Are TV Commercials Getting Shorter?

Way back it seemed like all commercials were 60 or 30 seconds. Now there are shorter ones.

Are there any stats on the average time of TV commercials, either overall or perhaps categorized (i.e. prime/no-prime time, or during specific programming types?)

I’ve heard it claimed that people have been trending towards a need for instant gratification and having a shorter attention span (due to the internet?) and I wonder if Advertisers are crafting their ads to take advantage of that.

I can see there might be other reasons for shorter commercials - i.e. broadcasters can fit more in a minute for higher revenue.

Way back, dude, commercials were 1-2 minutes long. The original TV ad for the XeroX copier was two full minutes (showing a little girl making a copy of her drawing). This was ca. 1962.

Ad lengths dropped to 30 and then 15 seconds quite some time ago, and now shorter compilation ads are quite common. That’s just assuming it’s one stream of material, which isn’t true for most “broadcast” channels - besides the main video, you’ve got bottom fungus and logos squeezed into score boxes and side videos.

Truly, the blipvertis upon us. No one’s exploded yet that I know of.

The reasons are complicated but it’s not as much attention span as that marketers have learned that they don’t need 60 or 30 or 15 seconds to get a message across. In the past, they did; the consumer base is now so preprogrammed to “Want” that the old See-Want-Buy has telescoped to SeeBuy, and in the case of much magazine advertising (object+logo), to “Grab!”

No need to go on and on about how great your new product is. Just show it in brief shots until it’s hammered into the buyer brain.

Answered my own question with a little google-fu

“TV commercials shrink to match attention spans”;

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/advertising/2010-10-30-shorter-v-commercials_N.htm

Well… if you go to the “newspaper” that built its market on micro attention spans, that’s the answer you’ll find.

It’s much more complicated than that, and assigning the change to consumers is purposeful misdirection. But if your question’s been answered…

The biggest drop in lengths was from the 1950’s, when commercials were one or occasionally two minutes long, to the 1980’s, when 30-second commercials had become pretty standard, with occasional 15-second commercials. Since then, the decrease in length has slowed down, it seems to me. I would guess that the average length is not hugely less than it was thirty years ago. But I’m no expert in this subject.

http://books.google.com/books?id=1T8LX1lG-t0C&pg=PA223&lpg=PA223&dq=television+commercials+"average+length"&source=bl&ots=eS3Nw9bXYB&sig=dElLikukYOpkdp_ENA9_yNGpfZk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=B0_IUqavHeLjsAT-hoGIDQ&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=television%20commercials%20"average%20length"&f=false

Seriously? That was a long and serious article, full of good information. As I’ve said many times before USA Today is mostly superior to the bulk of newspapers outside the top half dozen. They identified and exploited the change in the culture before competitors, and now their competitors copy them slavishly. So who was right?

It is more complicated - and the article you should have read all the way through gives a number of reasons for the change. It’s not a heinous conspiracy. It’s the continuous evolution of marketing.

If you have reasons beyond what the article gives, I’d certainly like to hear them.

USA Today is a mediocre resource at best, writing for traveling businessmen who don’t have time for a serious newspaper. That it is less mediocre than others is not a ringing endorsement.

Omit ‘not’ and we’re in complete agreement. (Although even I’d use a less fraught adjective than “heinous.”)

Just separating the topics a little, here,

Honestly, if you think that’s a long and thorough article, you are either kidding or… well, this is GQ so I’ll conclude “reading too quickly.” All it does is say over and over that advertisers are finding the shorter ads just as effective, if not more so.

The real issue is why shorter ads are effective, which is addressed only from the advertiser point of view, mostly in the area of cost. There’s nothing except a sweeping “shorter attention spans” that attempts to explain why shorter ads are now as effective as longer ones were in prior eras.

Here’s a long and thorough explanation: Consumers have been deeply indoctrinated to accept marketing expectations and thus don’t seek any real justification for sales pitches any more.

Amateur Barbarian writes:

> Consumers have been deeply indoctrinated to accept marketing expectations and
> thus don’t seek any real justification for sales pitches any more.

Cite?

What would you like me to cite, studies done by marketing majors and firms that are as self-congratulatory about their expertise as the USAT article above?

It’s an inherent part of the problem that no one much pays attention to marketing except those in the industry, and as a group they cannot see any downside to the most egregious uses of behavioral and social conditioning to sell more soap flakes. Even the arm of behavorial psych that supports marketing development rarely questions the basic trope that “all sales are good sales.”

If you stand outside the border of the self-congratulatory, self-defining and self-referential world of marketing, you’re in thinly examined territory. That’s because, like falling through the grid map in a video game, you’re not supposed to be there.

So all cites are contaminated but your personal opinions are not? That’s not exactly a GQ argument.

I say you’re wrong using appeal to authority. Me. I started looking at advertising when I went to grad school in Communications 40 years ago and have continued to read as much as I can about the fields of advertising, marketing, and persuasion ever since. There’s just a slight bit more to them than propaganda.

Just a personal aside, what is it with science fictions writers and their contempt for the social sciences that is only matched by their sheer ignorance of them? I’ve seen it for 40 years and I’m heartily sick of it.

My personal view is that people today are more cynical about advertising than ever before and are less likely to be taken in by it. However, that’s just my personal view. I don’t have any citations from research either.

When my children were small we used to play a game with TV ads (couldn’t skip through them then), in which we would spot things like weasel words: Better, new, improved, up to, etc. implications of inadequacy: You are a bad mother if you don’t use Bloggo soap powder; you are letting the children down if you don’t drive a Merbemford, or pseudo science: Laboratoire Fredastair, probably someone’s shed; Lipidus Maximus, guaranteed to eradicate wrinkles - yeah right. And so on.

I am sure that it helped them understand how cynical the advertising world is and how important it is to research before purchase.