In the blink of an eye

Short and sweet - that's how broadcasters now want their ads. Clear Channel, the US's largest radio company, is now selling five, two and even one second ads. But how much can advertisers say in such a short time, and will it work with customers?

by Knowledge@Wharton
Product placement: short ads play the same role
Product placement: short ads play the same role

These adlets and blinks aim to adapt to an ever-changing media, which is increasingly online, on demand, and competitive. Longer 60 or 30-second spots don't fit the new formats. Besides, there is evidence suggesting that consumers either change channel/station when ads come on or simply don't pay attention.

It is obvious, however, that advertisers won't be able to put the same message across in these new ad snippets. The emphasis will be more on supporting existing campaigns and 'getting one's name out there' than on long messages.

David Schmittlein, professor of marketing at Wharton, says that advertisers will have to call on techniques used in billboard advertising, where consumers are typically exposed to an ad for less than two seconds as they drive along.

Melodies, taglines and sound effects can be especially effective for maximum impact. Who hasn't experienced an annoyingly catchy jingle and the brand or product associated with it?

Advertisers however should be careful not to clutter listeners/viewers with too many adlets. "It's just like billboards: if you have 10 billboards lined up next to one another, that's a problem," Schmittlein says.

Another risk, of course, is that the ad might be missed altogether if it's very short. But blinks could be particularly effective at the end of, or just before, a programme when the audience is still likely to be switched on. Even video on demand programmes can pick up a few seconds of advertising either side of a recording.

Joseph Turow, professor of marketing at Annenberg, says that this flash advertising is nothing new. Product placements in TV shows or films, whereby advertisers pay handsome sums to have their cereal box or car appear only for a few seconds, have been popular for years.

"The whole idea of whizzing past people is part of what product placement is about. When a show has a product there and the camera pans away from it -- and these short ads are not all that different -- it's a fleeting mention of a product that's designed to reinforce a kind of memory retrieval system."

Despite possible shortcomings, super-short ads may therefore be an effective way of reaching consumers.

Source: Burgers and other goods in the blink of an eye: how effective are short ads?
Knowkedge@Wharton, Oct 18 2006

Review by Emilie Filou

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