Dump the :30 Spot and Embrace On-Demand

Jul 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Sheree R. Curry

Special to TelevisionWeek

The traditional 30-second TV spot has outlived its usefulness, according to Joe Jaffe, author of the recently released book “Life After the 30-Second Spot.” But that doesn’t mean creative directors should clear their desks. Instead, they have to do their part to “retrain consumers to embrace advertising again,” Mr. Jaffe said.

How many pimply-faced adolescent guys watching “Fear Factor” are going to want to sit through a tampon ad? Probably none, said Mr. Jaffe, former director of interactive media at TBWA/Chiat/Day and OMD USA. Yet when he tracked ads appearing during an episode of the show, he saw a tampon ad as well as spots for Dove moisturizing soap and the Toyota Tundra truck, products that much of the show’s viewing audience would not be interested in, he said. Even the 34-year-old Mr. Jaffe fast-forwarded through the tampon ad and couldn’t remember which brand was being advertised. His advice to advertisers: “Stop talking to people that don’t give a damn about you.”

Eliminate the Waste

“The 30-second spot as a tool is linear and inefficient and has lost its relevancy,” said Mr. Jaffe, who is on a multiyear tour discussing alternative advertising and marketing strategies with creative crowds. “Consumers are not as dumb as they used to be. For years we have been duping consumers to believe our lies, and they don’t believe them anymore.”

As a result, the creative team must adapt because it just can’t be persuasive in 30 seconds, he said, pointing to how each of the dozens of different types of toothpastes has its own commercial. The question he posed is: Can viewers really make up their mind in that time frame? “Advertising is not [about] reminding people about your product or service, it is about bugging them until they submit,” Mr. Jaffe said. “At what point did advertising become Russian roulette, with marketers thinking, ‘I hope I’ll be the brand remembered?'”

To keep consumers from hitting fast-forward on their TiVo remotes, advertising can and should be entertaining or informative and, if possible, both, industry experts said.

“Given that there is not a lot of difference among products in any given category, advertising is the differentiator,” said Chuck Porter, chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the creative force behind such memorable, entertaining campaigns as IKEA’s 60-second “Lamp” spots or the Mini Cooper’s “Counterfeit” campaign. “We believe that making a brand a part of pop culture [is more effective],” Mr. Porter said.

DVR Generation

Television advertising was built on the concept that people had to watch it. With the advent of DVR technology, consumers no longer have to sit captive in front of the tube watching commercials-not that they ever entirely did, since many view them as time for a bathroom break, to get a snack, surf the Web or simply zone out.

Research company Frank N. Magid Associates found that 63 percent of DVR users will watch humorous commercials, 49 percent will watch a spot with interesting video and 52 percent will view spots for products they are considering purchasing.

“People don’t want to sit through boring commercials that don’t tell them anything new,” said Paul Tilley, senior VP and group creative director at DDB Chicago. “The death of the 30-second spot is the best news for most creative agencies because it means they will deliver what consumers want to watch. When we did ‘Dude, You’re Getting a Dell,’ people looked forward to the next episode. It was like a show within a show.”

Mr. Tilley directly works on the Dell account and also handles McDonald’s and its “Lincoln Fry” campaign, which was designed to look like a TV news segment or a documentary about a guy who discovers a French fry resembling Abraham Lincoln. “People are going to stop and watch a commercial today because it is entertaining or contains information they want to know about,” Mr. Tilley said.

“When a consumer gives you permission to be intrusive, guess what? It is not intrusive anymore,” Mr. Jaffe said. “People are not going to watch an extended trailer or advertising on-demand because they are bored, but because they are interested in the product.”

TiVo research has shown that people while fast-forwarding do slow down for beer commercials and car commercials, however. Mr. Tilley said that’s because beer spots are entertaining and car spots are informative.

“When we do break through the clutter, are we connecting with them? Are we bringing them closer to the brand? If they don’t remember us in the morning, it was like a one-night stand. It isn’t going to lead to a meaningful relationship,” Mr. Jaffe said.

Advertising on-demand, Mr. Jaffe believes, is the best solution. As proof that he is not alone in his thinking, he cites an In-Stat/MDR survey that found that 75 percent of the advertising industry’s leaders believe DVR technology will have a significant impact on the traditional 30-second commercial.

Agencies should create long-form content, he said. “Look at the [five-minute] American Express [Internet-only] ad [featuring] Superman. Why can’t we buy that on television?”

If there were a 10-second ad coded with TiVo’s thumbs-up button allowing viewers to opt to see the full five-minute ad or other ads in the campaign, “consumers might start watching it and view it more as content than [as they’re] being sold to,” Mr. Jaffe said.

TiVo is on track to persuade advertisers to deliver such content. On July 18 the Alviso, Calif.-based DVR leader announced its newest interactive advertising technology, which will place a more visible tag into traditional TV spots that viewers can see whether in normal play or fast-forward mode. Viewers who are interested in learning more can just click a button to view the long-form content, while the program sits in paused mode.

“It has to be something informational or entertaining because the viewer chose to view it,” said Davina Lynn-Kent, director of advertising and research sales for TiVo. “The amount of time they will spend with that ad is longer than they will spend on [a marketer’s] Web site, and that puts more demand on the creative. “

“The 30-second spot is not the star of the show anymore,” Mr. Jaffe said. “It is just a member of the cast.”