In a study of 122 bumper campaigns (i.e. ads that are six seconds long) it found that – in 70% of cases – bumper ads have caused a ‘significant lift’ in awareness of the brand. What’s more, it also found that nine in 10 drove ad recall, with an average lift of over 30%.

So, what exactly are the elements of an effective bumper ad? Here are just a few points to consider, along with examples that prove why brands could see increased success with this super-short video medium.

Simplify the message

While it might be tempting to use a 30 second ad as a starting point, before finding a way to reduce it to six seconds – this tactic is likely to be difficult to pull off.

Not only will it be impossible to make the ad flow in the same way, but cramming in loads of different content is going to confuse and overwhelm viewers. The key is to start from and focus on a core message or idea instead.

Recently at SXSW (South By Southwest event in Austin), YouTube challenged agencies and filmakers to re-imagine classic works of literature in six seconds. The results prove that great storytelling doesn’t necessary need an arc or evolving narrative, but a clear and concise message that encapsulates an overarching theme.

Focus on a single emotion

In line with this, the most effective bumper ads tend to focus on a single emotion for the most impact. While comedy often works well, it is also useful when the humour is relatable or makes the viewer feel a certain way. 

The below example pairs a striking visual with a highly relatable scenario, requiring no real explanation or information about the product itself. Its subtlety is what makes it effective, alongside confidence in the viewer that they will understand or piece together the message. Using the same components of an effective print ad - the combination of comedy and relatable embarassment is perfectly conveyed,

While the medium is entirely different, we can also compare it to the recent viral image of a bottle of Cooperative olive oil.

Ultimately, it shows the difference between a brand that gives the consumer some credit, and one that is intent on hammering home its message to the point of it becoming redundant.

Capitalise on viewer context

As well as the content itself, it’s important to take into consideration the ad’s contextual elements, such as watching on mobile or without sound.

This is why bumper ads do not necessarily need to be so clever or complex. Instead of capturing the consumer’s attention (so that they do not skip), creating an impact as well as a desire for the product is now the ultimate end goal.

This explains why brands like Krispy Kreme use a more simplistic approach, here focusing on a captivating visual to promote its core product. 

Create episodic content

Instead of saying everything in 30 seconds, bumper ads can allow brands to piece together a story over a period of time – the only difference being a series of separate ads as opposed to a single one.

In fact, this approach could be why bumper ads are more effective for ad recall, as it allows brands to plant a seed before building momentum. Of course, it also aligns with the short attention span of modern viewers, who are likely to prefer shorter ads in order to get to the desired content as quickly as possible.

Whether each ad is entirely different or the continuation of a story, viewers will know what to expect once they have seen the first, ideally becoming hooked as it is repeated. The below example from a showcase at Sundance film festival reflects this idea, using the theme of six-second time travel to deliver a series of related jokes. You can check out the next ad here.

Related reading:

Six online advertising tactics set to rise

What’s the perfect YouTube ad length?