Monday, April 13, 2009

Are Shorter Or Longer Commercials Better?

There is much debate these days over the proper length of a commercial.

On one side you have those that claim that our attention spans have shrunk, so shorter commercials—15 seconds or less—are most preferred. On the other side, you have, well, no one really, outside of yours truly.

So, I found it interesting when I looked up the top viral commercials from last week. Guess what? They were all longer than 15 seconds. Much, much longer, actually.

Number one was a Samsung commercial, two minutes and forty-five seconds in length. Number two was a T-Mobile commercial, two minutes and forty seconds long. A Cadbury commercial was next, sixty seconds longs. As for the fourth most viral commercial of last week, it was for Geico, a minute and forty-five seconds in length.

If one choose to look at what are called the Viral All-Stars from last week—commercials as well as videos of interest—the shortest out of the top seven was one minute in length. The longest was four minutes. Average length? Two minutes.

So, what's going on here? If our attention spans are indeed, shortening, how come the most viral of the videos require us to focus for much longer than many think we are capable of doing?

Is shorter actually better when it comes to commercials? Or, does it depend on the content of the video itself? I would argue it's the latter. That if the idea is wonderfully crafted and of interest, people will not only watch all of it, but share it with their friends.

Now if you ask an advertiser if they would prefer consumers to spend more time with their brand's messaging rather than less, most would opt for more. And since it seems that people enjoy, and get involved in, messages that are longer, it appears that agencies now have the opportunity to start to create longer messaging.

Obviously, these longer messages cannot be intrusive in delivery. In other words, they cannot run as pre-roll or in-stream. I have to agree with those that say that no one will sit through a two-minute commercial just for the right to watch the one-minute news clip that follows.

But, there are other ways in which to place advertising that is not intrusive.

The commercials mentioned above did not run as pre-roll. And yet, they were watched. What's more, they were shared.

It appears that advertising is evolving into two distinctively different formats. The intrusive model—short messages to run in front of large audiences. And, the opt-in model—longer messages to run in front of smaller audiences.

Both will be needed. And, both will prove to be effective in varying degrees. The intrusive message's primary objective will be to create awareness. The opt-in message's objective, to create advocates.

The question for advertisers is how good do they think their agency is. Do they think that their agency is good enough to create involvement? Or, are they only good enough to create commercials?

Which, at least according to the most popular viral videos, is proving not to be good enough, any more.

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