Why did the 30-second ad become the default, and is the five-second ad the future? This two-pronged question sprung up last week in my discussions with a client who has over the past few years been unlearning a bit of television advertising to make way for some on-line advertising learnings.
The 30-second spot was invented, to my mind, in the 1950s – an era when the biggest distraction a TV advert had to contend with was the lowly kettle. No remote controls, no smartphones, no gaming consoles, no internet. Avoiding the 30-second TV spot would involve getting up, going to the TV, and manually switching channels.
But, in today’s world, where there are infinite opportunities to educate or entertain ourselves online, consumer attention is more fleeting than ever before. We have email, Facebook messenger, IM, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, push notifications, a plethora of apps, pings, and beeps, to constantly break our concentration. Expecting a consumer to engage with a 30-second ad is no longer going to be realistic in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
A recent study from Australia, forwarded to me by a former classmate, is encapsulated in the graph below:
If nothing, ‘consumer annoyance’ is a new addition to my marketing lexicon! The study was done keeping mobile advertising in mind, but come to think of it, how can one be sure that ads of longer duration even on television are ‘loved’ by consumers? Is it that we are so comfortable, and so used to the 30-second spot that no one has ever bothered to question and change the status quo?
Five-second ads are not new. Ford created some interesting ones in South Africa a couple of years ago. Volkswagen in Europe followed suit by creating an ad that changed gears and demonstrated the vroom power of the car. There was then an excellent Audi R8 ad from South America last year that showed how the car went from zero to 100 kmph in just 3.5 seconds. But the best example of a 5-second ad that worked, and worked wonderfully, was actually from closer home: from Horlicks.
Horlicks has always had a miscibility problem. It licked the issue by actually showing consumers in just 5-seconds how soluble the new Horlicks is, and how easily it dissolves in the milk. Simple communication but done most time-efficiently, and also I suppose cost-efficiently.
In 2016, Pepsi went super-short in the US with its new emoji-themed commercials, creating 100 five-second spots that aired both on TV and in search-triggered digital media. The 5-seconders showed brief, charming, cartoon vignettes of Pepsi bottles doing summery things like skydiving, sunbathing, eating ice cream and more.
Linda Lagos, brand marketing and digital director at Pepsi, was in fact quoted by Adweek saying that the soda brand had learnt a lot about digital media—particularly when it comes to the value of snackable content—and is applying those learnings not just to digital but to traditional media too. This explains why the five-second spots were headed to TV, where such short ads are a rarity.
"The stuff that works best is the stuff that's unskippable, that's very quick-hit entertainment," Lagos said. "This campaign is a perfect example of us taking something that's been happening in digital for a while and applying it to more mainstream media with our TV partnerships."
Why am I endorsing 5-second ads on TV?
1. It is actually all the time that is required to communicate the brand idea. The actual promise. The ‘new’ news. A lot of the rest of the time is really spent telling the brand ‘story’. The problem is that once I have heard the story, I already know the story and there is no newness in the brand message. Communicators would do well to focus on the brand ‘idea’ rather than the brand ‘story’ after the initial launch.
2. A 5-seconder is infinite joy for media planners and media buyers. The shorter format can exponentially jump deliveries on Reach and OTS. Also add substantially to cost-efficiencies. I think the concept of the 5-seconder has been either experiment or innovation. Media fraternity has really not embraced the huge advantage of this short format.
3. 5-seconds may seem like a creative challenge but given the task, I am sure young creative minds will rise to the challenge. Shorter ads will require new story-telling skills, I am sure, but new millenials are already getting well-versed with content in every form and genre becoming more-and-more snackable. My own feeling is that shorter ads will be more hard-nosed and will deliver messaging better.
4. Clients should actually be in the forefront of checking out the 5-seconder as the preferred advertising format. But, not as a mere experiment or an innovation. But as a serious creative format, and media multiplier. And for television, not just digital or mobile. It will be a great cost-saver and will also force focus on the brand-promise.
My views, I am sure, will trigger reactions that may be contra to what I am suggesting. I welcome the debate. I think it is time to change. I think it is time to rethink.
Whether you agree or disagree, write in to firstname.lastname@example.org. A healthy exchange of ideas never hurt anyone.
Sandeep Goyal’s blog pushes for, and encourages, debate on issues and subjects others normally shy of.
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