In Depth

Short Breaks Tell Tale in Syndication

Even before commercial ratings became the talk of the media buying business, ad sales executives in syndication would pitch the short breaks and low clutter in their shows and the higher recall that resulted from them.

Now, with C3—commercial ratings for live TV viewing plus three days of digital video recorder playback—having become the currency for ad buying, the Syndicated Network Television Association is banging that drum with more authority.

As the syndication industry gathers in Las Vegas for the National Association of Television Program Executives, the SNTA is touting new research showing why syndication is a good place for advertising dollars.

Looking at its members’ program logs, the SNTA found that 48% of the spots in syndicated strips run in the “A” or first position in a national commercial pod. That compares to 17% for commercials in prime-time network shows and 8% in prime-time cable shows, according to TNS Media.

SNTA said a whopping 86% of the commercials running in syndicated strips run in the first minute of a commercial break, compared to 35% on network and 21% on cable.

The average length of a break in the syndicated shows is just 2 minutes and 21 seconds, the SNTA said. Pods that contain exclusively national ads average 1 minute and 25 seconds.

That should be an important statistic to media buyers and their clients, said Mitch Burg, president of the SNTA.

“Not only do spots running in the A position have 25% higher recall, [but] as important in a C3 world is people are not skipping that first commercial,” Mr. Burg said. “In fact, it’s frequent that the rating for the first minute of a commercial break can be higher than the program rating itself.”

According to SNTA, spots in the A and B positions in a pod are recalled 21% more than the average spot, with a 121 index for adult unaided ad recall. Spots in the middle of a pod register a 76 index for recall, well below average. The last spot in a pod bounced back as far as recall is concerned, with a 104 index.

Mr. Burg said the numbers were eye-opening when presented to advertisers.

“I think we’re dealing in a different world with a different metric, so its relevance is even more important now,” he said. With clients running hundreds of thousands of messages a year, “The ability to be in that A position is a significant advantage.”

The differences show up when a show runs both on a network and in syndication, like “Two and a Half Men.” On CBS, two of three pods extend into a third minute. During that third minute, the C3 rating is less than 60% of the program average. In the syndicated version, most of the spots are in the first minute, and those in the second minute draw about 80% of the program average.

“If you’re zero-basing your plan, this says that syndication should probably be your first stop,” Mr. Burg said.

Most advertisers spend much more money in network TV, so that’s usually the first thing they think about. But syndication is getting more top of mind “for a lot of people,” Mr. Burg said.

The SNTA also said the personalities on syndicated shows score higher on average with viewers in areas including awareness, influence and trust, key attributes for engagement.

Syndicated stars such as Roger Ebert, Dr. Phil McGraw, Judge Lynn Toler, Judge Marilyn Milian, Ellen DeGeneres and especially Oprah Winfrey score very high in terms of how influential they are to viewers.

SNTA said that helps forge deeper emotional connections that lead to increased commercial receptivity. In fact, syndication viewers are 20% more receptive to ads, it said.