TV ad spot lengths getting shorter, says research

October 29, 2010 by Dave Haynes

As  reported by Associated Press:

Television 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.

The number of 15-second television commercials has jumped more than 70% in five years to nearly 5.5 million last year, according to Nielsen. They made up 34% of all national ads on the air last year, up from 29% in 2005.

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.

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.”

On average, about 5% of an audience viewing a 15-second commercial will give up on it. The number jumps to about 6% for 30 seconds and 6.5% for 60 seconds, says Jeff Boehme, chief research officer for Kantar Media.

People who spend their time really thinking about content will tell you there is no set rule on length, and that making everything everything short is not the answer. But common sense will also tell you that in most DOOH environments, the abandon rate on on a 30 second ad is a lot higher than six per cent. There’s too much else going on.

Full version of story here

An interesting counterpoint about short ads and frequency, from MediaPost …

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