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Can You Sell Something in 5 Seconds?


By Sam | 3rd Apr 2013 | Posted in Marketing

I hate advertising.

Scratch that–

Pint of GuinnessI hate advertising done badly, forced on me against my will on someone else’s terms. Advertising done well is a great thing, and after all it is necessary because no one is going to go out and seek to inform themselves about a product they have no idea exists. I can’t speak for everyone but in my experience, I avoid adverts any way I can or, at the very least, ignore them. That’s one of the many things I love so much about YouTube, but I’ll get to that in a minute–I have some tangents to work through first. This isn’t even related to my work, I just felt like ranting; but then isn’t that what the internet is for?

I can forgive adverts on TV. I grew up with them: it is an advertising method we are all comfortable with. Besides, there are a lot of good adverts buried among all the… can I swear here? I’ll use the word “bunk” just to be safe. Or maybe “hooey”, either one amuses me. I love family-friendly cursing, there’s something so wholesome about stepping in a pile of doggie doo. Also, how cool is this? I discovered it when I was obsessively googling the correct spelling of dog doo. Yeah, I’m like that.

Where was I?

So yeah, sit patiently through all the bunk on TV, and we are occasionally treated to surfers on waves made of horses, or a man dancing to Guaglione while he waits for his pint, or pretty much anything else Guinness has done. It bothers me that I’ll never be able to go for a pint in the 90s; what did people talk about in the pub back then?

But even if all the adverts are a load of hooey we can mute them and provide hilarious, improvised voiceovers, or we can change the channel temporarily, or we can make coffee: we have the freedom not to watch them! Better still, we can record our shows, watch them later, and fast-forward through them. Problem solved for the viewer, but what about the advertising company? A lot of time and money goes into advertising only for this to happen.

People are so used to hating adverts and rightly so, but there are a lot of companies who employ more creative means to inform us of their products and their efforts should be applauded. Do you have any idea how good a mood that Berocca advert with the logjamming lumberjacks puts me in? It doesn’t make me want to drink Berocca but I did download the song, so it served its purpose in a way!

Back to YouTube. I love this site–how could anyone not? If you want to hear a song, any song, it’s there. If you want to see a Korean cover it on the ukulele, it’s there. If you want to hear a harpsichord interpretation of a Kanye West song… well, the closest thing I could find was a guy on a keyboard. But still! If it exists, or there’s a chance it could exist, YouTube has it. But that’s not why I’m praising the site today. Today I’m all about the advertising and I think YouTube has handled it with the perfect compromise.

There are exceptions, but generally we are rarely forced to sit through more than five seconds of an advert. After that it is entirely up to us whether we sit through the rest of it or skip to the video. How awesome is that? It’s good for the viewer and the advertiser. They have five whole seconds of our time to grab our attention, which doesn’t sound like much but it is more than enough. How long do those five seconds seem to you when you’re waiting for that fan-made Catdog music video to start? During that time, we are watching and listening because it’s too short a time to make any kind of effort to ignore it and I will admit that, while I often blindly skip it, if those five seconds grab me then I will patiently wait and see what they’re selling.

This means any advertisers wanting to take the YouTube route have to make every effort to make those first five seconds count. If an advert is loud, obnoxious, pretentious, or just plain annoying then I click click click, but sometimes I am intrigued enough by those five seconds to find out more. This is the standard that all advertising companies should aim for, whether they are restricted by the five second rule or not. When it comes to TV, an advert should grab our attention before we get a chance to get up and put the kettle on. It should make us want to stay and watch. YouTube nailed it and all the best advertisers on there work around it. People may have shorter attention spans than ever these days but obnoxiously shouting the name of your product in a “comedy” accent is no way to make them listen.

Make those five seconds count because, no matter how good a point you make after them, there is no guarantee that your audience will be around to hear it.

photo by: KellBailey

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