Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why

By Max Sutherland | Go to book overview

18 LEARNING TO USE SHORTER-LENGTH TV
COMMERCIALS

Fifteen-second commercials were first introduced in the 1980s. They were attractive to advertisers previously unable to afford advertising on TV, with the result that money was redirected out of print into fifteen-second TV commercials. At the same time regular TV advertisers also began to experiment with changing from 30-second ads to fifteen-second commercials, hoping for better value for money.

At the time, when all this was beginning, I was continuous tracking all the ads in a client's product category and browsing through infor mation on which advertisers were on air in the previous week. I noted one advertiser that went on air with a single ad but with a large media weight of 450 TRPs for the week. With such a lot of exposures you would expect the ad to be generating a reasonable return. However, I was amazed when I inspected the advertiser's ad awareness and market share information. Figure 18.1 shows that ad awareness and market share did not go up. They actually went down—despite all this weight of advertising! Crazy!

Intrigued by this, I played the ad to check it out. I wanted to see what ad could possibly be that bad. Fifteen seconds later I knew! It was a fifteen-second commercial, it had a fairly complex message and it was being aimed at a low-involved audience and being used as a solo.

I had increasingly observed in tracking fifteen-second commercials that when used on their own as a solo with low-involved audiences, they rarely seemed to work. Here was the starkest evidence yet. Even with heavy media weight this ad seemed all but invisible. It did not break through; it was doing nothing for market share and nothing in the way of reinforcing people's feelings about the advertiser. It was a waste of money. The advertiser might as well have not been on air.

Conventional wisdom at that time was that a fifteen-second commercial is 'about two-thirds as effective as a 30-second commercial'. Driven on

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