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30 seconds. 15 seconds. 6 seconds. 1 second?

The amount of time advertising has to connect to consumers is getting shorter, so our storytelling needs to get even tighter. As video ads trend shorter and shorter, we can tighten our stories more and more, but at a certain point there isn’t enough story left to justify telling. If you only have enough time to say “Once upon a time,” you won’t be swaying any hearts and minds. Telling a brand story in 30 seconds can be tough. Telling it in 15 gets tricky. But putting that same story in 6 seconds or less can be damn near impossible.

In 30 seconds you can have 3 ideas.

The first is your brand, the second is your concept, and the third is the promotion or the reason you’re talking to consumers in the first place. Cut the time in half and you cut the ideas in half (and round up). Cut it in half again, and again, and again, and all you really have time to share is 1 idea and that idea will always have to be your brand. But that isn’t to say it can’t or shouldn’t be done.

Shorter video ad units work for brand messages.

Think of them as mood boards for the brand. They can keep the brand top of mind and help consumers associate feelings with the brand, even if they won’t come away with a specific insight. Simple brands can do this well. These are brands that are household names and can be recognized with a few frames of color, a few bars of music, or a quick flash of an iconic mascot or logo. If you’re brand isn’t well known, or your marketing messages are nuanced or complex, a 2-6 second Snapchat ad is not for you.

Time is target and target is money.

The target can inform the platform and the platform can inform the length of the ad. And the time your target spends with your message is what the client is paying for. If the demographic for your message is older and your media buy is on a platform with deeper/longer engagement, 6 seconds may not cut it. Conversely if your demo is younger and the platform is designed for quantity of content, then 2 seconds may be all you have to capture engagement anyway.

Will we rise to the occasion?

Video ads are going shorter and telling stories with them is getting a little more challenging. But it’s important to remember that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. It’s also important to remember no great ad was ever made in a vacuum. The ones that challenge us are the ones that get remembered.