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Short commercials of six to seven seconds or less on television can provide an efficient option compared with longer, more expensive commercials. But there are limits to what they can deliver, particularly in a cluttered environment. This study offers guidance on how, when and where to use short ads but its authors acknowledge that their work “needs replication and further extension.”
Six-second ads did not exist on TV when this study’s experiments were designed, so the researchers conducted laboratory testing of their models against seven-second ads—half the length of 15-second commercials. At the time, seven-second commercials were the more common short ad on television and online. Six-second ads in the last decade were used widely in digital video but aired on TV only as recently as 2017.
The authors compared the effectiveness of seven-, 15-, 30- and 60-second versions of the same commercials for brand recall, advertisement liking and brand attitude. In addition, they used biometric measures. Their results showed that seven-second ads were “almost as effective (measured by unaided recall) as 15-second” ads, and were “60% as effective as 30-second” ads.
That finding “confirms and extends a diminishing returns explanation for recall and other measures of effectiveness,” such as ad liking.
Among the takeaways:
- Short ads on TV can deliver effectiveness efficiently, because commercial length has diminishing returns, but clutter should be minimized.
- Short ads seem a sensible tactic to increase continuity of a campaign in conjunction with longer copy, at least for established brands.
- Longer commercials allow more time to tell a story, however, and take viewers on an emotional journey, which increases brand recall and ad liking.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Duane Varan (email@example.com) is CEO, MediaScience, Austin, TX. He also oversees Beyond :30, a collaborative industry project exploring the changing media landscape. He has been awarded the Australian Prime Minister's University Teacher of the Year, among other accolades.
Magda Nenycz-Thiel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research professor at Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia. Her areas of expertise are category and industry growth, e-commerce and neuromarketing.
Rachel Kennedy (Rachel.email@example.com) is a research professor, director, and a cofounder of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. Her research is focused on advertising and media knowledge to help grow brands.
Steven Bellman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research professor at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. His research on media and advertising responses is funded by the Beyond :30 project, whose sponsors include television networks and advertisers worldwide.