YouTube is bullish on the unskippable six-second pre-roll ads it unveiled last year, and another big festival has afforded the video site another opportunity to promote its pet format. At SXSW, YouTube shared 19 six-second ads created by major ad agencies, with each spot retelling a famous literary work.

YouTube brought the six-second challenge to its agency partners, who all responded in their own ways. Some went with fairly straightforward approaches, but the harsh time limitation required a certain amount of ingenuity in all cases. Wieden+Kennedy, the shop behind memorable Old Spice and ESPN ads, brought humor to the story of Dracula. Other agencies, such J. Walter Thompson, decided to wow viewers with flashy visuals linked to stories like On The Origin of Species.

“This was eye-opening,” said Wieden+Kennedy creative director Craig Allen. “If I got a brief to do a six-second ad I would be pretty bummed, but now if you use it to your advantage it could be cool.”

By adapting famous stories in six seconds, the participating agencies brought a branded twist to an online video format older than YouTube. Doug Walker, famous for his Nostalgia Critic series, boiled films down to their essence in his 5-Second Movies series. The team from 5 Second Films has also been known to publish five-second movie reviews of its own, and several creators offered similar content within Vine’s six-second habitat.

In all of these cases, the constraints caused by a super-short format have required videomakers to be more thoughtful about their work. YouTube’s six-second ads draw out tons of creativity from their makers, and that’s why the format is so exciting. As YouTube phases out some of its more irritating pre-roll options, look for agencies to keep their short-form gears turning.

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