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The Rise of the Six-Second Commercial

When does an innovation become a trend? If Fox Network’s decision to begin broadcasting six-second commercials is any indication, the ultra-short spot is here to stay.

Fox announced at Cannes Lions—the annual festival and awards event that honors creative communications—that it would first air six-second spots on its digital and on-demand platforms in October 2017, but that eventually linear television watchers would see the six-second commercial as well. Fox is the first broadcast network to experiment with these spots, although YouTube pioneered them.

With the rise of streaming TV, viewers aren’t used to having to sit through a 15- or 30-second commercial. The six-second format is thought to allow television to more closely mirror the online viewing experience. “How do we get more efficient with consumers’ time and attention?” asks David Levy, executive vice president of nonlinear revenue at Fox Networks Group. “Everything you see us invest in has that as a backdrop and premise.”

Tara Walpert Levy, vice president of agency and media solutions for Google & YouTube, noted, “Since we piloted this format last fall, we’ve seen on YouTube that six seconds is both long enough and short enough: it’s great for on-the-go users who appreciate the succinct message, for creatives who appreciate the constraint, and for brands who value the consistent results.”

Given that most advertising has name recognition as its primary aim, it’s not outrageous to think that a six-second spot may achieve the same goal as a 30-second one—and may even result in viewers grateful for advertising that takes up less of their time.