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Six-Second Ads: Should Local TV Get On Board?

July 18th, 2018   ||    by John R. Osborn

As traditional television and digital video continue to converge into a blended T/V (television/video) advertising marketplace, interest in nontraditional ad lengths is growing. Six-second ads, namely, are catching the eye of many trend-watching publications, and sharing a spotlight at major industry conferences. At the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) recent ConsumerxScience conference, RealEyes showcased a study of use cases and benefits of these brief ads.

Why Six Seconds?

Origins lie in the 2010 launch of YouTube’s TrueView pre-roll unit that allows viewers to skip the rest of an ad after a five-second countdown. If a viewer hits the “skip” button, advertisers don’t pay for the placement. In 2016, TechCrunch covered the launch of YouTube’s unskippable six-second “bumper” ads. Beginning this year, YouTube no longer sells 30-second unskippable ads.

This innovation seemed to have struck the right balance between the needs of digital consumers (tolerability), publishers (monetization), and advertisers (confirmed viewability).

Moving to the TV Screen

Fiore Communications identifies advertisers such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike, Duracell, and Toyota that have employed six-second ads on networks like Fox, Disney, and AMC. The Fiore blog shows a Duracell World Series unit that ran on Fox. Ad Age reports that T-Mobile regarded its own use of six-second units on the 2017 World Series as a “home run.”

Advertiser Interest/Viewer Experience

Adweek reports on a recent poll that in two years, 77 percent of marketers will be using unskippable, six-second ads. The RealEyes report cited above states that these units have three times more emotional impact per second than 30-second ads. They’re also 26 percent better at grabbing attention on mobile versus desktop, and are 40 percent more emotionally engaging for digital natives (younger viewers).

Local TV Strategies for Six-Second Ads

As local TV expands into new, internet-delivered distribution platforms and formats, it will be important to quickly embrace six-second formatting across distribution channels and devices.

Linear TV

  • Local TV stations produce even more of the timely, high interest, and often live programs viewers rely on (even more than the TV networks): news, weather, traffic, community issues, and sports. Six-second ads allow advertisers to reach these viewers quickly and effectively.
  • To capture revenue from local advertisers, local stations and station groups should immediately build capability to sell six-second spots that share screens with live station-produced programming, like the Duracell/World Series example above.
  • This will also increase advertiser value through linear TV “skinny bundle” OTT platforms like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue.


  • Video-on-demand content is excellent for using the six-second pre-roll format.
  • The station-owned website can offer certain programs or segments on-demand, and keep 100 percent of the six-second ad revenue.

A Note for Parent Network Affiliate Agreements

  • As with all advertising opportunities, fair deals must be worked out with parent networks who might be selling new six-second spots that are carried locally but not addressed in legacy affiliate agreements.

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