End of Summer Creative Series, Vol. 1: The Ad Length Debate

As Summer moves to Fall, SI is launching a 3-part series on video creative for digital platforms. This is the 1st in the series.


(“Bruce :15”, the digital short version of our longer story of Ohio’s job losses, produced for Americans for Prosperity)


Fox announced earlier this year that they will begin selling 6 second ads on both their digital and traditional TV properties. YouTube and Facebook both are adding :06 inventory, and the former will no longer sell unskippable ads beyond this length (For more on skippable vs. unskippable ad inventory, stay tuned for our next installment).


Citing higher viewer complete rates (VCR), many political ad agencies are jumping on the bandwagon, recommending clients produce short ads (:06 and :15) vs. longer versions.


So, in the great debate over digital video length, shorter is better. Right?




Consider this: YouTube reports the average length of top performing ads is 3:00. None of the recent top-performers on their platform were less than 1:00. Their best performing ad of the 2016 holiday season? The brilliant 3:53 ad from H&M Stores, directed by Wes Anderson (Winner of our favorite holiday ad competition. Watch it again here: )


What’s more, recent media effectiveness studies have shown that :06 ads are particularly ineffective at achieving brand lift. So while short spots do seem to aid in overall campaign recall, they are less likely to deliver the emotion required to make a persuasive political ad.


In fact, viewer completion rate is a poor metric for ad performance overall. It’s a false positive, particularly so for political campaigns. Overall time spent with a candidate’s ad leads to better persuasion, motivation, and brand lift. That’s the result of a recent study by Google. The more emotional your ad, the longer the viewer will watch, and the more persuaded they will be.


It’s all about the creative.


(Source: Google, Custom Brand Lift Survey, U.S.)


The Solution:

Make strong, emotional storytelling the cornerstone of your ad strategy. Then, tailor your ad length to your goals. Use shorter formats to boost ad recall. Use longer formats like :30, :60, and :90 seconds to tell an emotional story that connects with the voter.


Thanks for reading part 1 of our Summer/Fall Creative Series. Watch for our next installment: “Skippable or Unskippable,” as we explore the data behind both digital ad formats. And as always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest trends in advertising.



– Ryan Horn
Vice President, Sandler-Innocenzi