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Volume 21 No. 1
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Fox’s six-second ad decision: How many to run?

Fox Sports is committed to continue selling six-second commercials, but it still is deciding how many of those short pitches it should make available during games. Fox sold two six-second ads during World Series games, which didn’t seem like enough, and nine during its NFL game on Thanksgiving, which seemed like too much, one of the network’s top ad sales executives said.

“We’re really trying to find the perfect element,” Bruce Lefkowitz, Fox Networks Group executive vice president of ad sales, said during an SBJ/SBD podcast. “We tried nine in the Thanksgiving break. That’s probably a little too much.”

Podcast with Bruce Lefkowitz of Fox Networks Group:

Fox was the first TV network to sell six-second ads this year, starting during the “Teen Choice Awards” in August. It also sold the ads during the World Series, an early-season NFL game and the Thanksgiving game. The ads come during natural breaks in the action, like when a pitching coach visits the mound in baseball or when a team is in a huddle during NFL games. The network uses a double-box on screen, keeping video from the game in one and putting the six-second ad in the other.

“Do you end up doing one per quarter?” Lefkowitz said. “What do you do in terms of creating the supply-and-demand economics if you only have four of them, and they have a higher perceived value?”

Fox charges a premium for the six-second ads: 15 seconds’ worth of revenue for six seconds of advertising. During the Thanksgiving Vikings-Lions game, that translated to about $450,000 a spot. Fox removed one commercial break that would have run two minutes and 15 seconds in favor of the nine six-second ads.

“The people who have adopted it realize there is a value and realize the value in experimenting and understand that, ultimately, value is in the eyes of the beholder,” Lefkowitz said.

One of the sales pitches Fox uses with advertisers is that most already use six-second ads online via sites like YouTube. Fox has found differences in which six-second ads work online and which ones work best on television.

“In the digital video space, where the sound is often not on, six-second ads are all imagery or all visual,” Lefkowitz said. “What we found with the T-Mobile Netflix offer, which first ran in the World Series, is that mnemonic sound that Netflix has was really helpful in garnering awareness and attention. It’s in the very early innings of the six-second game, but there are a lot of learnings that are coming out with each successive opportunity.”