Podcast: What Makes a Great Creative? How to Capture Your Audiences’ Attention in 3-5 Seconds of Your Ad

how to capture audience attention in 3-5s
9 Min Read
how to capture audience attention in 3-5s

As online ads have become a native inhabitant of the internet and with ad fatigue being more present than ever, long gone are the days when users paid any attention to ads while perusing through their favourite social media platforms or browsing the internet. At Creadits, we help our clients break through this by adapting and crafting disruptive strategies for their ad creatives.

In our first ever podcast episode, we are joined by our Head of Creative Strategy, Christy Ho, who shares with us how to maximise the potential of the 3-5 second ‘golden window’ of time that is crucial in capturing audiences’ attention. Our discussion also takes a further dive into discussing strategies based on industries, particularly in the gaming, e-commerce and mobile app space, as well as how this all comes into play in the context of COVID-19. 

This podcast was recorded over a call in separate locations as our team is currently working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Topics we cover in this episode:

  1. How to keep your audience engaged within 3-5s of your video ad

  2. Creative elements that play a crucial role in short form ads 

  3. How strategies differ from industry to industry 

  4. Deep dive into the gaming industry – best practices & platforms

  5. Considerations in the COVID-19 landscape and evolving consumer behaviours


Melanie: Hello, and welcome to our very first podcast. Thanks for choosing to tune in, we’ll be delivering insights as best as we can. This podcast is all about what makes a great creative. Today, we are going to be diving deep into discussing how to keep audiences engaged within the first few seconds of your ad creative. I’m Melanie and joining me on this podcast is our head of creative strategy, Christy Ho. Hey Christy, how are you?

Christy: Hey Melanie, I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Melanie: Thanks for coming on. Maybe to get things going, could you give us a little more insight into what you do as a creative strategist?

Christy: Sure, so I play a consultant role where I work closely with our sales partners to acquire new business through an assessment of a potential client’s current digital advertising efforts. After that, I pull together a creative strategy pitch deck where I share umbrella concepts and accompanying visual directions and techniques to help them not only fulfill their business objectives and solve their creative challenges. 

Melanie: Right, and that’s where we’re going to be needing your insight for this topic. So let’s just get this started – For an online ad creative, how do you keep your audience engaged so that they continue watching through the first 6 seconds?

How to keep your audience engaged within 3-5s of your video ad


To start, 6-10 seconds is already an eternity for mobile. Our focus should be on the first three seconds of the video as these golden moments are what determines whether or not you capture and retain attention.

So, depending on the platform you’re building for, creative elements could very well be the defining factors on how well the ad performs.

Also, it’s important to understand who your target audience is and be able to answer questions like “what time are they on their gadgets?” “Which gadgets are they viewing the ad on?” Do they seem to respond better to certain types of ads and are there any relatable topics we can use to our advantage? Knowing these things beforehand really helps the conceptualisation of an ad.

Creative elements that play a crucial role in short form ads 

Melanie: Cool. So since we’re working with a tiny duration of just 3-5 seconds, what then are some creative elements that play a crucial role in short form ads? – Colour, graphics, CTA, copy?

Christy: Ok so let’s talk colours. It’s important to not only understand the science of colours but to create a visual contrast between the ad and the platform it sits on.

Melanie: Right, so we’re talking colour psychology – colours have effects on them – like visual associations with emotions.

Christy: Yea exactly! So blue is calming, red is often associated with passion and immediacy which is why you see it widely used during sales season. Green is associated with envy but this can also come across as soothing and natural, making it perfect for eco-friendly brand ads.

If you’re advertising on Facebook, for example. You can consider designing something that’s vastly different from the platform colours cuz Facebook uses white and blue mostly, so choosing something that’s vastly different helps it pop. 

We could also explore the usage of disruptive strategy by adding a virtual hair or dust balls within the ad to make it seem like you have dirt on your phone but you don’t. This causes the viewer to then either do a double take or clicks on the ad by accident. It’s a questionable strategy and some platforms have pulled down such ads in the past but hey, it works!

Melanie: Yes I think I’ve seen ads like that, it caught me off guard and I must admit it did get me a bit irritated. But like you say, it works!

Christy: And another element we should always consider is sound. Many ads aren’t viewed with sound on so make sure the message comes across just as well with sound off. 

Copy should be kept short and sweet. Call to action buttons need to be obvious enough in terms of size and colour to encourage a click.

If you have worked hard on building influencer endorsements, making use of their aesthetic and them as models becomes your pull factor within the first couple seconds. This works extremely well for female fitness apps. 

How strategies differ from industry to industry

Melanie: So clearly the strategies needed to conceptualise ads differ based on the industry of the business, could you elaborate a bit more and help us to better visualise how they differ from each other?

Christy: Absolutely! 

For example, finance or insurance related ads play on a viewer’s empathy, compassion is super important to capture. Sometimes it intentionally tugs on heartstrings to drive home the importance of protecting yourself and your family

Fitness apps, like I previously mentioned, make full use of their influencer/celebrity collaborations to draw existing target audiences to their brand.

Telcos also use celebrities as the face of endorsements but have, in recent years, been a little more playful and ‘disruptive’ with their ads. I recall working with a Vietnamese client to showcase their 4G sim cards with ‘unbeatable data speeds’. We recreated the dreaded ‘loading’ icon to appear on screen as a disruptive creative element that reminds us all of internet connectivity struggles. 

Melanie: Oh okay, wow, but couldn’t this have potentially backfired as a strategy?

Christy: Yea, I mean it could have! But in this case, being highly irritating and referencing a relatable problem garnered a lot of attention and it was their best performing ad for quite some time. I mean, it’s all about getting your audience’s attention as quickly as possible. 

Same thing for e-comm, it’s pretty simple. You want people to spend their money on you! Sales use a lot of red, repeated text and bold fonts. Flash animation can also be used to capture attention. Pacing is also a main factor of consideration for ecomm as ads that play through at a hurried pace are often from fast fashion brands whereas slow movements and transitions reflect a more luxe and premium branding.

Melanie: That makes sense, premium branding usually has that slow-mo, 3d or motion animated effect.

Christy: Yup that’s right, on the other hand, if you’re a socially responsible brand, it’s important to be transparent with the ingredients you use or where your factories sit, welfare for your workers or even where some of the proceeds from each sale will go. Being honest and open with your community is so important for this industry. As long as people know where their money is going and are aligned with your brand values, they will be loyal to your brand.

And for gaming, designing something that catches the eye as a potential user scrolls through whichever platform they’re on and then going straight into gameplay is a strategy that has worked across the board. Some games cast spotlights on specific characters and build an ad storyline around them or choose to focus on highlighting mini games that sit within the ad.

Melanie: Cool, there are so many considerations to think about to pull people in within 3-5s. 

Christy: Mmhmm, yup. So many considerations.

Deep dive into the gaming industry – best practices & platforms

Melanie: Okay, since you mentioned games – that’s an industry we at Creadits have been working with quite a lot these days. In fact, we’ve racked up quite a few gaming clients. With COVID-19 present one of the few industries that’s still relatively stable is the gaming industry, so let’s go a little bit deeper into that topic. What are your thoughts Christy?


In general understanding your target audience is very important, so with gaming it’s knowing who your users or potential users are.

Are they young, old… into casual games, hardcore games? With the younger crowd, hip tactics like breaking the 4th wall or anything of an interactive nature typically works wonders. Older audiences, on the other hand, prefer gameplay. So within the first five seconds, your aim would be to give them a sense of achievement, big enough to get them to download your game. This could be as easy as making it rain coins that then fill the screen and give you a feeling of overwhelming wealth! Just to make them feel rich.

Melanie: There are so many gaming genres out there that it’s nearly impossible to categorise them based on just one genre, but to give an overview, we’ve seen a spike in popularity for casual games recently – match 3, idle games, casino games etc. So Christy, what are some strategies specific to gaming & their genres?

Christy: Okay so I’m a personal fan of Match 3 games and during the earlier months of this pandemic, I found myself hooked to a game by Playrix called ‘Gardenscapes’. Gaming advertising is interesting in a sense that most of the ads don’t highlight the main storyline but choose to amplify mini games within the main game to reel potential users in. The ad I saw for Gardenscapes was a puzzle game where I had to ‘free’ the character from danger and it gave me a sense of accomplishment when I completed the task. The ‘feel good’ cloud I was on made me download the game to find out more.

For casino games, it’s all about beating the odds! Win win win, money money money. Flash animation, gold dripping everywhere and the use of typography to drive home the fact that ‘you’re a winner’. Similar to match 3, you want to make your potential user feel good – happy, positive, hopeful. To feel hopeful is a very powerful thing when it comes to gambling games. It’s truly what keeps players going.

And as for, let’s say, idle games, because most idle gamers lack the time to spend within the game, highlighting what the game is doing while you’re busy away at work is a smart way to convince the player to keep going. We could play with split screens to show the real world vs game world.

Melanie: I think that’s really interesting – I also played an idle game called Penguin Isle, and what got me to convert was through an instagram ad depicting the calm on the isle where cute little penguins waddle around doing the most remote things, but I guess that’s what drew me to the game – the calming effect that I suppose works brilliantly for busy people who just want to indulge in a soothing yet gratifying game. 

Christy: Exactly and I mean clearly it has worked for people like you!

Melanie: So tell me, Christy, in terms of best platforms, what would you say works for gaming clients?

Christy: In no particular order are these platforms ranked but firstly I think in-app reward videos are a fantastic option. You have a target audience that’s already captured and willing to watch something in return for points or gold or whatever can boost them along in the current game they’re playing.

Then secondly, we have Facebook. You can choose between a static, a video or even a playable ad to showcase your brand. A playable allows people to test-drive your game by offering them the chance to preview your game directly from your ad before they install. Remember to keep your tutorial simple by letting people know how to play in as few steps as possible – two seems to work best. Also, showing a call-to-action throughout the playable gives people the option to download your game at any time.

Lastly, on Instagram, Stories has proven to be quite the game changer for the younger crowd as gaming brands are playing to the advantages of the platform UI – like Instagram’s press to hold and tap for next story features. These tactics encourage interaction, which drives up the likelihood of a click.

For short attention spans, you could use copy like ‘3 out of 10 people have found the treasure chest. Can you? Play now!’ to challenge the audience into wanting to prove themselves by downloading your game so that works as well.

Considerations in the COVID-19 landscape and evolving consumer behaviours

Melanie: Right, I’ve seen such ads as well and I think it’s pretty common these days. So to sum it up, could you share some considerations when building shorter ads based on the current climate and current consumer behaviours?


So I think the big consideration that we have right now is COVID-19. It has really changed things up and that includes commute time. Quite a few people are working from home and they don’t have that catchment period for brands to target their ads to them. So now a brands job is to gather insights on the new behaviours, because of the pandemic.

This could be maybe longer lunch hours, and extending the hours to maybe 12-2pm. 

We can also talk about attentions spans and stress levels, because in this day and age we have alot of distractions, we have alot of tech & platforms, so attention spans drop and stress levels go up, because we have so many options. 

Social circles as well, wanting to play with friends etc. The other day we talked about a game you were playing, Mobile Legends, I think?

Melanie: Yes, I play this game called Mobile Legends and I absolutely love it. It’s an arena game so I think that’s perfect for social gamers who want to play with friends, especially if it’s an online thing you don’t really have to be within physical proximity to play with friends.

Christy: Right, so the ads for these arena games would be more targeted towards inviting friends to play with you instead of just mainly showcasing the game features itself.

The final and more important considerations when you design an ad is also internet speeds and availability in whatever region you’re targeting, so if the bandwidth is not as powerful there, then design something simpler that doesn’t require so much effort to load (like statics and gifs)

Melanie: Consumer behaviours are always changing across the years, so it’s important for marketers and brands to keep up. Cool, I think that’s it for this podcast. Thanks again for coming on today Christy, it was really insightful. 

Christy: Thanks for having me!

Melanie: For everyone who’s listening, we have some case studies and some good reads over at our blog page so you can check them out there. If you’re a fan of Gardenscapes/Homescapes like Christy is, our CSM in London has written a good analysis piece on successful game creatives featuring Homescapes, so be sure to check that out. Thanks for listening and we hope you join us again next time!