Get creative with 6-second ads: Forget the cutdown, think sequence instead

Brianne Janacek Reeber April 2018 Video

If you’ve ever tackled creating six-second ads, you’ve probably had conversations about cutdowns, priorities, and focus. When talk of six-second ads came up recently with a friend at a creative agency, she rolled her eyes. Why the grumble? “It’s not the format,” she said. “It’s the fight to convince clients to let go of all the mandatories from the :30. You can’t cram everything into six tiny seconds.”

6-second ads can’t do everything

The key to six-second ads that work? Knowing they work best in addition to longer form ads, not in lieu of them. Think of them as parts of a whole, small scenes in a larger act, or slices of a bigger story served to a viewer in sequence over time. That way, they can be so much more than just a cutdown. And the creative use cases are many.

YouTube recently tasked global creative agencies to retell classic fairy tales for the modern world using six-second, 15-second, and long-form video formats. The catch: they couldn’t make just one video. They had to use short, medium, and long formats. The first reaction from many mirrored the response of Ogilvy India’s Namrata Keswani: “Only six seconds?! We’re from India where we have Bollywood. We’re used to three-hour stories with all the drama. This is a tall order.”

The end results revealed some pretty clever tactics for how to use six-second videos to orchestrate a longer story by serving different video units to a viewer over time in a predetermined sequence.

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1. Tease a longer form ad to come

Perhaps the most obvious use case for six-second ads is to tease a longer form ad. As Hecho en 72 Creative Director Evan DeHaven—who remade “Puss in Boots”—said, “We wanted to use the six-second videos to inform the user so they’d know a little bit of the story. That way, when they got into the long-form version and saw an element of something that had appeared in the six-second video, they’d feel like they were at home.” 

View the “Puss in Boots” remake.

The Energy BBDO team did something similar with their remake of the “Three Little Pigs” (which they dubbed “Pigsty or Palace”). They used short, six-second video ads to give a preview of the long-form video. The team then opened it by exclaiming, “Welcome back,” to signal that this video builds off the shorter snippets.

View “Pigsty or Palace,” the remake of the “The Three Little Pigs.”

2. Build a longer form story from a series of 6-second ads in a row

BBH China took a very different approach to retell “Hansel and Gretel,” choosing to conceive the story as a series of six-second scenarios from the start.

The team dreamed up tons of scenarios involving the witch from the fairy tale—approving measurements for her oven or supervising development of her model candy home—and brought them to life in several six-second videos. Then, in a delightfully clever move, they took all those short scenarios and strung them together to make a long-form video.  

The long-form video for the remake of “Hansel and Gretel”

View “Project Candy House,” the remake of “Hansel and Gretel.”

3. Build intrigue by sequencing a few 6-second ads to serve to a viewer over time  

When the team at Grey remade “Little Red Riding Hood,” they recast Little Red Riding Hood as a self-made heroine instead of a victim. The start of their story was a series of three different six-second ads, each providing just enough information to make viewers wonder what they were watching.

“There was a lot happening in this story,” Deputy Chief Creative Officer Rob Lenois explained. “So rather than squeeze it into six seconds, we decided to use a few different sixes in sequence to build intrigue and let the viewer connect the dots.” That way when the viewer got to the long-form video, they’d filled in the pieces by themselves. “Figuring it out on their own—that Little Red Riding Hood in fact defeated the wolf—makes the story even more powerful,” Lenois pointed out.

View “The Feast of the Wolf,” the remake of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

4. Use 6-second ads to highlight a single feature or product. Then repeat.

As 72andSunny reimagined “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” it focused on what happens after Goldilocks breaks into the bears’ house. The result: an infomercial for locks (the key kind, not the hair kind).

“Knowing we wanted to make an infomercial, we used six-second video bites as little demos for the product,” copywriter Nathan Pashley explained. Have a product with more features than you can count? Try making a six-second ad to highlight each one.

A 6-second video for the remake of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”

View “Goldi’s Locks,” the remake of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Let the constraints free you

Though some may have initially bristled at the challenge of using six-second videos to retell fairy tales, ultimately the exercise proved that with constraint comes creativity. As Chay Lee, content director at Backslash, said, “We’re creators, so we want to tell the story in the time it takes to tell it. But being forced to think about different lengths actually helped us to be sharper with the storytelling.”

Once upon a time, 13 fairy tales were reimagined for the modern day. Get inspired by these examples that put six-second videos to use in a sequence of different ad formats.

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