Tips and Tricks for Creating a Memorable 6-Second Ad

By Nina Miller

When you only have a few seconds to create an ad that 1) captures attention, 2) tells a story, and 3) brands effectively, how do you make each second count?


With the average human attention span falling year-over-year and currently sitting at just 8 seconds, it is clear that short creatives are impactful, necessary, and a tool that marketers should be using in their marketing and advertising mix. Let’s be honest, have you already opened your phone, switched tabs, or browsed social media while reading the intro of this article?


A report by Adweek and GumGum found that 6-second ads may be the golden standard for digital media marketers. The report included a survey of 305 brand marketers and agencies. They came to a consensus that shorter ads are most effective and completion rates are better (Fleck, 2018). But, without scientific analysis, it is not clear if this is only because of the shorter watch length or if it is because viewers are actively watching, engaging, and remembering.


At Neuro-Insight, we decided to test this on a 6-second creative by Doritos. We looked to the consumer subconscious to see how effectively Doritos was able to execute within the time constraints across platforms (Instagram and Facebook). Our patented technology, Steady State Topography (SST), allows us to measure second-by-second brain responses that breach the conscious and get to the root of human emotion and decision-making.


SST makes it possible for us to understand exactly what consumers are encoding into long-term memory. Memory matters because what we subconsciously decide to store in memory today becomes the base for our decision-making in the future. In this Doritos creative, no part of the ad was encoded into long-term memory across either platform… not the branding, not the messaging, and not even the story.




Why was this ad unsuccessful and what can we learn about best practices for creating 6-second ads?



First and foremost, when creating a short ad, keep it simple!


Use less shots, refrain from crazy panning or cutting, and reduce clutter. In the Doritos ad, you can see that the rapid switch-ups create a piece that is too detailed for us to comprehend in 6 seconds. Perhaps, Doritos was trying to make sure it was attention grabbing, but lost branding and messaging in the chaos.



Take up space with your branding.


Put your brand front and center. In this ad, did you notice that the main character is holding a Doritos bag the entire time? I didn’t first time around. For a creative this short, consider branding some or most of the time front and center. That way, if detail memory encoding peaks, your brand will be top-of-mind.



Leave the viewer wanting!


Don’t over-explain so that the viewer wants to explore the novelty, wants to click the link, wants to look it up. Ignore the traditional narrative arc and think about ending abruptly / avoiding a serious conclusion. This Doritos ad is tricky, how do you make the world-famous Dorito mysterious? The data shows (especially in the Facebook ad) that emotional intensity — the strength of viewer emotion rather than the positive or negative nature of it — increases as the ad progresses. Doritos could have harnessed this and ended the ad without the conclusion.



Make sure it works with / without sound.


If you end up implementing all of these changes and find yourself happy with the success of the ad, it is important to remember that people will be digesting it in many different ways: on the phone, on a computer, in a busy subway with the sound off, in bed with sound on. The quick clip must be just as effective without sound as with. The narrator of this ad uses sonic branding at the end which does not prove to be effective according to our memory metric. Make your visuals strong!


As the world of technology changes and adapts, so must marketers. Content must be quick and effective to keep up with incessant scrolling and the overload of content absorbed daily. Our neuro-analysis of the Doritos Nacho Cheese 6-second ad highlighted that, while short ads seem to be a marketer favorite, they are not always effective. These four tips will help brands cut through the noise and make each second count.





Alissa Fleck. (2018, May 31). Marketers think the 6-second pre-roll spot is the Best Digital Video Ad Format. Adweek. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from