Six Seconds, Sixth Grade

The NFL has been testing the use of six seconds television advertising this football season in an effort to reduce the length of commercial breaks and keep viewers more continually engaged. Not a bad strategy given how we tend to watch programming with multiple screens now and how we tend to fast forward through those somewhat unwanted lapses in our shows.

But six seconds?

I remember the day when we debated moving from thirty to fifteen seconds! I was working at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products at the time and we were worried that we couldn’t possibly get all of our product messaging jammed into that short amount of time! I once threw out an idea of doing three back-to-back-to back ten seconds spots to create a certain effect and my colleagues thought I was crazy. Back then, we all imagined that we needed to max out our communications length, not shorten it. And we couldn’t imagine the world we live in now.

Six seconds, sixth grade.

That’s where we live now...communicate your message quickly (six seconds) and do it in the simplest way possible (sixth grade).

You may be asking yourself, “But how do I get there? How can I shorten what I already think is a short message?”

Here are a few thoughts to get you going in the right (shortened) direction:

Know your customers. Get to know your customer as best you can so that you can determine what’s most important to them. Then pick your message to hit directly on their most important priority. And then stop.

Focus your message. Once you know what’s important to your customers, you can focus your message to hit directly on the point you want to make. Attention spans are so short these days, thanks to Instagram and Twitter. So think of your messaging in the same manner - Focus it to fit in the shortened allotted time, which is likely far less than 140 characters.

Go for emotion. Remember that facts don’t necessarily convince anyone these days. Facts are sometimes confusing and are often the same from brand to brand. So go for an emotional appeal in your six seconds and move people to action. Give them a reason to want your brand over the others and convince them there’s an emotional benefit to what you offer.

Use different channels. We have so many channels available to market now, far beyond just television advertising. And in fact it’s likely that tv advertising isn’t even relevant to your brand anyway. So use different channels to deliver different focused messages, one at a time. Think of it as a media plan to disseminate all of our messages in quick succession to appeal to the shortened attention span.

Provide deeper context elsewhere. Remember that there are places where you can tell your full story in its totality for those who have expressed an interest. Perhaps that place is your website. So include a link to more detailed information with each message to make it easy for perspective customers to learn more, on their terms.

And finally, keep it very simple and, where appropriate, very visual. Six seconds can actually be a long amount of time, if you do it right. A simple meme or a quick sentence of copy can be very convincing when it’s done correctly. In fact it can be more convincing than thirty seconds of nonstop product information that serves nothing but to get people to skip it.

Six seconds, sixth grade. Good luck!

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