TV advertising – Caveat emptor

In these hard recessionary times the pressure is applied in heavier than usual dosage levels on advertisers to reduce their costs while still delivering the same (if not more) sales results. Television advertising is perhaps the largest capital outlay / activity of a typical advertising campaign and as such it is usually the medium where advertisers turn to first in order to save money or to reduce their costs.

One of the most common methods for TV advertisers to save some money is to typically reduce the length of their commercial from say a 30 second to 20 second or to introduce a shorter cut down 10 second version of a longer length ad. The move to using shorter length TV commercials is not a new phenomenon but that it has grabbed the marketing news headlines recently when Trevor Beattie, the man who created some of the most famous TV ads in history, such as Wonderbra’s “Hello Boys” and French Connection’s FCUK, declared that he was “announcing the death of the 30 second TV commercial” in that it was “too long” and “that 5 seconds was about the right length” Beattie argued that in today’s modern society where Facebook, YouTube and Twitter dominate, that consumers “have become much quicker at analysing messages”.

It may well be the case that our minds are processing information at much faster rates than previously and that consumers are in effect living 48 hours in a 24 hour period when compared to say twenty years ago. However against this backdrop it’s even more important for advertisers to understand and appreciate the true power of television in that it is mostly a passive medium and one which consumers typically turn to for enjoyment and escapism from their busy lifestyle. Yes advertisers could save loads of money if they created 5 second advertisements and yes they could argue the case that consumers are consuming messages quicker etc., but where’s the real benefit if your 5 second advertisement is one of 36 commercials is a typical three-minute commercial break ?

If advertising is about creating impact and being memorable then a 60 second length ad in a break full of 5 second ads has a much better chance of delivering the goods. I can’t recall many impactful 5 second TV commercials over the last 20 years and perhaps it’s no coincidence that many of the most successful and iconic brands we know today were built on so-called long length TV commercials. Brands such as:

British Airways  

Hamlet Cigars


Cadury’s Dairy Milk


Long length TV commercial – Cartier case study:

Cartier, the renowned French jeweller and watchmaker usually spend most of their advertising budget in quality glossy magazines but that they decided they needed to shake things up a lot. Cartier created a whopping three and half-minute television commercial and in order to make the commercial stand out even more, they decided to air the commercial across several TV stations all at the same time in an effect known as a “roadblock”, this effectively allowed Cartier to own the moment. The epic commercial was created by Publicis Groupe’s Marcel agency in France and shows a big cat taking a journey through time and across the globe while encountering some nice Cartier trinkets along the way.  

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