. Brand linkage is measured by % of the viewers who remember an ad’s content and also remember the advertised brand.

Short form ads perform just as strongly when it comes to consumers’ ability to remember the brand in an ad, achieving a score of 56% (on par with 30 second ads and only 1% down from 15 second ads which perform highest at 57%). Interestingly, 60 second ads are the worst performing format for brand linkage.

Brand Linkage is a very important factor for brands, and if consumers are unable to remember the name of your brand, then ultimately the media spend is wasted. Shorter form ads hold the advantage in this measurement because the ad gets to the brand name quicker. For some brands, this could be exactly what they are looking for. However, the balance is essential. Shorter form ads will be more effective when used to support a wider marketing plan and supplement the longer creative, rather than being a stand alone campaign.

For Brand Memorability, the percentage of viewers that remember both the ad’s content and the advertised brand, short form ads continue to perform very well. 15 second and 30 second ads are the best performing formats, scoring 24% (putting to rest the debate that 15 seconds are not long enough to generate Brand Memorability). Short form ads perform almost as well, scoring 22% (the same score as 60 second ads).

When comparing and contrasting the common characteristics of the top and bottom performing ads, the same characteristics of what makes an effective 15 or 30 second ad are applicable to short form ads as well. What we have seen is that for short form ads, it’s important to ensure things are simple and focused (a simple plot, simple message and a singular setting and focus). It is also essential to exclude information overload, frenetic visual and heavy text based ads. Short form ads are meant to be the sharpest and most direct form of advertising, not the slowest.

Opportunities and challenges for 2019 and beyond:

Short form ads will provide a huge opportunity for marketers over the next 12-18 months. Many more brands are starting to experiment with the format and are seeing success with this format. As 2019 develops, we expect the trend of media weight for short form ads to continue to increase and brands start to implement some very creative and distinctive work using shorter form ads.

  • As consumers start becoming even more familiar with short form ads, we expect their prowess and power will continue to grow.
  • One of the main challenges for marketers and brands is having the control not to go all in on shorter form ads and neglect other formats. What the industry needs to avoid is another App Store scenario, where marketers rush to embrace the concept without really thinking about what is right for their brand.
  • Short form ads tend to work best when running alongside longer form ads or as supporting wider marketing campaigns. Just as social media is a way to amplify a brands message, so are short form ads.
  • That said, if executed properly, short form ads can be an effective format for a solo campaign.
  • Think of the creative just like Twitter; on Twitter you only have 140 characters to convey a message. With short form ads, you only have between five or seven seconds to get your brand’s message across. It took a little while for brands to get it right when first embracing Twitter, and we expect it will take some brands a little time to get it right with short form ads. However, the opportunities, just like on social media, are huge when brands do get it right.

While the majority of advertisers are currently watching from the sidelines, early analysis shows that short form ads warrant a place in the advertisers arsenal, if used to achieve the right objectives and are properly executed. With the added benefit of greater cost efficiencies and less dependency on media slots, short form ads are definitely on the rise and here to stay.

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