The “snackable” era of advertising is challenging political media consultants who are used to crafting campaign messages for more traditional 30-second spots.
As attention spans shorten, the 6-second ad digital ad is fast becoming a marketing standard. Google’s YouTube has been holding a contest to promote the format and, more recently, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg told investors that the length was ideal — at least when it came to selling orange juice.
Now, television is also getting in on the act with Fox debuting its first ever 6-second ad slots during the Teen Choice Awards Aug. 13.
It was a targeted testing ground. Corporate marketers consider six seconds a great format for reaching “a younger demographic.”
Some campaign media consultants are less enthused, not just because that isn’t the typical profile of a midterm voter. That’s in part because of concerns over the constrictions it places on storytelling, according to Casey Phillips, a media consultant with a GOP client roster.
“If your brain is wired to write in 30-second chunks – and then you’ve got to try and flip it and do a 3-X story in six [seconds], it’s not there,” he said. “We are all having to rewire creatively how we’re going to deliver a message. It’s not whether we can; it’s do we have anything to say? Can we make a message land?”
Phillips noted that data has improved targeting but — echoing a common industry complaint — the creative often isn’t there to hit the voter effectively.
“We found the perfect voter, that person who’s perusable, we can buy [what he is watching], but what is it that we’re going to tell him in 10 seconds, and get it done in a way that doesn’t suck,” he said at a C&E breakfast event in DC last week. “That’s where we’re all having problems.”
Campaign marketers have a different kind of story to tell than and have less money to do it than their corporate counterparts. That budget constraint is problematic with so many holes to plug.
Short of creative, campaigns are frequently cutting down spots to fill all the digital formats available, according to Kelly Gibson, a partner at Hamburger Gibson Creative, a Democratic media firm.
“We used to do a 30-second ad, which cost X. And that X has changed over time,” she said. “You can also make a 15, a 6 and a 4 [second ad] with the same footage, but it takes edit hours do that. Can the campaign X times two [their budget]? And the answer is usually no,” she said.
One result is that consultants are increasingly pressed to stretch production and post-production budgets to the maximum. If that wasn’t enough to worry traditional media consultants, they still have to contend with a fight over their share of the campaign budget with their digital colleagues.
There is a silver lining, added Phillips: “The pie’s getting bigger.”