TV Networks Realizing That The Traditional 30 Second Spot Needs To Change

from the about-time dept

Well, it’s about time. For years, it’s been obvious that the traditional 30-second TV commercial was an endangered species. With so many competing entertainment options competing for anyone’s attention, combined with technology like TiVo, the 30-second spot had a pretty short-life span if TV and advertising execs didn’t figure out a way to adapt. The New York Times is noting that for next fall’s schedule, nearly all the networks are playing around with some form of more entertaining commercial break. They’re all finally recognizing the simple fact that ads are content too, and if you want people to watch them, they actually need to be good content. Of course, we’ve heard this before. After all, it was four years ago that NBC claimed it had come to the same conclusion and was going to make its commercial breaks more entertaining — but it doesn’t seem like that plan went very far. Though, one good thing in the article, is that it appears that ABC learned its lesson from last year. You may recall last summer that an ABC TV exec claimed that people didn’t want to skip commercials and suggested that people wouldn’t mind if ABC came up with a technology that stopped people from skipping commercials on their TiVo. However, in this article, a different ABC exec notes: “[Viewers] have control, and we’re not going to fight that. We want to make it easy for them to get what they want, where they want, when they want.” Of course, it only took them a decade or so of kicking and screaming to recognize that.

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Comments on “TV Networks Realizing That The Traditional 30 Second Spot Needs To Change”

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Michael Long (user link) says:

Too many...

From my perspective, it’s not that 30-second commecials are bad, but that there are so many of them, sometimes six, seven, or more 15 and 30-second spots back to back.

Want to make networks viewers happier? Want to help decrease the mass exodus? Want to make advertisers happier by increasing retention? Simple. Cut the number of spots by at least half. Fans get more of the content they want to see, and avertisers don’t have their spots lost and ignored in a sea of competing ads.

Anonymous Coward says:

When working for marketing research, I had to watch commercials as part of my job. To be quite honest, many MANY companies are switching to quick 15 second spots rather than full 30 second spots.

Also, more and more commercials are becoming as big of a production as a television show or even movie. Some take months to make, just for 15-30 seconds.

I think the fact that companies are starting to recognize the importance of viral marketting is an important thing to note. Rather than spending money on advertizing, they bring their demo to them with viral videos or similar things. I really think that VM will be the future of marketing, rather than TV spots, seeing as they’re quickly going out of style and becoming shorter.

Anonymous Coward says:

any given 30 minute show contains 8 minutes of addtime… EIGHT FRICKIN MINUTES?!?

how in the hell are you supposed to tell an ongoing and involved story in 22 minutes?

alternatively if we were forced to endure the same amount of suplurflous crap in a book while sitting around the house house reading in the same ratio, we’d only get to read 65% of our book and 35% of the thing would be huge neon emblazoned pop up super voluminated adds for cars we don’t need, food we don’t eat, and places we don’t want to go

tv needs to learn that if they want to get us to watch their shows, they should add a missing 6 minutes back to them like they had in the 50s

IronChef says:

Avoiding US commercials

I have the DVR and avoid the commercials like the next guy, but I have to admit, there are a lot of great 45 sec to 1 minute ads in Europe. It’s counter intuitive, but the additional time allows for a viewer to engage and the creative team to really establish a plot.

Also, I came across this ad when at PCWORLD earlier today. Whoever Apple has doing their targeted advertising needs to get a raise. It doesn’t get any more targeted than this!

fuzzix (user link) says:


As you say, the “make the advertisements more amusing” idea has been in full effect for years now. There are two main issues I see with this. The first has been pointed out – people watch an appalling amount of television and will probably see the same punchline several hours a day. Even the most weed and sugar wired Youtube kiddie is going to get a little tired of the joke after the 50th airing.

The second issue is the people who I’ve heard called “creatives”. The ideas folk in your friendly, local corporate propaganda shops aren’t really very creative. This is why you’ll see celebrities (often comedians) drafted in to lend a little hand with the writing and add a little ad-hominem credibility to the project. I assume this works well (as reflected in sales) for the most part or they wouldn’t bother, right?

An example: A series of adverts for Compaq featuring John Cleese appeared on Youtube a few months back. While the odd one is worth seeing, for the most part they fail to capture the essence of what makes Cleese funny. Cleese in old Python can have me on the floor within seconds but combine this with the need to hawk a computer and it’s not as… abstract, perhaps, as what I’ve enjoyed. The constraints of what the advertiser needs (safe, talk about the product a lot and so on…) suck the comedy right out. By the way, the one I found funny above failed the safe test and was never actually aired… but then, comedy’s not really the point.

Or maybe it is… Adverts people find funny are duplicated all over the web. People willingly watch them. I’ve seen one or two myself. Can’t say I remember the products but that doesn’t matter – advertising is about creating a subconscious association between the product name and the release of endorphins. You don’t go shopping with all these names in year head but something makes you pull them off the shelves. Watch an ad break with the sound off to observe some of the techniques – washing powder ads are best.

I had a point… ah, yes… more entertaining ad breaks? I have my doubts.

As an aside, Adam Curtis made a pretty damn fine documentary called The Century of the Self a few years back. It’s a great look at Eddie Barnays’ (father of PR, nephew of Sigmund Freud) use of Freud’s work to just plain manipulate opinion. His techniques are still in use today and with a little awareness aren’t entirely difficult to see through. You can catch all four parts on

Anonymous Coward says:

Several years ago I heard of a network experimenting with contextual “pop-up” commercials right in the show. For example when the sitcom had a baby on it, a diaper add poped up at the bottom of the screen. Apparently it was quite effective, and I am surprised that we haven’t seen more of that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’ve been seeing this type of “pop-up” add for a long time now during TV shows, and I don’t really watch that much TV. Fortunatly, they seem to be contained to advertising other shows on the same network, rather than products.

They are, how can I say this nicely, rather annoying. Especially when they take up a full 25% of the screen (one whole corner), and ever have sounds play. It can be remarkably confusing when you are watching a show and a small fire engine zooms across the bottom sirens blaring to advertise the network’s latest drama.

I’ll take sitting through commercial breaks over this kind of inconveniant, in-your-face advertising any day.

I hope that we soon see a major paradigm shift in television advertising, but I doubt it. There is simply no way to make all those stupid commercials more entertaining (which costs money for writers who don’t suck).

What I would gladly do, is pay far more for television service that was delivered without or with minimal ads (wasn’t this what cable was supposed to be?).

Right now, with the amount of TV I watch, the option that makes the most sense is probably to purchase single downloads of the shows I want, rather than watching them any other way. Of course, not many networks actually have this sort of thing going, so I’m stuck recording my own shows and skipping through commercials.

Some Dude says:

No ads

What is wrong with a timer on the screen during commercials counting down how much longer the ads will be until the program continues? That would convenience EVERYONE. If I saw that, I might actually not leave for some commercials just because the network is showing integrity…. Man that would be awesome (time-display ads AND networks with integrity).

Mister D says:

What Commercials?

Last fall I stopped watching broadcast TV. I could no longer tolerate the number of ads per show, and the ads themselves were often offensive. Drug companies should never have been allowed to air ads on TV. I don’t want to hear about someone’s herpes problem while I’m watching TV. In addition, the rise of reality TV and decline of original content also made me angry. If I want to see regular people doing things, I can just go out and watch them. Shows I enjoyed watching like Surface and Enterprise were cancelled and replaced by reality TV and more crime dramas.

Ads can have a negative impact on advertisers. Two years ago I bought an HDTV and home theater for Christmas. At the time, Best Buy was repeatedly airing the same ad for some rapper or another and I grew angry at them. I had planned on getting my stuff there but those ads put an end to that. They lost out on $6,000 of purchases, and I haven’t been in a Best Buy since then. I frequently visited their stores prior to that ad. I buy a lot of electronics and I’m sure they can’t sell enough CDs to make up for chasing me away. Does anyone actually buy CDs anymore?

I thought I would miss TV but I don’t and I’m glad I got rid of my dish. These days I rent movies, read books, play video games and download shows I like sans ads. I can stream online content to my TV in HD and without any ads. I can also purchase shows through my gaming console, in HD and sans ads. I would much rather pay for shows I like without ads, than pay for shows and ads I don’t like.

I will never watch broadcast TV again, no matter how clever marketers become or what changes they make to ads. I used to watch a lot of TV every day and if they can chase me away, then they have a serious problem.

John (profile) says:

Jarring Product Placement

And let’s not forget the idea of “product placement”.
Smallville has done with so so many products that it’s almost becoming ridiculous. Yes, I know the producers try to make the stories set in the real-world (as much as stories about Superman can be), but it’s jarring when Clark Kent or Lois Lane says, “Let’s drive to Metropolis in my Yaris. Wait, I’m getting a call on my Sprint-powered mobile phone provided by Motorola. But, Clark, Sprint is the new AT&T.”

I can understand the cast of “Friends” going to Starbucks (or such), but Clark Kent and Lois Lane shouldn’t be using Sprint phones and driving Yarises.

mary m says:

pop-ups on my tv screen

how do i get rid of those commercial pop-ups on bottom of my tv screen.i was watching channel tbs and there was some adv. on bottom right corner on my tv screen for the whole said “tyler parry’s house of payne tonight 9/8c/it is very disturbing with all those pop-ups while you are trying to watch tv.i tried to watch channel 9 because it was televising live the 4th of july fireworks.i have a 30 in. screen and there was so much adv. on the bottom ,left side and also at the top left of screen that i could only see part of my do we get rid of all this mess and enjoy our wide tv, is on a lot of tv stations now and very annoying.

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