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The Argument for More Effective Short-Form Ads

3 minute read | February 2014

By Blake Burrus, Senior Vice President of Client Services, Nielsen Neuro

The 15-second TV ad is already “the new black,” but it has yet to achieve the same level of audience engagement as its 30-second and one-minute predecessors.

Advertisers must now explore this new frontier further to make short-form ads more effective, regardless of the platform.

According to Nielsen, the number of 15-second television commercials jumped more than 80 percent between 2008 and 2012.

And the numbers continue to grow for ads 15 seconds or less, partially due to the proliferation of mobile technologies and new platforms for watching pithy online videos.

Contrary to what many advertisers think, these new platforms are providing more opportunities for existing content. TV ads and mobile ads can be complementary, if advertisers can master the short-form video.

Perfecting the 15-second ad won’t be an easy task.

As advertisers’ attentions (and budgets) are increasingly divided among new and traditional platforms, many have turned to new tools like consumer neuroscience to boost their efficiency and effectiveness in the face of rapid change.

As ad lengths are shrinking, ad budgets are shifting. Many advertisers don’t have the resources to create entirely new ad concepts customized for each channel, and they must repurpose 30-second ads for each of the short-form spots.

Industry creatives typically rely on their “gut” – experience and personal judgment – to repurpose traditional ads by trimming the storyline and reducing repetition. This can result in a significantly less-effective 15-second version of a 30-second commercial.

Neuroscience is changing the art of “cut downs” by creating the science of “neurological ad compression,” which uses cutting-edge, moment-by-moment analysis of how consumers react to what they watch.

Whereas traditional methods require consumers to reflect honestly and accurately about their reactions (often an unrealistic task), consumer neuroscience adds more precise measures of engagement to current gauges of effectiveness.

Electroencephalography (EEG) measurements can track the exact moments an ad activates memory, draws attention or prompts emotional response, and can determine on an instant-by-instant basis which parts are and are not effective in engaging viewers.

Consumer neuroscience gives advertisers new insights into viewers’ emotional engagement, something creative teams have always considered important but were never able to measure. The technology can confirm, for example, if moments of humor have real impact.

Once crucial moments that maximize key neurological responses are identified, algorithms create a rough edit between 10 and 14 seconds (typically one-third the length of the original spot).

The re-cut commercial is then edited by agency creatives for story flow, continuity and visual seamlessness into a final spot that can be used for TV or alternative video platforms.

Simply put: It uses only the most vital moments and transitions – minimizing spend and maximizing impact.

This mix of art and science is effective and cost effective. Based on Nielsen Neuro’s testing of original 30-second TV spots and the EEG-optimized 15-second spots, approximately 90 percent of neuroscience-optimized 15-second ads test just as well as their 30-second counterparts, and a majority actually tests better.

The neurological ad compression approach helps advertisers increase the reach and resonance of campaigns for the same level of spending, or even considerably less, with no loss in effectiveness.

Neuroscience not only helps maximize the impact of 15-second ads (a relatively modern challenge), it also resolves a historical problem for advertisers, who for decades have wasted a significant portion of production costs and ad spend because of their limited ability to understand consumers’ emotional responses.

Now, with creative teams spread increasingly thin, this scientific process can boost efficiency by providing instant feedback on what works and what doesn’t, making the ad team’s job easier and helping advertising evolve at the pace of technology.

This article originally appeared on medialifemagazine.com.

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