Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shorter TV Commercials Just Means More Of Them

TV commercials are shrinking in length - see article. The most common length that we now have to endure on TV is 15 seconds. The number of 15-second commercials has jumped more than 70% in five years. (As you may remember, we wrote about this happening a few weeks ago.)

The result? More commercials fired at viewers in each commercial pod.

Joy.

The reason? Research shows that shorter commercials keep attention longer than long commercials. In other words, advertisers figure that if viewers are going to skip their ads regardless, they stand a better chance of them seeing something if it’s really short.

Have they considered one-second spots? Even better, just don’t advertise at all. That way no one can skip their commercials.

The other logic that confounds me is the argument that goes like this - and this from an associate professor at Northwestern University’s journalism school and a former executive vice-president at ad agency DDB Chicago.

“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.”

Like time and attention are two different things. What does this professor think attention costs?

It costs time.

The reason we stop paying attention to something is because it’s not worth our time.

If we make it worth the viewer’s time, they will pay attention.

The big difference between time and attention is that time can be bought and attention must be earned. Agencies are skilled at buying things. They're not so skilled at earning them.

An advertiser can buy thirty seconds or sixty seconds, but if viewers don’t pay attention to the spot, what good does it do?

In other words, the amount of time a viewer spends with a commercial offers value to the advertiser. If so, then why don’t advertisers pay their agencies on that basis?

Create a sixty-second spot and base some of the cost of creating and producing that spot on how long viewers pay attention.

If viewers pay attention for sixty out of sixty seconds, the agency gets paid well. If not, they don’t.

This will lead to better creative, yes.

But even more importantly, it will open the door to a better remuneration system where agencies get paid not for how big they are, or how much time they put into a project, but on how much attention they garner for the client.

Attention can be measured in viewer time spent.

Time spent, or what some are calling engagement, measured as view duration, is what we refer to as the currency of creative. As the currency of creative, it is how creative agencies could be paid in the future.

The alternative is what we’re doing now. Shortening the commercials.

In other words, giving up.

Admitting that agencies today can’t do the type of work that people want to engage in. Good creative agencies should find this insulting.

The only way out of it is for creative agencies to put their money where their mouth is. To get paid for how good they are rather than how big.

To stand up for creativity.

Any takers?

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