Why 5, 10, and 15-second
commercials aren't customer-focused
We're getting a bunch of pressure to air "short-length" commercials for clients. And, by
short length, we mean 5, 10, and 15 second spots. Or, weather sponsorships. Or
sponsorships for market reports, cattle reports, baseball reports, health reports, and
sometimes restroom reports.
Let's be honest where this comes from - the desire for an account executive to make their
revenue goal and the drive for value on behalf of the advertiser. And, the use of the word
value here is just a more polite way to say "more" and "cheaper" because they can smell a
“vendor” needing to make a sale.
"Where's the value?" is something we’ve heard in radio since Marconi first turned on the
transmitter and we started “testing” radio commercials for success. (PS - the test worked,
example A is Lowry Mays bank account).
All joking aside, somewhere, we've equated value with price and quantity. It makes sense
too. "If I don't buy a full 60, I can buy more," is the common assumption. Or, "I can get a
better frequency if I buy them shorter, more of them, and cheaper," is commonly repeated by
While it's no one's fault, it is our problem, as we face a race to the bottom in the media world
when it comes to rates.
And, it is our problem because we've allowed our customers to use short-length commercials
to hit our budget numbers instead of doing solid, consistent marketing and messaging for
them. It demonstrates a lack of customer-focus on our part as media sellers and marketers.
Now, we're paying the price for it because we're a part of a culture of advertisers that
believes that they can communicate a message in 15-seconds and grow their business. In
Rockford, we get no help from our fellow radio broadcasters across the street as they'll sell
multiple 5-second commercials that air between two songs. Sometimes, I'm not sure if I'm
listening to a local radio station or a Muzak-styled “Kroger Radio Network” as they don't take
the time to ID their on-air product.
You might think that selling a customer what they want is customer focus.
It's actually not.
It's malpractice on our part as practitioners of marketing and advertising. It’s malpractice on
our part as messaging experts.
Selling a customer a package to hit your budget or revenue goals, yet the package doesn't
benefit the customer for the long-term, is self-serving and destructive for the client and our
business. It might keep the sales manager and/or corporate away for 30 days, yet trust me,
corporate will be knocking again, and unfortunately, the customer who bought the "shortie"
might not answer again when you knock.
Having a candid conversation about the benefits, weaknesses, and strengths of short-length
commercials is really demonstrating customer focus. And, by having that conversation, you
become more than a spot peddler and vendor. You become a marketing partner and trusted
consultant of their business.
There are very few businesses that can use a 15-second commercial effectively. There are
even fewer that can use a 5 or 10 second commercial. I can only think of a handful of clients
- Coke, Pepsi, Bud Light, and (maybe) McDonalds - that can use a five-second commercial.
If a client asks you to use a 15-second commercial or less, you should politely walk away
from their business until they're serious about having a conversation about messaging,
marketing, and becoming famous and memorable for their competitive advantage in the
Take the time you would spend in putting together a five-second commercial schedule,
managing the campaign, dealing with client objections, writing the copy, the lack of results,
and put it into a client who cares about your efforts as a marketing, advertising, and media
A way to look at it is from the largest advertising venue in the world - the Super Bowl. How
many 15-second or 5-second commercials did Bud Light purchase this year? If you guessed
zero, you're right. In fact, they bought 120-second or longer commercials to tell a story.
Bud Light may be the best marketer in the world and if they know they can't tell a story in 15-
seconds, who is a lowly radio station general manager in Rockford, IL to second guess
As I close, one thought on value sticks out to me and always will - "If the price is too high,
then the value has not been built in the mind of the purchaser." The beauty of this statement
is that you control the value by making an effort on a regular basis to build the value in the
products and audiences you represent.
Since we're no longer living in the world of "get to the sale by the end of the month or else,"
you have the power to build the value and create the customer. However, you also have the
power to turn the client away from our medium for the long-term future by making bad
decisions. The choice is yours - and that's one of the most powerful things to have in life, an