The article that ran this week in Ad Age – Why Long-Form Ads Are The Wave of The Future – states the expected sort of rationalizations – entertainment is king, making work that stands apart, can be cut down to thirties, etc.
All are answers that are not wrong in themselves, but nothing new here really.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons not mentioned is that long form can now be distributed in ways that will not cost the advertiser dearly. (And let’s not forget the "ego quotiant." It is more impressive for creatives, as well as for clients, to be able to say that they're doing a “film” rather than a “commercial.”)
But the fact of the matter is, long-form is the only way that advertising will scale in the future. And, scale is mandatory for the continuation of our industry.
When the objective of media was to offer an opportunity to see, scale used to come through audience size. Today, with the fragmentation of the viewing audience due to unlimited choice of content on unlimited screens, due to control switching over to the viewer, due to ever increasing and myopic targeting practices – from behavioral to contextual to addressable – it’s becoming more and more difficult create size in audience.
And that’s a problem. The reason is that production of creative is a fixed cost that is spread across exposures. The average thirty-second spot costs $380,000 to produce. Spread that cost across 20 million viewers and it comes out to a little under two cent per person.
This cost is justifiable to a marketing director.
Spread that cost across a smaller audience, say 200,000 people, and it comes out to a little under $2 per person. Difficult to justify under the best of circumstances. Which explains why most production that is done exclusively for the smaller digital audiences have much smaller production budgets.
But the interesting thing about the digital marketplace is that while audience size is shrinking, the length of creative has a chance to be longer. And if advertisers start to look at media as less of an opportunity to see, and more as an opportunity for viewers to spend time with the brand, then this longer creative is the only way in which to maintain scale.
Look at the numbers. A thirty-second spot that runs in front of 1M people, will deliver 30M seconds of potential time spent with the brand. (Obviously, the amount of actual time spent with the advertising is dependent on the creative itself.)
Now cut that audience size in half – 500,000 – but double the length of creative to sixty seconds. Total amount of potential time spent with the brand? Again, 30M seconds.
Cut the audience size in half again, to 250,000, but double the length of creative to two minutes, and once again, the amount of time that the advertiser can have spent with his brand equals 30M seconds.
This is why longer form creative will need to be the wave of the future. Not just because it’s cool or more fun to do. But because the audience size is shrinking. And scale is still necessary.
In the future, there will be two types of video advertising. Short messages that will run in front of large audiences in an invasive, intrusive manner. The media objective will be reach. And the marketing objective will be awareness. These spots will be sold on a reach and frequency, CPM basis.
The second type of video advertising will be longer messages that will run in front of smaller audiences. The media objective will be to create time spent with the brand. And the marketing objective will be to create advocates versus wareness.
Rather than sold on reach and frequency, these spots will be sold on a reach and duration basis.
Long-form advertising is to attract those who are already in the purchase funnel. Its purpose is to help to move them down even further and even faster.
Both types of advertising will have their place. The trick for advertisers is to know when to go long.