Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

The Length Between a Click and a Skip

Taimur Tajik comments on ads, both short and long, that make the cut.
Published 10 May, 2024 11:46am

Three. Two. One. Gone! That is how long brands have to get your attention before they are skipped or scrolled past online. They only have a few, measly, split seconds during your binge-scrolling to steal your gaze and lure you into sparing a precious click. In today’s fast-paced, cluttered and ever-changing digital world, brands have to constantly reinvent their content and communication to be noticed. To add to the challenge, everyone has their own views as to what makes content ‘clickable’. Some say it has to be short, crisp or less wordy. Others say it has to show a human element, tell a story or evoke emotions. There are others who say it should build curiosity and others who say it should be direct. Yet, content cannot possibly be all these things at once. So, what are the criteria for coming up with effective digital content?

A claim I hear all the time is that content ‘has’ to be short (or ‘snackable’) to be successful. With the rise of TikTok, Instagram and other swipeable platforms, consumers have become accustomed to speed-scrolling through hours of content without actually consuming most of it.

So, it does make sense for brands to create clickbait content that instantly piques people’s interest. However, simply cutting an abrupt five-second edit from your full-length DVC and slapping it into a YouTube pre-roll is not what I am talking about. Digital-savvy brands know how to put the right-sized content in the right place and exactly when and how to capture audiences.

Take Audi’s 2013 R8 Coupé launch ad. To communicate the R8’s ability to reach 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds, Audi created a skippable YouTube ad called ‘Gone in 5 seconds’, which showed an Audi R8 accelerating to 100 km/h in exactly 3.5 seconds before prompting users to skip the ad. Since it was less than five seconds long, everybody saw it. Even better, since everyone skipped the ad after the main message, Audi practically ran the ad for free.

Other creative examples of clever bite-sized content include Horlicks India’s Instant Chocolate Powder ad which demonstrates how quickly it mixes in milk – before you can even skip it. Ford South Africa ran a five-second, skippable road safety ad showing a seatbelt being fastened with the caption “A few seconds you just can’t skip.” These are a few examples of the many ‘mini masterpieces’ that exist in the digital world.

Great! So, let’s all start posting creative, five-second, skippable ads and call it a day. Well, not quite. Snackable content is a great way to grab attention, but you cannot rely on it for all your brand communication. Effective digital marketing strategies are a mix of both short- and long-form content, the latter being detailed blogs, website content, longer videos and so on. It also involves content that allows audiences to become more engaged and invested in the brand, something that snackable content does not do.

A great example is Volkswagen’s 2020 launch campaign for the Passat Alltrack. To launch the car, Volkswagen hid an actual Passat Alltrack in northern Sweden and aired a one-minute and 11-second digital commercial filled with clues about its location. The first person to find the car got to keep it. Imagine how many people watched (and re-watched) that commercial to pick up on all the clues! Another awesome digital stunt was KFC Australia’s ‘Secret Menu’, where the brand created a hidden menu of unofficial meals and hinted at clues in their communication to prompt audiences to search for it. KFC fans began discovering the menu, organically spreading information about it on social media until the menu was no longer a secret. The campaign resulted in a 111% increase in downloads of the KFC app and a 62% upsell rate of orders from the new menu.

Further busting the myth that all content has to be bite-sized are the extended-duration commercials. I am talking about elaborate five- to seven-minute films with captivating storylines and character development – the kind that would even be way too long for conventional TV ads.

Commercials like Samsung India’s four-minute ‘Service Van’ ad (2017), follow the story of a Samsung technician driving to a remote area to serve a customer, only to discover that the location is a shelter for the blind and that his customer is a young, visually impaired woman. This touching ad initially earned over 150 million views, becoming one of the most-watched ads on YouTube at the time. It is now at 212 million views and counting. Another example is Facebook’s 2020 short film, Pooja Didi, an emotional masterpiece about how social media helped save a small business. Despite its seven-and-a-half-minute duration, the ad has garnered over 28 million views.

All this goes to show that the success of digital content has less to do with quantity and more to do with quality and placement. Despite shrinking attention spans, audiences will (and often do) engage with content that is worth consuming. In fact, if your content is exceptional, the beauty of digital is that audiences will actively search for it and share it with others.

Although there is no silver bullet for creating effective digital communication, having a well-thought-out digital marketing strategy is a sure-shot way to improve your chances of success. Instead of creating generic content and boosting it heavily to force viewership, a better long-term strategy is to understand how your consumers use digital media, what sort of content they are receptive to, and then strategically pick digital channels and create content accordingly.

This might mean creating content that is shorter and more disruptive or longer and more immersive (or a combination of both). It depends on what resonates with your audience. But one thing is for sure: digital is the most effective, far-reaching and measurable medium in history and it is here to stay. Brands cannot afford to avoid it. Creatively speaking, it is also a vastly liberating medium that allows you to experiment, create and rework content that pushes boundaries and challenges the norm. The real effort comes in ensuring that your content is digital-centric, watch-worthy and creative enough to break through the endless clutter online.

You can take the easy way out and subject audiences to painful 30-second unskippable ads or you can create content that they celebrate through likes and shares. Digital is a democratic, two-way medium that provides genuine consumer feedback in real-time. You know exactly how many people are watching your ads, clicking on them and what they think of your content. Listen to what they have to say and respond accordingly. Don’t waste your investment in creating generic campaigns. You are no longer making ads for television. Think digital and become clickable.

Taimur Tajik is Creative Head, Interwood.