Life Beyond the 30-Second Broadcast Advertisement


Since the birth of television broadcasting, the 30-second audiovisual commercial has been the uncontested weapon of persuasion deployed by the advertising industry. Over the years, this industry has perfected the art of half-minute storytelling. Some of the TV commercials aired by global brands like Apple, Nike, Budweiser and Indian brands like Fevicol testify to the brilliance of this ability. But the ripple value of the 30-second commercial can’t hide the fact that this is an uninvited guest in our living rooms. These commercials are strategically placed in the preferred program of the target audience. So if one were to watch a favorite cricket match or series on TV, there was no choice but to watch it interspersed with commercial messages.

The first significant blow to the hegemony of 30-second advertising came in the 1990s. With the advent of the remote control, viewers began to switch channels, especially during commercial breaks. But the biggest blow to the format’s dominance came from smartphones. With the arrival of these gadgets connected to the Internet, the individual has become the decision-maker of the advertising messages he wishes to receive. Users ruthlessly brushed off anything they weren’t interested in. Today, ad blocking technology is gaining momentum and ad-free content is a highly sought-after feature across many mediums. Everything indicates that the relevance of the 30-second ad is rapidly declining.

What was once a cultural touchpoint now seems doomed to be relegated to the trash can of 20th century artifacts, along with audio cassettes, VHS players and rotary telephones. With the waning importance of the 30-second commercial, marketers are now like warriors on a battlefield unarmed.

What is the alternative to the 30 second commercial? Some say it’s 15 second advertising, while others prefer a 6 second format for message delivery. Yet it is not as simple as a time crisis. The 30-second commercial had a structure for its communication. In its initial part, it generally sought to establish the necessity of the advertised product. This was followed by a demonstration of the product in action and finally an exposition of its functional and emotional benefits. The idea of ​​shortened ad spots seems like an attempt to squeeze the same old structure into a shorter amount of time. This incremental approach to developing new marketing stimuli for today’s era won’t get marketers very far.

Smartphones have clearly replaced televisions as the main means of communication in the world. The average time users spend on smartphones is now over 4 hours a day. But the time users spend on a particular screen – the time between one swipe and the next, that is – has decreased. The average attention span between swipes is now around 4.3 seconds. So even a 5 second message or any residual version of the 30 second ad cannot fit into this new smartphone world.

Remember that the classic 30-second format was designed for audiences watching TV in their living room. So any purchase decision triggered among viewers, if any, happened days or even weeks after watching the ad. The primary goal of the 30 second ad was not to induce immediate buying behavior, but to anchor a brand in people’s minds with a long-term purpose that could range from a simple reminder to a change in disposition or attitude. The focus was on catchy stories, jingles and characters that would increase the advertised brand’s memorability. But in today’s e-commerce world, the primary role of marketing stimuli is to induce purchase of the brand within seconds of being exposed to it.

Inducing a buying decision isn’t just about creating a banner ad that screams “Buy now, low price”. A lot happens in the human brain in the milliseconds leading up to a purchase. The more we understand what happens in those pre-purchase microseconds, the more we will be able to create marketing stimuli that incentivize a purchase decision.

It is important to capture instant decisions. Note that in a game like cricket, the batsman has less than half a second to take a hit after the ball has been released by the bowler. Neuroscience studies of what’s going on in the drummer’s brain at the time has revolutionized the way the game is played.

A smartphone accompanies consumers throughout their waking hours. It’s a wasted opportunity if such always-on, always-with-you media is only used by marketers to indicate a purchase, which is an infrequent behavior. Smartphones are best used to increase consumption moments, which are much more frequent. For example, while a wearable device can be used to induce the purchase of fitness equipment, if it is also used to induce the buyer to use it regularly, the persuasion process would be more complete and useful. . In many market categories, it is possible to induce e-consumption by creating more consumption moments. But the kind of stimuli we deploy to evoke the desired behavior must be different from what was designed to elicit a purchase decision.

Without a doubt, it’s time to quietly bury the legendary 30-second ad that has dutifully served marketers around the world for decades. This is also the right time to embark on the exciting adventure of developing a good alternative.

Biju Dominic is Chief Evangelist, Fractal Analytics and President, FinalMile Consulting

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