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Dipstick: Are long-duration ads overwhelming the traditional 30-second TVC?

Leading industry experts give their opinion on the gradual shift towards long-duration advertising on the digital medium. Yes, the traditional format of 30-second TV commercials is under some pressure, they agree, but aver that it also boils down to the immediate requirement of the brand

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | August 26, 2015


The 30-second advertising has long been one of the most accepted and golden forms of advertising, but today this format seems to be under pressure. With the advent of digital and multiple screens, quite a few brands have started utilising the digital medium for showcasing their brand journeys. This multi-screen shift has also given a boost to long-form advertising and we are seeing ads that are even 5 minutes long and look like a short film.

Given the ample time the long-form offers in telling a story, brands are beginning to see this as a boon, especially since digital ad rates have not reached the prohibitive levels of television ad rates.

On the other hand, the staple 30-second format now seems to be on a downward curve. However, regardless of the format, television continues to be a primary part of the advertising mix for brands. But the growing share of digital in the advertising pie cannot be ignored.

In such a scenario, the question that arises: ‘Are long-duration ad-videos putting pressure on the traditional 30-second TVC?’ finds out from a cross-section of India’s leading industry experts.

RajDeepak Das RajDeepak Das

RajDeepak Das, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett:

Today, the definition of prime time has changed. For everyone, the prime time for checking news and browsing could be anywhere – while travelling or during free time and so on. Thus, digital is taking over. People today rarely go to television. I feel that digital will take over very soon in any form. Today, digital advertising is being accepted by marketers and consumers quite positively. Digital as a platform gives an opportunity for a brand to engage with the consumer quite well and to an extent it does put pressure on TVCs.

Sanjay Tripathy Sanjay Tripathy

Sanjay Tripathy, Senior EVP, Marketing, Products, Digital and Ecommerce, HDFC Life:

Even in this attention-span starved digital age, long-format ads have found acceptance and are fast becoming a darling of marketers as these ads potentially deliver on four important communication parameters – impact, creativity, relevance and repeat value. The most important aspect is that storytelling is not limited by time, but it is rather a way to break the clutter and monotony that ads were getting into by following a cookie-cutter approach with strong category codes. Long-format allows for better storytelling and emotional connect... it’s like a mini-movie rather than an ad film which consumers had started switching off from in their minds. I do not agree that long-duration ads are putting pressure on the traditional 30-second TVC. Both communicate to the customer in a different way, keeping in mind the campaign objectives. For example, a brand story has the luxury to afford a long-format pace while a tactical communication may require a shorter and tighter edit. Sometimes the long-format needs a shorter version too to suit the medium or a long-format can be launched only on digital. They exist in tandem to fulfil a marketer’s priorities on communication and media.

As of now, for the Indian consumer TV still plays an important role in the media mix. So, whatever the format, a large proportion of the media budget gets allocated to television. Hence, the long-format ads on TV are treated as the director’s cut – the best and ideal version of the film, but not necessarily the one that makes it to the box office with a view to garner profitable returns. They are often used for launching the campaign on TV, getting into shorter edits for sustenance or used for digital only.

In the future, this equation will definitely change. As the screen of choice increasingly becomes the laptop and phone, the digital film shall be the main creative that tells the brand story while the 30-seconder for TV takes on the ignoble identity of ‘edit’.

Already, brands are looking at digital-first strategy. Both the Nescafe #itallstarts campaign and Dabur Vatika’s #BraveandBeautiful were launched exclusively on digital. The TV leg of the campaign came only later, with a shorter edit of the master film for Nescafe. Dove also looks at its branded content of experiments with women and beauty to be the major ‘brand’ building work on digital, with the TVC delivering on recall.

However, the existence of the 30-second TVC is not in danger. It will continue to be an important aspect of connecting with the consumer, especially given the short attention spans, fragmentation and high media costs these days.

The challenge that the 30-seconder will face will be more towards retaining its throne of being the primary medium of communication and convincing the marketer of its contribution to ROI and effectiveness. Another challenge will be to break out of the present format of story plus product window and use innovative stories that can connect with the consumer.

Pratap Bose Pratap Bose

Pratap Bose, Managing Director and Chairman, The Social Street:

Yes and no! Yes, because long-form advertising makes the videos/campaigns go viral among the users and one gets an opportunity to engage users for little longer time. No, because today we all know content is king and if one cannot put the right content in 30 seconds, he/she cannot do it three minutes too. Having said that, if the content used in an advertisement is right, then length does not restrict it to create an impact.

Also, the scenario is completely different in and outside India. In India, marketers feel that the cost on digital is relatively low compared to a television commercial and hence, they sometimes prefer digital, but internationally the objective is different. The objective there is reach, whereas in India it is about budget. In India, no matter what, television is still dominating and is here to stay.

Suveer Bajaj Suveer Bajaj

Suveer Bajaj, Co-founder & Director- Media Operations, FoxyMoron:

Long-format advertising has gained immense momentum of late with brands realising its potential to connect with its target audience. Brands today are trying to tell stories that are compelling, engaging and can fuel conversations and long-format ads are enabling this. With the lack of restriction on duration and cost, it is allowing brands to narrate better stories and form a deeper connect with its audiences.

With more advertisers showing interest in long-format digital ads these days, it has sparked off a strong debate on whether it is causing a threat to the traditional 30-second TVC. It all depends on what story the brand wants to tell. It can be told in 30 seconds or 5 minutes. The key lies in effectively conveying the message that is relevant and able to hold the viewer for that duration.

Yes, the long-format ad has an upper hand over a 30-second TVC as it allows you to create interactions and micro-target users, given that it is available on the digital medium. It also enables the advertisers to slice down the video and create several versions of the communication that can be leveraged online or on television.

Long-format ads are here to stay and will become more popular with time. The trend will gradually shift from a 3-minute-long ad format to a 5-8 minute one. The focus will be on branded storytelling and content, which is why we will see more and more brands associating with content creators.

The key challenge for brands is creating work that breaks the clutter. Last year, we saw an overwhelming number of long-format ads being created but only a handful of them caught the viewer’s attention. Therefore, the focus should be on creating relevant and impactful communication.

Online video formats have also created a paradox for marketers. They’ve removed the traditional 30-second time constraint, giving brands more time to tell their stories. But introducing a ‘skip’ button after five seconds also means that advertisers have to create more engaging long format ad to grab their audience's attention, especially with a shrinking viewer attention span.

Lloyd Mathias Lloyd Mathias

Lloyd Mathias, Marketing Director, Asia Pacific Japan, HP:

No. The long-format videos are a new trend and are ideal for brands that use social media actively over and above traditional media. While the traditional 30-second TV spot is not about to be replaced in a hurry, the long-format developed for social media works to build engagement and a strong emotional connect. Also, as these long formats tend to have strong emotional connects they help by going viral and creating buzz on social media.

I think the long-format is here to stay and will complement the more traditional ad formats. However, this format is a clear indication that marketers are seeing digital media as being more central to their media plans and hence creating content primarily for it. Also, it is a great acknowledgment that the best way to get people’s attention is to tell a story with an emotional hook. I think this format will thrive on brands with deep pockets as this needs large production budgets, multimedia spends – digital, social and television.

Parag Gandhi, Director, Flying Cursor Interactive:

We don’t believe that digital is competing with TVCs or press actually, or any different kind of video content and video formats. Trying to replace traditional mediums is not a priority for good marketers. All of them have very different features and different ways of reaching out to audiences. Each medium’s content has a different way of being consumed.

However, there are all kinds of marketers out there. For example, the type who will be doing mass marketing, who will take everything available and blast everything on digital, and there is the brand marketer who wants to use each medium to its strength.

There will be brands which will go with TVCs no matter what, and there are brands which are adapting to the change that digital is bringing. They are looking at what should be first, questioning their marketing activities and treating digital with respect.

It’s already started changing slowly, and the change was inevitable. More and more brands will be forced to understand that it’s not about running 30-second ads on YouTube and achieving best possible costs per view anymore. It’s also about conversations and engagement, which are rewarding for you and the consumer. To do that, they will have to treat the medium and content of that medium with some respect. Then it doesn’t matter if it is a 30-second video ad or a 3-15-minute video series.

KV Sridhar KV Sridhar

KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro:

It is not necessary, because both the mediums have different sets of audiences. Television caters to a different set and digital caters to a different set of audience altogether. The two mediums cannot compete with each other, but can rather complement each other. Brands use digital to spread awareness among a different type of audience and, not only that, digital also gives brands an opportunity to engage with their target audience a little deeper and for a long time and to top it all, digital, for marketers, is a cost-effective medium.

Some top long-duration ads:
Fortune Oil ‘Ghar ka khana’
Airtel Smartphone Network ‘Boss film’
Nescafe stammering standup comedian
PepsiCo #GharWaliDiwali

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