The 3-Second Rule

No, I’m not talking about the five-second rule, where you can drop food on the ground and if you grab it in under five seconds, you can eat it. I am talking about the three-second rule that says your advertising must grab viewers’ attention in the first three seconds, or you will lose them.

With the constant increase in the number of messages aimed at consumers, you have to engage them at the start or you simply won’t get their attention. This is true of Internet banners, television ads, radio and newspaper ads, pay-per-click copy, and most other forms of advertising.

Many advertisers make the mistake of thinking they can let the message develop over 30 seconds because people will be so fascinated with their ad and dealership that they will watch until the end. This is not true, however, and it requires a bit of ego to think it is.

Viewers only care about what you have to say if you earn their attention. Consumers are out to be entertained or fascinated in some way.

In pre-roll advertising (the commercials that run before the video you wanted to see on YouTube, news websites, etc.) you have even less time to grab them. Many of these pre-roll commercials are only 15 seconds long, and you have to grab them in the first three seconds, and persuade them by the 15th second. If you think a boring commercial or running footage of a car is going to do that, you don’t realize how many commercials are doing exactly the same.

I think what marketing people are trying to tell us is that creativity in your message is essential. Try not to look like everyone else. Think radical when it comes to online advertising, television, direct mail, radio, newspaper, pay-per-click, and other forms of advertising.

You want viewers to see your ad and say to themselves, “What is this?” What you don’t want is for viewers to look at your ad and say, “Oh, yet another auto dealer commercial.” Get ’em in the first three seconds or watch them wander away from your ad.

Brett Stevenson


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