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Study: Online and on TV, consumers prefer longer ads to shorter ones

By Erica Sweeney

Originally published in Marketing Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Ads running traditional lengths of 15 or 30 seconds were the most preferred in a survey of U.S. adults conducted by Research Intelligencer and Pollfish and as reported by MediaPost.
  • For TV ads, 46.5% of respondents said 30-second ads were the optimal length for engaging with the ad, while 26.5% preferred 15-second spots. Despite the popularity of short formats like six-second ads online, nearly the same percentages of surveyed consumers preferred 30- and 15-second ads for online media. When asked which media experience they prefer, 38.9% said “free access with a few long ads;” 31.5% said “free access with a lot of short ads;” 13.3% said “a higher fee with no ads;” 8.8% said a “small fee with one sponsor’s ad” and 7.8% said “small fee with a few ads.”
  • The self-reported findings offer a different perspective than some recent industry research, per MediaPost, including studies conducted by media suppliers such as Fox. The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and TVision Insights also released research earlier this month stating that short-form TV ads capture 8% to 11% more attention per second than longer ones.

Dive Insight:

As marketers continue to experiment with different video ad lengths, the Research Intelligencer and Pollfish findings might throw some cold water on extra-short video ads, which have grown increasingly popular, not just on online platforms like YouTube and Snapchat, but also on TV. Some of the early interest and investments in the format, where ads run just five or six seconds in length, could be amplified by its novelty, per MediaPost.

While traditional video ad lengths still dominate ad spend, marketers are beginning to spend more on short-form ads as they try to capture shrinking attention spans and adjust to a growing preference for mobile-first viewing. Short-form ads drove 6% of TV impressions despite accounting for just 3% of ad placements, per the ARF and TVision Insights study. However, such findings might be misleading due to these ads’ infrequency and placement around primetime programming, per MediaPost. Fox, the first major network to bring six-second ads to TV, tested them around popular events like the Teen Choice Awards and NFL games, for example.

Short-form ads can still be cost-effective for marketers because they can be used across different platforms, repurposed to target specific audiences and paired with longer brand content to help tease or build out a story. Advertisers running short-form ads with longer-form ones during the same program saw a 10% lift in attention, according to the ARF and TVision Insights.