Visa Buys Six-Second Ads in Fox NFL Game for Harvey Relief

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Tom Brady of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 in Houston last February.
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 in Houston last February.  Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Visa has signed on to run six-second ads in Fox's National Football League game on Sunday and will use the shortened spot for its Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Visa will run one six-second spot right before kickoff and another during the game, according to Bruce Lefkowitz, exec VP-ad sales, Fox Networks Group. The host of Fox's pre-game show will intro the six-second spot before the game, while the other will run in a traditional pod within the game.

The short ad unit, first prominently championed by YouTube last year but adopted by others like Facebook in recent months, is part of Fox's strategy to figure out how to improve the TV viewing experience as it confronts competition from platforms with fewer or no commercials.

"As shorter-form ads have become more and more common in the digital ad space, consumers have become more accustomed to the format, and metrics show that they are more likely to retain the messages conveyed. It makes sense to take these learnings and apply them to the linear ad space as well," says Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation officer, Visa, in an email.

"Good creative messaging should be able to be boiled down to simple takeaways for the consumer. So, building for short-form ad units has been a great exercise for our creative teams to ensure our messaging is laser-focused and crystal-clear," he adds.

Fox is charging similar rates for its six-second spots in NFL games as it does for 15-second ads. A 30-second ad in Fox's Sunday games goes for about $775,000 this season, according to ad buyers.

Fox plans on airing a limited number of six-second spots during NFL games this season, as well as in telecasts of Major League Baseball and college football and Major League Soccer on FS1. The company is close to signing deals with other marketers for six-second ads in NFL games through week eight, Lefkowitz says.

The network group began testing the format during its "Teen Choice Awards" in August.

In theory, most TV people agree that less commercial clutter is good for both consumers and advertisers. Fewer ads increase the chances that the spots will be remembered and decrease opportunities for viewers to change the channel. But there are plenty of questions surrounding the economics. In order to maintain ad revenue while decreasing ad loads, networks have to raise prices on the inventory. Marketers are far from convinced that they should pay more to be in a program with less commercial clutter. But Fox has been aggressive in moving quickly with adopting the format to prove its value.

In the spot that will air on Sunday, Visa is asking viewers to join in Harvey relief efforts, for which the company has committed $1 million.

"We collectively decided that it didn't feel right to launch an ad on behalf of our brand in the context of what is occurring in the Gulf states," Curtin says.

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