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  • Writer's pictureSiria Contreras

The Three-Second Ride

As a marketer and overall creative person, I am a tough audience to target.

Before I even get to the value of your product, it’s fair to say that I am judging your creative execution. I will quickly dismiss anything that I find crude, annoying, or lackluster and will tend to associate your product with that ad/campaign. Yet, on the flip side of the coin, I will also be quick to praise a clever or well executed ad.

I’d recently praised the Airbnb out of home (OOH) creative and continue to applaud their clever approach to showcasing a sampling of their multitude of their short-term and long-term properties. Their creative, in my opinion, does everything a successful creative campaign should do, including: sparks your curiosity, engages at least one of your senses, triggers aspiration, and drives you to take action. Perhaps most importantly, the campaign doesn’t make you guess what the creative is selling you–very clear brand positioning.

There have been many, many ads that we’ve been exposed to over the years that have been more concerned with being clever, but failed to really sell the brand they were trying to convince you to consume.

One day, I’ll do a write-up focused on effective vs. ineffective creative, although the truth is that the type of creative that works or doesn’t work also has a lot to do with the placement of the creative and the audiences that it’s being put in front of. One set of creative may work well across digital or social platforms, i.e. YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, yet may not work well in OOH placements (Billboards, Bus Shelters, Retail, etc.). In either instance you have a very limited amount of time to capture the attention and deliver your message.

For the past two-to-three years attention spans across digital have fluctuated from five to eight seconds (eight seconds was a typical benchmark, just like the duration of a qualifying bull ride), but the honest truth is that creative has closer to three seconds to hook a potential consumer.

With the continued roll-out of subscription models, there continues to be a need for varying creative across platforms, i.e. what might work for you on YouTube may not work for you on Hulu or Peacock and certainly won’t work for you on Spotify. Then, of course once audiences upgrade to the ad-free options, then your brand’s opportunities to make a connection with audiences decrease significantly.

As an exercise of seeing what advertising looks like currently on the ad-supported models, I recently downgraded to the ad-based versions of Spotify, YouTube, etc. and as we speak this a.m. re-watched the “Sound City” documentary on FreeVee and as I write this currently am re-watching “Hype!”

What consumer “me” found is that I have become less tolerant of advertising and just want to get back to the content I was listening to or watching. Marketer “me” was somewhat surprised at the quality of some of the advertising as well as with their audience targeting (in this case, me). Perhaps my lack of engagement with ads has something to do with types of ads that I was served.

Spotify’s ad-based version has especially been challenging to get used to as every few songs your vibe (or in my case, singing along annoyingly loud to most songs) is interrupted with an ad that doesn’t necessarily seem to be aligned with your content consumption, both in tone and in products.

Not only did I have to listen to an artist’s music on shuffle, but aside from the respite of the rare 30 second ad that would allow you 30-minutes of ad-free listening, you were constantly getting served every four to five songs, a poorly curated set of ads. The most common products that I was served were Daily Harvest and Taco Bell as an ad for each was included in almost each ad set.

The other type of advertising that I was served, leaving me a bit surprised, was the “advertise on Spotify” type of ad–everything from advertise your brand to advertise your small business and advertise your podcast. It reminded me a little of old-school terrestrial radio or local television/affiliate networks where you’d get those random “advertise here” type ads mixed in with other commercial spots. This second type of advertising is what I’ve been most annoyed with so far. Kind of like the equivalent of having your music cranked up in your room and being in the zone as a teenager yet your mom or dad keeps walking in to ask you to do something every few minutes, making you turn your music down each time in order to hear her.

Randomly, the one type of ad that I didn’t mind as much on Spotify were their ads pushing their podcasts. Their boilerplate overviews of podcasts found on Spotify felt almost helpful in terms of content discovery. If they had also happened to push other playlists, I likely wouldn’t have minded them either.

YouTube felt like the least annoying and intrusive thanks to the blessing of the “skip ad” function. Here, I was also served Taco Bell, car insurance. The primary annoyance for the non-premium version of YouTube for me had nothing to do with the advertising, but rather the user experience (UX) which keeps you in the YouTube environment, which for a multitasker like me leaves me feeling shackled to only doing one thing (watching the video) on my device. No, thank you. Premium grants me the freedom to browse the internet, send texts, or engage with other apps all the while watching a YouTube video.

From the advertising side, I will say that the YouTube Taco Bell ad did make me want a Mexican Pizza after seeing the ad for the third time.

FreeVee and ad-based Hulu taught me that there’s no way I want to go back to ad-supported broadcast television. For starters as an early cord-cutter, I am already annoyed with subscription platforms releasing one episode per week vs. dropping the entire season all-at-once, let alone making me watch any type of ads at all. That to me feels very much one step forward, two steps back approach to content roll-outs in the here and now. Yet, I more than anyone, understand that business is business and there are less and less opportunities to generate revenue for traditional models.

Anyhow, back to the ads FreeVee reminded me of a b-cable channel because of the advertisers and quality of the creative of each ad. Serving me ads from brands I’ve never heard of like or randoms like MailChimp to better-known brands like Verizon, KIA, and Spectrum (Spectrum was by far the most aggressive advertiser on FreeVee, with one of their ads appearing in each ad set). I’ve watched a few things on FreeVee since first coming across it, mostly documentaries as sometimes you find some on there that aren’t on Amazon Prime or elsewhere (hence the content I was consuming this a.m.).

There was enough of a gap between “commercials.” Enough time that passes in between ad sets (or ad pods as we call them in the industry) that it doesn’t feel too annoying, yet being a spoiled consumer with so many non-ad options if a film or documentary that I’d like to watch is available on both FreeVee and a non-ad option, I would definitely watch it on the non-ad option.

So, if I don’t want to listen to ads while listening to my favorite music and don’t want the content I’m watching interrupted by ads, then where can advertisers get to me?

For me specifically (and thinking younger gens as well), it would have to be on social media, primarily Instagram and TikTok. I definitely discover more of what interests me (beauty product, clothing, home decor, Home gadgets/Amazon hacks, books, etc.) on Instagram, where I may even engage with ads willingly.

The other, now that we are not staying home as much is still OOH, especially for food-related products, new entertainment releases, and companies focused on the experiential (like Airbnb).

Lastly, the next best way to advertise certain things is also search tactics, i.e. Google Search. Most consumers already know what brands and products they prefer, yet can be swayed to switch if a better price is offered or if enough positive reviews exist for the alternative.

One thing is for certain, never before has a consumer been so in control of where and when they see advertising. Even at the movie-theater where I was recently so annoyed by the amount of ads (and ads featuring celebrities back-to-back-to-back) that I had to sit through before we even got to the previews, now that I know that this might be the experience from here on out I can arrange to arrive closer to the actual start time of the movie to avoid that additional advertising ambush.

For advertisers, audience targeting, data/ad performance insights across all platforms, and strong creative will make up the lion’s share of their formula for their cervical in this modern 3-5 second attention span world.


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