Creativity in the Era of the Micro Ad

Shorter, snappier creative

Gone are the days when brands need a dedicated 30 seconds to tell a story. As attention spans shrink and mobile sustains its reign over media, agencies are responding with shorter, snappier creative. We’ve entered the era of the micro ad.

Pepsi, for example, recently launched a micro ad campaign that centers on Pepsi-branded emojis, or Pepsimojis. ‘Say It With Pepsi’ uses brief five-second ads to support the brand’s new Pepsimoji bottles and inspire summer fun.

"The stuff that works best is the stuff that's unskippable, that's very quick-hit entertainment," said Pepsi brand marketing and digital director Linda Lagos in an interview with Adweek. "This campaign is a perfect example of us taking something that's been happening in digital for a while and applying it to more mainstream media with our TV partnerships."

The Pepsi spots will air on television this summer, setting them apart from the traditional 15-, 30- and 60-second ads. Additionally, the spots will run as pre-roll on digital media, tailored to individuals based on their search terms.

The brand worked with Google to identify the top search terms relevant to summer — “tanning,” “baseball,” and “fireworks,” for example — from which to build the spots. "We tried to tell very simple stories, celebrate the product and make it beautiful and refreshing. We have the emojis elevate the stories in a way that we haven't been able to before," Lagos said.

And indeed that seems to the trick of the micro ad: identifying the best way to roll out spots and tell a clear story. Under Armour and Droga5 also launched a micro ad campaign last month with Under Armour athlete and Golden State Warriors shooter extraordinaire Stephen Curry.

Entitled #BreakTheGame, the campaign airs a unique three-second ad featuring Curry each time he makes a three-pointer during the NBA playoffs. The campaign leads to the launch of the Under Armour Curry 2.5, Curry’s newest signature shoe.

Each three-second spot ends with a unique card, which slowly build up to the shoe’s release.

But while the Curry 2.5 shoe may be the campaign’s big reveal, the real story is one that celebrates basketball culture and Curry’s contributions to the game itself.

“As we approached the launch of [the Curry 2.5], we knew we needed to do something different,” said group creative director at Droga5 Tim Gordon. “We decided that we wanted to inject ourselves into what has been going on in basketball culture…. [Curry] is literally breaking the game with his style of play, and we wanted to break the mold on how we communicated with his fans and how we communicate our product.”

After spending five hours filming with Curry and countless more turning the footage into unique pieces of content, Droga5 and Under Armour ended up with 97 spots, each tailored to a specific potential moment during the playoffs, whether it be a three-point shot from impossibly far beyond the arc, a play featuring his signature fancy footwork, or simply a moment in which Curry revealed a little of his charm and personality on the court.

“When you put them all together, they tell a really nice, cohesive story,” Droga5’s communications strategy director Hillary Heath said.

The end result truly is a celebration of Curry and basketball culture, with each individual spot weaving in references to the sport’s national conversation and climate. In one ad, for example, Curry cheekily says, “In case they move it,” as he re-tapes the three-point line further back, which references Mark Cuban’s remarks that Curry’s shooting should force the league to push back the line.

Another presents a very confused Curry who asks, “What is this?” as he picks up a brick — the colloquial term for a terrible shot, which is something quite foreign to him. “Within any ad, there’s a little bit of inside knowledge baked into it,” said Gordon. “We wanted fans to feel that we’re speaking their language, not just throwing another ad out there.”

Given the competitive advertising landscape that surrounds the NBA post season, Droga5 carefully strategized how they would effectively reach the basketball community. The answer? Twitter.

“When [Curry] hits three-pointers, Twitter basically explodes, and there have been a lot of headlines this year about how the collective NBA conversation erupts when he hits a three,” said Heath. “We wanted to take a hijack angle and find specific Steph Curry moments when we could insert our brand.”

With its second-screen nature during games, Twitter was a natural fit for the campaign, with each spot rolling out on its basketball-dedicated Twitter channel (currently, 48 spots have aired as the Warriors head into the NBA Finals this week), with highlight reels aggregated after each game and repurposed for Facebook.

“We’re targeting people that we know are watching the game on TV and are looking for related content on their phones,” said Heath.  “So if you’re searching Curry, and he hits a three and related content is served to you on Twitter, that’s something that’s inherently going to catch your eye.”

The ads’ micro format arguably makes the spots more engaging than any 30-second spot could be for a basketball fan, and that’s the ultimate purpose of any campaign.

“Our goal is to make the ads as creatively engaging as possible,” Gordon said. “We believe if you create good content, people will want to interact with it, and the three-second format helps us because it encourages fans to re-watch the ads to catch more nuances.”

CLIO Sports convenes a veritable Who’s Who of the sports business to select from an international pool of submissions the breakthrough communications that elevated sports culture in the collective consciousness and made stars of players, legends of clubs, and icons of brands. CLIO Sports Finalists will be announced June 15th on