Skip to main content

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that TV commercials are shrinking to match viewers’ shorter attention spans. Fifteen-second TV spots now account for about a third of all placements, an increase of about 70 percent over the past five years. The reasons for this jump were said to include cost savings, the opportunity for greater repetition and increasingly short attention spans.

While there are certainly advantages to fifteens, the article fails to mention some of the drawbacks. For one, fifteen-second spots create a more cluttered programing environment. Your message has a better chance of sinking in when it’s one of four spots during a commercial break, versus one out of eight. Budweiser touts the opportunity to hit viewers with more repetitions with the campaign for its new brand Budweiser Select. But the trade-off is engagement. It’s much harder to really connect with your audience in just fifteen seconds. Compare that to the fun thirty-second Geico spots, like Woodchuck that are so engaging that they feel like fifteens, even though they’re thirty seconds.

That said, fifteen-second spots can be effective and engaging if used correctly. Here are five situations where they make the most sense:

‚Ä¢ Your brand is familiar ‚Äì The goal isn’t building awareness, but reminding consumers.

‚Ä¢ The message is easily communicated ‚Äì You don’t have to explain, educate or convince.

• Your media buy emphasizes frequency – Engagement is less important with high repetition.

• The spot is part of a larger multimedia campaign – Your spot plays a support role, reminding viewers of messages appearing in other media.

‚Ä¢ The commercial builds on an existing story ‚Äì People already have the basic idea. You’re just building on it.