- Fox Networks Group will introduce six-second TV ads to its broadcasts of NFL games and other sporting events this fall, according to a report in The New York Times. The ads will air alongside 15- and 30-second commercials. Fox first tested the extra-short format during the Teen Choice Awards last month with brands like Duracell and Mars.
- Viewers should already be accustomed to six-second ads given their popularity on digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat. Fox is banking on the shorter length becoming an industry standard on broadcast TV and Eric Shanks, president of Fox Sports, told the Times that the format "has the potential to gain even more attention than a traditional unit."
- The first six-second ads will appear on Sept. 10, before the kick-off of Fox's slate of opening season NFL games. Fox is selling them for the MLB World Series and other marquee events, Shanks said. The shorter spots will be placed sparingly, however, and possibly presented differently than commercials through boxes on-screen during breaks in play. One goal of the strategy is to reduce the amount of time commercial breaks take up during games over time.
Fox testing six-second TV ads around the Teen Choice Awards made a good deal of sense, as the show's target audience — namely teens — helped popularize the extra-short format online, on digital platforms like Snapchat and YouTube. Whether the ads will be successful for NFL games and other sports broadcasts is a much bigger test, as audiences for that kind of programming tend to skew older but might appreciate the truncated amount of time given to commercials.
In the lead-up to the Teen Choice Awards, Fox executives noted that the six-second format, coupled with pulling back ad load around the broadcast, provided a boost, with a 30% lift in ad revenue over the 2016 show. However, not all TV networks have managed to mine value from cutting back ad loads, which is one of the main goals in introducing shorter commercials on TV. Viacom, for example, has pulled back ad loads on its MTV and BET channels, but the group reported a 2% drop in domestic ad sales in June and expects declines to continue through the September quarter.
Hackles have also been raised by agency creatives who think that extra-short ads stifle creativity and emotional resonance. TV advertising, which typically supports 15-, 30- and even 60-second commercials, is valued for its ability to deliver more rich storytelling than digital channels, but just six seconds of air time obviously limits that creative canvas. With viewers cutting the cable cord in favor of ad-free digital viewing options, TV networks and major media brands like the NFL must reassess their marketing strategies, but easy solutions remain unclear.