15s ads – How to get them right
Last week we had two clients contact us wondering how they could make effective and efficient 15s ads. As marketing budgets continue to be cut as the economy heads into recession, advertisers are searching for ways to achieve greater ROI and do more with less.
Shorter format ads like 15s and 6s are relatively new and we are all still learning how to make them effective. These short format ads have only been used since the start of the 21st Century. When TV and advertising started in the 1950s, the standard TV ad length was 60s. But in the 1970s due to media inflation advertisers were forced to halve their ad length - and we had the 30s TVC. And now that we are using so many more media channels, 15s are becoming the standard.
But is it the right approach? And what are the elements we need to consider in relation to our creative and media when using short format ads? Here are seven points to consider.
1. Use 15s ads to optimise the efficiency of your media buy
Obviously, the greatest appeal of using 15s ads is the media efficiency. Shorter format ads have a lower media costs and so can be a more efficient use of media dollars. 15s ads are around 60-80% of the cost of a 30s spot depending upon the media channel.
For many brands this savings makes advertising a possibility. For others, it provides the opportunity to stretch their media budget further and implement a continuity strategy and be 'always on'. So, there are certainly advantages of short format ads if you can get it right.
2. Plan your creative for a fully integrated campaign
We have to use many more media channels than we did in the past to get the same level of reach. TV view levels are dropping by 10-15% per year and Worldwide digital ad spending is predicted to reach over $375 billion by 2021 – including a growth of $75 billion in the next two years (eMarketer 2020).
Even just ten years ago most brands would only on average use 1-5 channels, but now most are utilising up to 10 for each campaign.
So, to make up for this shift we need integrated campaigns which have the same look, feel and message across all channels. We need a creative platform that is flexible - it no longer just starts with the 30s video ad. Tip the creative process on its head and start with your channel strategy and work back to the creative idea for the video.
If we are to achieve the reach and impact of a multichannel approach using 15s ads, our creative must look the same, have the same message, tone and consistent brand cues. It seems obvious, but many advertisers still don't get this right.
3. You have to work harder with 15s ads
Keep in mind that longer is stronger. When we analyse the data for all of the ads we have measured, only around a third of them are effective. That is a pretty scary statistic as you think for every $1M spent, around $660,000 is wasted.
And the stats for 15s are even lower as only 1 in 5 15s ads cut-through. So even though we are saving money on our media, we have to work harder with our creative to ensure our ad gets noticed.
It is still possible to create effective 15s ads. Below is one for V8 that we tested last month that was amongst the top 10% of ads tested in Australia. It gets all the elements right.
However, our data show that the longer the ad, the more likely they are to get people’s attention (up to 60s - they tune out for really long formats). This is because we have more time to tell our story and engage with consumers.
In a very short ad, every second counts so we need to carefully plan our 15s ads and spend more time editing so we use every second efficiently. It can be much harder to get right.
4. Think carefully about what to include the 15s ad?
One of the main advantages of the 15s ad is that it can help us to extend our campaign reach and longevity by using the 15s ad as a reminder of a longer video. This works best when you have had time to establish the main campaign idea (- often after around 750 TRPs).
But often the cutdown 15s is an afterthought and minimal effort is put into its development.
Think carefully about how you use your 15s to ensure that it retains the most distinctive and emotive elements of the longer ad. You need to include your key message and be sure the branding is the hero. The objective should be to remind people of the positive feelings they have about your brand.
Or, to keep your campaign fresh, use 15s ads to extend on the story of the 30s by showing a different side story or supporting your reason to believe (RTB). This strategy can also allow for rotation of ads within the campaign and makes your multi-media strategy easier.
To get the most out of your 15s think about it at the start of your campaign development and be strategic about how you use the channel to your advantage.
5. You still have to follow the basic principles
Just because you have a short ad doesn’t mean you can skimp on the creative. In fact, as we note above, you have to work harder to make it effective.
When making any type of ad, you need to ensure you cover the basics –
your ad has to be engaging and get viewers’ attention,
it needs to convey a meaningful message,
it has to leave people feeling positive,
and obviously, you need to ensure you have clear branding.
This is a lot to pack into your 15s - this is why it can be harder to get right. If you miss one of these elements, you will not have effective communication - regardless of length and efficiency of your media.
6. Use a strong creative lever to engage
In a 15s ad, we only have a short time to get people's attention so we need to engage them right from the start - we have to use those first 5 seconds to really stand out. This has always been true, but it is even more important now we use skippable ads in digital channels.
This means that in your creative planning you need to be really clear about the creative device you are using to help drive attention. In Mary Poppins' terms, think of it as the 'spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down'.
From our analysis on thousands of ads, we've seen that there are three key levers we can use to help build our story and engage our audience. These are humour (make people laugh), music (use standout songs to make people look up) and casting (relatable people, good looking or celebrities can all help). Using one or all of these short-cuts works. But make sure you have at least one in your ad - otherwise it will be 15s of wallpaper.
7. Don't forget your branding basics
One of the advantages of 15s ads is that branding is usually clearer. It makes sense, if you have 3s of branding, this is only 10% of a 30s ad, but it is a 20% of a 15s ad. We get to our branding more quickly in a shorter ad. And sometimes, in longer format ads we can get caught up in telling our story that the branding becomes less central to the idea.
But please don't assume that sticking a logo at the end is enough. Your brand still needs to be the hero of the execution. And for all ads, we need to consider how we are using and building our distinctive brand assets (DBAs). We may need to rely on branding shortcuts more in 15s ads, so it is worth the investment to build your DBAs.
So, you can see that there are many advantages to creating 15s spots. But even though our aim is to do more with less, there is certainly no less work involved in using short ads. The truth is that it is actually a lot more work for less advertising.
See V* Unleash the Veggies for a great example of an effective 15s ad:
See our website for more marketing insights