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Will Shorter Ads Sell in Recession?

Mar 8, 2009  •  Post A Comment

With advertisers looking for bargains in a tough economy, buying 10-second commercials may offer a way to save money.
Ten-second spots occupy a small corner of the advertising business and usually run following the 5-second billboards that identify the marketer who sponsored the closed-captioning of a show.
The spots are bought and sold by a handful of specialists including Kal Liebowitz, chairman of KSL Media, who says more marketers are seeking out the 10-second spots because they can be more efficient and more effective than longer commercials.
KSL Media has a division called TV10s that specializes in the units.
“In this economy, there’s such a tremendous value proposition,” Mr. Liebowitz said.
For one thing, the 10-second spots are less than half the price of 15-second spots, he noted. And they run alone, rather than in crowded commercial pods, making them less vulnerable to skipping by digital video recorder users, he said.
The catch is that there is usually only one 10-second spot per show, which limits their availability. Most run in syndicated programs. Cable news networks also have sponsors for closed captioning and Mr. Liebowitz says he’s talking to a number of cable networks about getting into the business.
“It comes out of their promotional inventory and it’s a way to make more money,” he said.
Some broadcast shows also have 10-second ads, including CBS’s daytime programming. In prime time during 2008, about $29 million worth of 10-second ads ran in prime time, up from $26 million in 2007, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. By comparison, about $10 billion worth of 30-second spots aired in 2008. Mr. Liebowitz said his inventory is 90% sold out for the first quarter, and he expects about the same for the second quarter.
While two syndicators and one cable network said they haven’t seen unusual changes in 10-second spots sales, Mr. Liebowitz says he’s seeing revenues up 20% as more marketers have become aware of the spots and pushed their agencies to buy them.
“Everyone is looking for a way to stretch their budgets. And that will continue,” said Aaron Cohen, senior VP for national broadcast at Horizon Media, whose client Geico is a buyer of 10s. He said 10s seem to be very well sold, with many shows already sold out for the second quarter.
Other 10-second ad buyers include Campbell’s Soup, AZO, Nestle’s, IHOP, Denny’s and Payless.
Mr. Liebowitz said sales of the spots have been helped because 10 seconds has become a popular length for online ads. He cites research that shows that the shorter messages generate two-thirds of the recall of a 30-second ad.
“If you do them well, they’re better than a 15,” Mr. Liebowitz said.

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