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ABC Will Bring Live Six-Second Ads to ‘American Music Awards’ (EXCLUSIVE)

ABC hopes to strike a new chord at its annual broadcast of the American Music Awards. A few of the ads slated to turn up in the event will so short viewers might miss them if they blink.

The Disney-owned broadcast network will run live-action six-second ads for Subaru’s new Ascent during the glitzy event this evening that match the tone and themes of the automaker’s actual commercials, which will also appear during show time. That way, says Jerry Daniello, senior vice president of entertainment brand solutions for Disney Advertising Sales, viewers who watch the show on a time-delayed basis or on-demand will still see the pitch.  Subaru wants to call attention to the new vehicle, which has three rows of seats and is aimed at adventurous consumers and families.

With more video fans accustomed to commercial-free experiences on streaming services, says Daniello, TV networks need “to create disruptive movements to get viewers’ attention without disrupting the experience” that brought them to the network in the first place.

Two different Subaru commercials will be preceded by quick shots of talent at the Awards doing things that play into the themes of the ads. One ad will feature a driver trying to back up in an Ascent crammed full of balloons. It will be introduced by a shot of a celebrity in a dressing room stuffed with balloons as well. Another spot shows Ascent riders slurping drinks, in order to highlight the number of cupholders in the new Subaru car. It will be introduced by a quick shot of celebrities in the audience also guzzling potables.

Six-second ads are growing in popularity, particularly after short-bite commercials have proved popular in digital venues such as YouTube. Fox Broadcasting has run them in football games and during its airing of the Teen Choice Awards. ABC believes, however, that running live promotional segments takes the concept to a new place (Viacom’s MTV has in the past experimented with live commercials during its MTV Video Music Awards).

Can an advertiser communicate all that much in just six seconds? Answers have been mixed. Some chief marketing officers fret that not much can be said in such an attenuated time span.  Others see a need to talk to younger consumers in ways they embrace.

“We see the shorter and shorter attention spans of the average consumers towards advertising,” says Jack Kelly, national integrated media manager for Subaru, citing statistics showing a user often scrolls by an ad in social media in just 1.6 seconds.  “We are always looking for opportunities to understand how we can leverage shorter-form media placement.” Ultimately, he says, Subaru hopes the quick-hit commercials will boost recall of the longer ones that follow.

Subaru promotions will show up elsewhere on ABC, thanks to a larger ad deal it has struck with the network, the American Music Awards and its producer, Dick Clark Productions. Subaru will have a presence on the red carper before the ceremony and has arranged for its commercials to appear during ABC’s “Good Morning America” the next day.

The goal, Kelly says, is to answer the question of “how do we make ads feel like part of the show, part of what’s going on at the network?”

Subaru wanted the commercials to run during the American Music Awards because the event typically draws a broad audience. But the ratings aren’t the only element the company will examine. Subaru, he adds,  will also consider a study of consumer awareness as well as social-media sentiment.

The automaker is likely to experiment with other unorthodox pitches, Kelly says. “In the fractured media landscape we are living in today, the idea is to test other formats, placements and partnerships we think are going to make an impact on the consumer.”

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