Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why Longer Commercials Are Critical To The Success Of The Digital Platform

How long should a commercial be is no longer a silly question.

On TV, the answer’s fairly easy. Fifteen or thirty seconds is the norm. Occasionally, a sixty-second spot slips in.

But outside of pre-rolls, time is now a variable when it comes to commercial length on the digital platform. With a pre-roll, which is normally a forced view, research has shown that shorter is better. That’s why most advertisers run fifteen seconds spots.

You can only hold a viewer captive for so long against their will.

But when you leave the forced views and allow the viewer to initiate play, there is nothing that says a spot can’t be 90 seconds, or two minutes, or four minutes long.

In fact, for most brands, the longer the spot the better.


Because time is what scales on the digital platform – not impressions.

On broadcast, we reach large audiences with short messages – 15 or 30 seconds in length. On the digital platform, we end up reaching a much smaller audience, but the amount of time that we can engage them is limited only by an agency’s creativity.

Here’s some math to look at. Let’s say we reach 1M people on broadcast with a 30-second spot. If every one of those million people watched all thirty seconds, the advertiser would have had 30M seconds of time spent with their brand’s messaging.

We’re not going to reach a million people online. So let’s cut that amount down substantially, say we reach only 300,000. How do we possibly get the same amount of time spent with the brand’s messaging?

If we only do a thirty-second spot, the most time spent that we could possibly achieve is 9M seconds. That’s 21M seconds less effective than the broadcast buy.

But, because we can craft longer messages to run online, let’s say we run a 2-minute (120 seconds) spot. Then we increase the possibility of time spent to 36 million seconds.

The variable? The length of the commercial. And, how good the creative is.

The future of the digital platform as an advertising medium requires it to be able to scale. Impressions don’t scale.

Time spent can and does.

In other words, digital is all about the creative. Not reach.

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