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The Effects of Commercial Length On Advertising Impact

The Effects of Commercial Length On Advertising Impact

What Short Advertisements Can and Cannot Deliver

Duane Varan, Magda Nenycz-Thiel, Rachel Kennedy, Steven Bellman

DOI: 10.2501/JAR-2019-036 Published 1 March 2020

TLDR: Ad Duration Effects – :06 Ads Deliver 60% of the impact of a :30 Commercial

There are competing explanations for why longer advertisements are remembered better, such as more time to memorize, add branding and claims, tell stories, and get attention, with some acknowledgment of diminishing returns. The authors compared seven-, 15-, 30-, and 60-second versions of the same commercials for their brand recall, advertisement liking, and brand attitude, with additional biometric measures. Seven-second advertisements were almost as effective (measured by unaided recall) as 15-second advertisements and 60 percent as effective as 30-second advertisements, a finding that confirms and extends a diminishing-returns explanation for recall and other measures of effectiveness, such as advertisement liking. With six-second commercials appearing on television and online, short advertisements can provide an efficient option if used with the knowledge of what they can and cannot deliver.

Key Insights

  • Short commercials can deliver effectiveness efficiently, because commercial length has diminishing returns.
  • Most of the effectiveness of long commercials is delivered in the first five seconds.
  • Short commercials can achieve rates of brand recall nearly comparable to those of longer advertisements, but longer commercials allow more time to tell a story and take viewers on an emotional journey, which increases brand recall and advertisement liking.
  • Short commercials potentially increase clutter, which reduces recall and advertisement liking.
  • Short advertisements seem a sensible tactic to increase continuity of a campaign in conjunction with longer copy, at least for established brands.