When the idea of advertising via the television was conceived, 60 seconds (one minute) was the standard commercial length of ads. With time, advertisers developed and started to run thirty-second advertising spots on television particularly after the departure of cigarette manufacturers from the airwaves in the 1970s. The 30-second concept came to light due to the concern that the lost revenue from tobacco marketers would compromise advertising revenues, hence the need to offer 30-second time periods at cheaper rates compared to the initial 60-second spots with the primary goal of attracting more advertisers to buy time. The 15-second commercial ad spots made its appearance in the 80s as an alternative that can help to compensate for the rapidly rising cost of the 30-second commercials. The 15-second alternative is a length that is comparatively flirtatious and easily digestible for the current attention spans.
Mbani observes that in the initial decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the traditional 30-second TV ads were at its peak as it was more than the founder and CEO of commercial advertising; it was the King. Therefore, it would be so cruel to consign it to death row. Nevertheless, Mbani contents that 30-second spots not only remains the Standard unit of consumption but serves as the backbone of other advertising formats as well. However, the contemporary advertising landscape continues to witness fast-forwarding and recording as not only the norm but also a significant challenge to television advertising as a medium, especially the 30-second spots. Rapid technological advancement is increasingly providing an escape from television and serves as an agent of justification for the virtual lives. As a consequent, traditional advertising has been compelled to evolve in the effort to meet the unique needs of Generation Y, particularly generation Z.
Current Alternatives to 30-second Spots
Many advertisers consider the length of commercials in the attempt to make their ads to stand out. Today, marketers are increasingly showing the interest in purchasing commercials in varied lengths and configurations. In an attempt to get recognized amid a sea of the 30-second TV ads, advertisers are already embracing commercials that run 5 seconds, 10-second spots or 15, 45-seconds or 40, and 120-seconds or 90 in length, and even more (). For instance, Puma athletic wear unveiled a 15-spots commercial featuring buff athletes, which are paired in a mix-and-match fashion, with 30-second spots.
TV spots that run for more than 30 seconds are largely intended to attract more attention by offering marketers more time to tell stories that can appeal to their target audience. This observation is to some biased in the sense that what really matters in an ad is the story; time is not really a critical factor. A 10-minute spot will attract the same amount of attention as a 120-second slot provided that its story is catchy. Furthermore, 30-second and less commercial are intended to have a surprise effect among the viewers that can achieve the equal promotional effect as longer ads.
Besides the above combinations, commercial ads can be packaged in a pair of a 40-second and 20-second and then buy a one-minute time block from an advertiser. Given that a whole 60-minute slot might appear too creatively extravagant and a 30-second spot seems too restrictive, a number of advertisers can leverage the creative freedoms and financial economies a one-minute spot can present.
Criticism Against 30-second Ads
() argue criticize 30-second TV spots for being interruptive. In analyzing the interruption of the 30-second TV ads in reference to reminder advertising, it is imperative to ask whether or not a 5- or 10-second commercial will move a consumer to physically buy a product. After all, the initial and sole purpose of advertising it to persuade and sell a product. I's criticism is biased because of irrespective of the length of the advert, the annoyance factor is a constant factor as it softens evident when a commercial interrupts as opposed to engaging the audience. Consider a 5-second commercial that starts with a loud bang and an image startles the viewer by seeming to jump out of the screen towards him or her. It is then closely followed by the name of the brand being marketed and the screen goes black. This scenario illustrates that a 5-second TV ad is equally as likely to cultivate a frothy ball of explosive rage in the consumer as a 30-second or 2-minute commercial could do. Therefore, as technology continues to advance, advertising also evolves and embraces the element of storytelling to attract, engage, respect and persuade the audience to buy their offerings.
Moreover, Wolk (2015) advance the narrative that many viewers are increasingly turning to TV on their own schedules. This criticism also seems unbiased because it simply reduces television advertising to pre-roll commercial only, where there are higher chances that it will be viewed as less annoying or interruptive because it comes on before the audience has had a prior opportunity to engage in the program. Additionally, Wolk (2015) propagates the idea that todays consumers lack the patience to sit and watch a four-minute pod of eight 30-second commercial slots. Based on this narrative, Wolk (2015) claims that the effectiveness of 30-second slots will slowly wither away, leaving them as mere historical artifacts.
The Essence of Time
Initially, traditional advertising was meant to showcase the fundamental product promotions (). However, the objective of 30-second advertising has evolved into memorable cinematic masterpieces that engage, respect and earn the attention of the audience rather than becoming annoying or interruptive to the viewers. Based on this improvement, it is logical to argue that a time constraint is no longer applicable especially amid the grand transformation. Indeed, consigning 30-second TV ads to death row is nonsensical. It does not matter whether it is a 5-second, 30-second, or 4-minute, the length of the commercial is a trivial consideration is the contemporary advertising world where consumers place essence on the story embedded in the ad (Mbani, 2015). This argument appears less biased because indeed time is not the most important factor. All brands are unique in their own ways, therefore, suited for varying advertising lengths, formats, styles and executions in conveying the message. For example, a 30-second ad managed to deliver the Doritos brand in the Super bowl 2015 just as a 6-minute short film successfully presented 200 years of Johnnie Walker history. Considering these examples, it is, therefore, evident that the length of the commercial becomes irrelevant. However, it is also important to observe that despite time being of no essence in TV ads, the 30-second commercial no longer enjoy as much attention as they once did.
Competition from Social Media Advertising
In light of the modern digital era, digital advertising, especially social media advertising, continues to triumph the dominant 30-second TV spot on traditional television. Advertisers strive to have their products earn likes as much as possible and be shared across many different social networking sites.
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