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December 14, 2017
The Long And Short of Today’s Lengthy and Brief Ads
Do extended, longer videos or radically quick commercials really help brands?
I recently saw two ad industry-related stories that caught my eye.
One, by the associate editor of Creative Review, asked, “Do long copy ads still work?” (Her conclusion was, basically, no.)
The other was from Adweek titled, “Samsung Made a 66-Minute Arthouse Film About Clothes Going Around in Its Washing Machine,” which apparently was a sequel to a three-and-a-half minute film of the same subject.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see an advertising trade publication tout the release of a new multi-minute “brand film” — let’s call them what they are, long commercials.
But if we assume that consumers don’t have time to read copy, why would they have time to watch lengthy videos? How much attention are consumers really paying to all of this stuff? Has our industry collectively decided that the answer to everyone’s short attention span and disdain for advertising are videos that run longer than ever?
Maybe it’s just me. I’ll admit I don’t have the patience for videos that linger with time-lapse shots of traffic or clouds, pointless b-roll, and endless drollery about supposedly real people who work for companies or portray “real” customers. I also don’t have the patience for badly written, self-indulgent ads that don’t tell me anything or sell me anything, rare as they are these days.
We live in a tl:dr world. Especially in advertising. Yet when it comes to adjusting for the new reality, we seem to be all over the place.
It’s one reason I’m keeping an eye on the rise of six-second commercials. Now, I doubt you’ll be able to build a brand using one. Of the few I’ve seen, the memorable ones showed a quick visual hit, identifiable mnemonic, or campaign theme recognizable from years of burned-in-the-brain 30-second commercials. But once creatives really start to play with the idea, six-second spots could become the new normal.
Mostly, though, we’re making everything longer, particularly in video.
The limitless constraints of YouTube combined with a pervasive disdain for advertising in general is pushing marketers and ad agencies to try anything that seems different. I suspect part of the trend away from 30-second spots is that we’re simply sick of them. We’ve become numb to how commercial breaks work. So an extended disco mix of an ad idea becomes more interesting — mostly to the makers and the brands, if not the audience. And putting it on the web is a cheaper, faster way of spreading the word.
Without time constraints, though, the work often seems flabby. Consider it the modern version of Mark Twain’s old quote, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
As a society, our attention spans aren’t getting any longer. Hopefully, the attention we pay to our work, while we’re making it, will always be the proper amount.
And I hope you made it to the end of this column. I kept it a tad shorter this time. But there’s got to be a 45-minute webinar lecture I can make out of this, right?

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Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small. 

Visit his copywriting websitesee his LinkedIn profile or follow him on Twitter.

And please, buy his book for 99 cents.


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