The “debate” over 30-second ads online

It’s understandable that the advertising industry — and certainly broadcasters — want desperately to hang onto the 30-second ad paradigm, so research from CNN as reported in today’s Online Media Daily should surprise no one. In a nutshell, CNN found that visitors to “tend to let the 30-second ads play in their entirety.” But, as reporter Erik Sass noted:

(The) figures reflect only the percentage of viewers that permitted an ad to play without shutting it off–not necessarily the proportion of visitors that actually watched the ad. The study also did not address the optimum length and positioning of video ads in relation to other video content–currently hot topics of debate.
Long time readers of this blog will recall my encounter with MSN Video and MediaDailyNews over a report about optimum ad lengths for ads attached to video segments, such as news stories. The report said that MSN Video would attach a 7–12 second ad to individual segments. The next day, however, the report was changed to 15–30 seconds. I wanted to know why. The reporter told me that his source had called, which led me, after many days of investigating, to an interview with the two top guys at MSN Video. Optimum was indeed 7–12 seconds, but they were running 15s and 30s. Why, I asked? They told me it was because that was what advertisers would pay for.

The only thing worse than a square peg in a round hole is a square peg trying to get into a round hole.

This is a debated issue, but it’s only debated because the advertising industry is too bloody lazy to move to a 10-second paradigm. Not only is a 30-second ad a bad idea for streaming online, these things are killing broadcasting too, at least if you view the health of the industry from an audience’s perspective. The 30-second ad was a license to print money, and it produced a manageable method for growing profits. If you needed more money, you either raised the rates or shoved another ad in front of viewers. It’s not rocket science.

But that’s all in the past now, and viewers are in charge (and voting every day). Let me repeat something I’ve said before. If you put 30-second ads in front of an unbundled piece of internet content, you are asking users to go elsewhere. Why is this even debated?

You can do an awful lot with 10 seconds of undivided attention.


  1. I don’t understand why online advertisers think that a negative reaction is a good thing. My local newspaper, online, uses those silly ads that partially covers what you are are reading for 5 seconds before moving. How is that a good thing for the advertiser?

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