Advertisers Seeing :10s as Perfect

Feb 14, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Ten-second commercials suddenly look good and quick for TV advertising sellers. But the hope is for a more long-lasting business. The current $150 million to $200 million a year business could erupt into a $1 billion market in the next couple of years, according to industry estimates.

Here’s why: Rising prices for traditional 30-second TV commercials are making companies look at alternatives. Additionally, growing concern over DVR commercial-skipping technology is forcing advertisers to look at shorter messaging. Finally, cash-strapped TV producers will need to generate additional advertising revenue, owing to a government mandate that all programs feature closed-captioning by January 2006.

Ten-second spots have been around for decades, mostly in the form of short commercials at the end of game shows-commonly in tag lines such as “promotional consideration provided by ….”

Since most game shows run in syndication, that’s where the bulk of 10-second business has existed in the past. Sometimes called “producers’ spots,” 10-second commercials in syndicated shows run during the time allotted to the program-not during advertising time.

Sony Pictures Television game shows such as “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” can have as many as six 10-second spots per show, and it is estimated that those spots can bring in an extra $7.5 million in advertising revenue per show per year.

At the top of the syndication list, a 10-second spot in “Seinfeld” can go for a pricey $25,000, compared with a 30-second “Seinfeld” commercial that can be bought for $200,000. “Wheel of Fortune” :10s are priced at $4,000 a spot. “Live With Regis and Kelly” :10s are in the $3,000 to $4,000 range, according to media-buying executives.

Until recently Sony used PIC-TV to sell 10-second commercials in its shows. Due to an unexpectedly booming 10-second commercial market, Sony decided to set up its own in-house ad-selling unit for :10s.

“The business is exploding,” said Amy Carney, executive VP of advertising sales and operations for Sony Pictures Television.

“It’s becoming more of [a media planning] line item,” said Steve Berger, president and CEO of PIC-TV. “It used to be an afterthought.”

Growth Potential

New ad-selling companies are also sensing growth. Two former Columbia TriStar Television executives-marketing executive John Moczulski and advertising executive Bob Dahill-launched a company called TV10s last year. The company exclusively sells 10-second spots on a number of NBC Universal Television Distribution’s syndicated shows.

The big payoff for these ad sellers will come next January, when all producers will have to closed-caption all programming and begin airing short messages to let viewers know about the service when they tune in. Though it isn’t required, TV sellers think advertisers will rush to sponsor these three-second messages that will have such tag lines as “Closed captioning brought to you by .… ” followed by a 10-second commercial.

“This isn’t a linear marketplace,” said Bob Dahill, director of business development for TV10s, “where everyone will buy a three-second spot and a 10-second spot at the same time. [TV programmers] are going to address this as it meets their needs. But over time we think it is another platform to deliver a branded message for advertisers. And it’s efficient.”

PIC-TV has been touting the benefits for years. Mr. Berger said :10s are 75 percent as effective as :30s. But the big benefit is price. Media agency executives said that while a :10 is one-third the time of a :30, it can cost only 25 percent of the price of a :30.

Companies that are extremely focused on low prices for TV messages, such as packaged goods and pharmaceutical advertisers-among them Nestle, Campbell’s Soup, GlaxoSmithKline, The Clorox Co., Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Schering-Plough and Geico Insurance-have been major buyers of 10-second spots.

Recently, new ad categories have bought in, such as automobiles, insurance and, perhaps the fastest-growing category, home video entertainment, Mr. Berger said.

Dealing With Challenges

One elusive group is film marketers. Unlike regular TV commercials, most 10-second spots are incorporated into program content. That means it takes two to three weeks in advance to edit those messages into programs. Timingwise, this doesn’t work for film commercials, since it is not uncommon for film media plans to be changed on a daily basis.

Major advertiser reservations include having to edit 30-second messages down to 10 seconds. But Mr. Berger said this shouldn’t be a problem since creatively, most companies already are editing for shorter spots. “Advertisers already run 15-second commercials,” he said. “There is not much difference in memory recall of a 15-second spot and a 10-second spot.”

In the new world of consumer technologies that enable fast-forwarding through commercials, sellers hope advertisers will move to harder-to-ignore 10-second messages. “It’s TiVo-resistant,” said Sony’s Ms. Carney. Ten-second commercials move so quickly in the fast-forward DVR mode, consumers aren’t fast enough to hit the play button without cutting off some program content.

New York media buying agency Horizon Media has been using 10-second commercials for years for such clients as Geico. “We are trying to educate all our clients for 10-second commercials,” said Dave Campanelli, director of national broadcast for the agency. “Ten-second spots are usually isolated by themselves. That’s attractive. You can buy a 10-second spot in virtually every syndicated show out there.”

For years the business of 10-second spots has been the domain of independent sellers. Big studio syndication advertising sales divisions were left to sell the more expensive and traditional 30-second commercials. Media agency executives wondered why, in an increasingly busy TV ad-selling world, syndicators don’t sell all their short- and long-form advertising in one place.

Mr. Berger responded: “It’s a cost issue. Studios want the businesses separate. If our [10-second] spots are significantly cheaper than a :30, which one would you buy? From the studios’ perspective, it’s where should I put my time versus what is my return.”

Cable networks’ programs offer the biggest opportunity for sellers. Like syndicated programs, cable programs aren’t all fully compliant with closed captioning yet. Mr. Dahill estimates 10-second spot business “could easily go to over $1 billion in 18 months.”