Long story short: After pushing for shorter video ads around the time it began to intersperse ads between people’s Stories in June and noticing how little time advertisers have to grab its viewers’ attentions, Snapchat is zeroing in on exactly how much shorter it would like brands’ ads to be.
In conversations with brands and their agencies, Snapchat has been pushing for advertisers to cut their typically 10-second-long video ads to seven seconds when running between Stories and five seconds when running within Live Stories, according to several people with knowledge of those conversations.
All of these people said that Snapchat is only pushing these lengths as recommendations and not requirements or replacements for its 10-second maximum length, at least not yet. A Snapchat spokesperson declined to comment.
The recommendations have frustrated some brand and agency execs who see it as another reset button on their digital video ad strategies. First, advertisers had to create all-new video ads to put on social networks like YouTube and Facebook because their TV spots wouldn’t work there. Then they had to come up with audio-optional ones for Facebook and Instagram because people there don’t listen and audio-on, vertically formatted ones for Snapchat because people there do listen but don’t turn their phones sideways. Then, because Snapchat had a 10-second max limit on its ads, brands eventually came around to the fact that they shouldn’t be chopping and cropping their longer, horizontal ads. They had to make new ones. So they trained themselves on getting a brand’s message across in 10 seconds, versus the 15 and 30 seconds they had grown accustomed to on TV and other digital video platforms. Now they’re faced with figuring out how to edit themselves down to five and/or seven seconds if they want to get in front of Snapchat’s audience. Rich people problems, sure, but what are advertisers if not people with disposable incomes?
Frustrating as the ever-shorter ads may be for advertisers and their agencies, it’s a small cost that could have a big payoff. Shorter ads can often be better ads.
“We have found shorter is virtually always more effective in paid social marketing as long as we get our message right,” said Scott Symonds, managing director of media at AKQA.
If a brand is trying to communicate something through its ad, then it wants audiences to get the whole message. Which means the brand and its creative team have to try figure out how to stretch out people’s attentions — like a petitioner on the sidewalk slow-boiling passersby by asking if they care about the environment — or do a better job concentrating their content — like the petitioner saying, “Sign this petition to preserve the local wetlands that are about to become a parking lot,” as Nestle has by stressing brevity in conversations with its agencies.
“All of our data says we’re not going to change people’s behavior,” Nestle USA’s Head of Digital Strategy Gloria DeCoste told me in June. “Even Facebook in video is like ‘only pay for the first five seconds.’ They’re telling us a lot of people are dropping off after five seconds.”
Snapchat execs have told brands and agencies that they have two seconds to grab viewers’ attention before people on its platform swipe past an ad to get to the content they actually want to see, according to one person familiar with those conversations.
The shorter ads would not only compel advertisers to get to the point quicker — something Facebook also advises — but could also inure Snapchat’s audience to the fact that its ads aren’t that long so what’s the harm in sitting tight for a few more seconds. It sounds ridiculous to think there’s much difference between a 10-second ad and a five- or seven-second one, but welcome to my world.
If it bears out that people are more willing to sit through these shorter ads on Snapchat, that could help Snapchat’s standing against Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and others competing for brands’ video ad budgets.
Marketers are taking harder looks at whether people are actually seeing the ads they pay for and how much of the ads they’re seeing. It’s why big brands pushed back against Facebook and YouTube last year before those platforms began letting advertisers check their viewability math. And it’s why one large agency threw its hands up at Twitter when that platform adopted a lower default video ad viewability threshold. And it’s why Snapchat has begun letting ad measurement firm Moat track the length of time people are exposed to an ad on Snapchat and report that information back to the advertiser.
Even if people on Snapchat are only sitting through two seconds of a five-second ad, that’s still a better completion rate — i.e., a bigger share of the brand’s intended message communicated — than people on Facebook sitting through five seconds of a 15-second ad. Not by much, but every second counts.