NEW YORK | And now, a word from our sponsors. A very brief word.
TV commercials are shrinking along with attention spans and advertising budgets. The 15-second ad is increasingly common, gradually supplanting the 30-second spot just as it knocked off the full-minute pitch decades ago.
For viewers, it means more commercials in a more rapid-fire format. For advertisers, shorter commercials are a way to save some money, and research shows they hold on to more eyeballs than the longer format.
“It used to be that the most valuable thing on the planet was time, and now the most valuable thing on the planet is attention,” said John Greening, associate professor at Northwestern University’s journalism school and a former executive vice president at ad agency DDB Chicago.
So instead of seeing a lengthier plot line, viewers are treated to the sight of, say, the popular “Old Spice man” riding backward on a horse through various scenes for just 15 seconds.
Or the “most interesting man in the world,” the suave, rugged, Spanish-accented character pitching Dos Equis beer, appearing just long enough to turn his head and weigh in on the topic of rollerblading. (Verdict? A deadpan “No.”)
The number of 15-second television commercials has jumped more than 70 percent in five years to nearly 5.5 million last year, according to Nielsen ratings. They made up 34 percent of all national ads on the air last year, up from 29 percent in 2005.
Commercial-skipping digital video recorders and distractions such as laptops and phones have shortened viewers’ attention spans, said Deborah Mitchell, executive director of the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin. Viewers are also watching TV streamed on sites like Hulu, where advertisers have less of a presence.
So companies figure: “Why spend money on anything longer anyway? Plus, if they’re going to skip our ads, at least we have a better chance of them seeing something if it’s really short.”
Fifteen-second ads cost about the same per second as longer ones but, of course, cost half as much. A 15-second ad on network TV cost about $20,000 on average last year, according to Nielsen.
“It becomes a very seductive thing to get your message out there at half the cost,” said Mike Sheldon, CEO of advertising agency Deutsch LA, a unit of Interpublic Group.
On average, about 5 percent of an audience viewing a 15-second commercial will give up on it. The number jumps to about 6 percent for 30 seconds and 6.5 percent for 60 seconds, said Jeff Boehme, chief research officer for Kantar Media.
Previously, 15-second ads were mostly edited versions of 30-second spots, but that’s changing. Advertisers are making shorter commercials from the start. The length is ideal to remind people of products, stores or prices, but not to introduce them.
More than half of commercials run by packaged-goods companies and 60 percent of fast-food ads are 15 seconds, according to Kantar. The advertisers simply show a picture of the products, flash a price and the brain knows what the marketer means.
For example, the new campaign for Burger King, which is selling its breakfast options. A 15-second ad airing now features a mailman walking down the street carrying a plate of eggs, pancakes and hash browns. There’s no verbal description of the product. Instead he sings: “Did you know that breakfast was served at Burger King? The ultimate breakfast platter. That’s what I call delivering.”View Entire Story
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