Just Because 15 Is Half of 30, Doesn’t Mean a :15 TV Spot Is Half As Effective as a :30 TV

(The inmates are playing cards and betting with cigarettes)Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

Martini: (rips a cigarette in half) I bet a nickel.

McMurphy: Dime’s the limit, Martini.

Martini: I bet a dime. (Puts the two halves onto the table)

McMurphy:This is not a dime, Martini. This is a dime. (shows a whole cigarette) If you break it in half, you don’t get two nickels, you get shit. Try and smoke it. You understand?

Martini: Yes.

McMurphy: You don’t understand.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Screenplay by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Golden from the novel by Ken Kesey

Last week, Advertising Age editor at large Jack Neff wrote a telling article where he analyzed the results of over-the-counter drug advertising’s move to 15-second television spots.  Over the past few years, that category boosted it’s investment in :15’s from one fourth of the media mix to two-thirds.  And yet, during that time, their market share eroded to private label faster than other packaged-goods categories.  From 2009 to now, Symphony IRI shows private label sales volume rose 1.9 share points compared to .9 point gains for general packaged-goods.

I’ve long believed :15’s are the crack cocaine of media buys, giving numbers-obsessed brand managers the false belief that they are ‘extending’ their media buy when all they’re really doing is diluting it.  The irony really gets heavy when you consider Ameritest–the copy-testing firm that’s broken many creative dreams through the years–actually backs this up, finding a marked decrease in ad effectiveness for 15’s vs. 30’s.  In fact, Ameritest CEO Charles Young came right out and said it: “It’s an awfully short form for creatives to work with. If it devolves into simply reminder advertising, you’re not building brands. You need to bring emotion and news value to those brands.”

Fifteens have always been with us, but the recent recession really spurred this move to short form, which now accounts for around 30% of conventional TV ads from national advertisers.  And it goes way beyond pharma.  Fast food is another category strung out on this platform that’s the media equivalent of adding fillers to burgers.

Yes, it’s cheaper to add more water and make your Kool Aid go further, but it doesn’t taste as good.  I’m no mathematician, but if you pay half price for something that only works 35% as well, you’re losing money.  Could someone please explain that to procurement?


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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