Thursday, October 13, 2016

The New Five-Second Rule

Is it that hard to believe that in future, you may only have 5 seconds to market to your consumers on YouTube or any video platform for that matter? When I say video platform, these include Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter and many others. Let me explain why so.In a study done by Microsoft, the average attention span on ads dropped from 12 seconds to 9 seconds since the 2000’s. 

Source: Microsoft attention spans, Spring 2015

But one may argue, that is because in the past (pre-2000s), consumers were less exposed to ad clutter and had slower internet connection speeds, thus spending longer time to consume content. Today, advertisers need to compete for attention on a space that is cluttered with ads even on video platforms, which makes the consumers prone to ad blindness or even annoyance to a certain degree, resulting in them skipping or closing ads all together the moment they see one popping up.

My 3 year old son is the best example. He presses the “Skip Ad” button on Youtube, if a pre-roll video ad is not interesting enough for him. Hence in future, the first 5 seconds is probably the most crucial to your future consumers, the Generation Alpha.

Relevant Content
The last thing anyone would like is to see something irrelevant being showed to them. It’s not only annoying, it’s also time wasting. This is where your ads have to be targeted and targeted well. Taking my son as an example, he skips ads that doesn’t resonate with him like a shampoo ad, but will watch the whole video if it’s something he can relate to like a Hot Wheels toy ad. The point here is, consumers will skip your ads regardless, if the content of the first 5 seconds is not something relevant to them. Yes, targeting is important, but it’s also equally important to make the first 5 seconds of your ad count. The same rule applies if you’re developing display type ads. Remember to be relevant to your target, otherwise it will be closed or skipped.

Short Form Goes a Long Way
While we talk about the importance of the first 5 seconds of your video ad, the general rule of online video ads is not to have it too long. No one is going to sit and watch a 10 minutes video about your company products or services unless they are made or told in an interesting way. Even that, 10 minutes is way too long these days (remember, users only have an average of 9 seconds attention span). Ideally an online video ad should be no more than 15-20 seconds and a strong call to action to lead them to a page for them to get more information, given that you can only say so much in 20 seconds. The key here is the first 5 seconds of what your user sees in that video. It will either make them stay on, or make them leave.

YouTube vs Facebook
We need to be mindful that putting a video ad on YouTube and Facebook are very different in terms of how they are presented. YouTube plays ads at the start of a video (pre-roll) and in the middle of a longer video (mid-roll), and users can usually choose to skip the ads after 5 seconds.

Videos on Facebook on the other hand are presented in a person’s news feed. By default, Facebook auto-play the video without sound, unless the user changes the setting to disable “auto-play”. I read somewhere that there is still a large amount of Facebook users still have “auto-play” turned on (something like 65%) as they don’t know how to go about turning it off. Which means on Facebook, your ads has technically less than 5 seconds to get someone’s attention while they are scrolling through their news feed. And not to mention you got to do it without the aid of sound! Sounds insane isn’t it? In one study of Facebook video ads, 41 percent of videos were basically meaningless without sound. Now imagine putting up that 10-minute long corporate video as a Facebook ad. Not such a good idea now isn’t it?

One way to reduce someone missing your video ad is to have an interesting caption that will act as a hook to get users interested enough to pause midway through scrolling on their news feed, read the copy, and then click to watch the video. According to, Facebook says that including captions on video ads increases the amount of time people spend watching them. For ad and brand recall, it is also recommended that advertisers show captions, logos, and products in ads, especially in the first few seconds.

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