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How to create an effective YouTube bumper ad campaign

Author's avatar By Gavin Llewellyn 23 May, 2018
Essential Essential topic

Four ways to tell a story in 6 seconds

In an increasingly mobile-first environment, audiences’ attention is at a premium. Brands are constantly looking for new ways to achieve cut-through and platforms such as YouTube, Google and Twitter are designing new formats to align with consumers’ evolving viewing habits.

With mobile as the dominant medium now, user expectations towards advertising have changed. Whilst it will always be important to create great content to make an impact and keep people watching, it’s nevertheless important to acknowledge that content is consumed in different places and contexts, sometimes at home in front of a television and at other times on-the-go, via a mobile device.

As a result of these shifting consumption patterns, in 2016 YouTube introduced the 6-second Bumper ad format for brands looking to deliver messages quickly and efficiently to consumers who are likely to be watching one-off pieces of video content in shorter sessions, for example catching up on a talking point from a live event the night before or a music video for a song they just thought about.

The idea of creating an ad that is only 6 seconds may seem a little bewildering at first, especially when we’re used to TV or other longer form video ad formats that can be 30, 60 and sometimes even 120 seconds long. However, it’s worth noting that for the last few years YouTube has been encouraging brands to make their 30 second skippable ads ‘unskippable’ by grabbing users’ attention in the first few seconds:

With the right up front planning, objectives and creative in mind, a 6-second Bumper ad can be a great way to generate incremental reach as part of a larger campaign by conveying a quick, succinct message or telling a connected story over time.

In this post I’m going to distil some of the key elements that go in to the creation of an effective Bumper ad:

Define your objective

As with any form of campaign planning, understanding your audience and the overarching objective from the outset is essential.

YouTube is clear that Bumper ads are particularly effective for driving brand reach and frequency, either to extend the reach of an existing campaign (incremental reach) or to complement broader messaging. Google data has shown that YouTube TrueView ads followed by Bumpers have the potential to produce higher ad recall than when TrueView is used on its own.

Understanding early on what channels and formats drive which objectives enables you to determine the right mix for your campaign. In this case Bumpers are ideal for driving upper-funnel goals such as ad recall and awareness, and if getting in front of your audience to ensure your brand is top of mind is important then Bumpers may be a format worth considering.

Integrate Bumpers within your wider media plan

A Bumper ad on its own can play a role in generating impact as part of a short, focused message. However I would recommend considering a series of Bumpers, either as part of a digital-only campaign (in addition to longer form video and/ or social) or wider media strategy (that could include larger scale investment such as TV, radio or out of home).

YouTube’s ‘Tease, Amplify, Echo’ model is a helpful way of looking at how an individual or series of Bumpers can be used as part of a wider plan to support and build on other videos and media formats:

Bumpers could also be used as part of their own series, telling a story or a group of related messages as part of a connected sequence of ads. This reduces the need to say everything in 6 seconds and has the added advantage of building ad recall by consistently repeating a message over a period of time.

Embrace brevity

Creating a compelling message in such a short space of time is undoubtedly a challenge. After all, it was rumoured that Blaise Pascal once said, "if I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter”.

However, the short bumper format does not need to be an obstacle, especially when you consider how they can be used to tease, amplify or echo other elements of the campaign. Over the last couple of years Google have run studies to review hundreds of bumper ads and discovered that brands and even artists have embraced the constraint of a 6-second limit.

There are three things to consider:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Have a very clear, single minded message
  3. Think of your story like a joke

I find this last point particularly helpful because it’s about distilling the ad’s message down to a punchline and then working backwards to build up to that end point.

Structure your ad effectively

Whether your Bumper campaign is a single ad with one specific message or a series of ads articulating a theme, the fundamental best practices of creating a well-crafted video still apply despite the time constraint.

A few years back YouTube recognised the difficulty brands were facing creating content that effectively captured an audience's attention and developed their comprehensive Playbook for Creative Advertising. Within the playbook the section on Guidelines for Great Creative provides a helpful set of creative recommendations for concepting video ads on YouTube. The guidelines are based on a data pool drawn from over 6,000 ads across multiple sectors in the FMCG industry and a range of insights from TrueView Brand Lift studies and fall under the following categories:

Although the recommendations were originally designed with 30 second ads in mind, they still provide a helpful structure for the Bumper format, too:

  • Attract - 6 seconds fly by very quickly so it's essential to grab the user’s attention immediately. This can be achieved through the use of humour, familiar faces and sound (unlike Facebook and Instagram, viewers expect sound on YouTube)
  • Brand - instead of showing a logo on its own, it’s far more effective to integrate the brand meaningfully and naturally within the content, for example as part of the product or service offering
  • Connect - creating an emotional connection through the use of humour, horror or suspense is associated with higher brand awareness and viewership. And it’s worth highlighting again that the use of music can make an impact by creating interest and boosting view through rates
  • Direct - even within a short space of time it’s important to be clear about what you want the user to do via a call to action, e.g. search, buy or enter a competition:


Although YouTube’s 6 second Bumper format has been around now for a couple of years, it’s still a relatively new concept for advertisers and brands are still trying to find their way with how best to use them. It may seem impossible to convey a meaningful message in just 6 seconds but if the ads are used as part of a wider media plan or as a series of Bumpers telling a bigger story, then there is an opportunity to experiment and test if you have an objective set in place for your campaign.

Author's avatar

By Gavin Llewellyn

Gavin Llewellyn (LinkedIn) is an independent consultant. He is a Chartered Marketer who specialises in digital marketing, specifically in social media, SEO and online strategy. Gavin blogs at One Too Many Mornings where he offers advice, guidance and ideas on how individuals and companies can use digital marketing effectively to get found online, build engagement and generate conversion. You can Follow Gavin on Twitter.

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