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Are Traditional TV Ads Really Getting Shorter?

Are Traditional TV Ads Really Getting Shorter?

Are Traditional TV Ads Really Getting Shorter?

Digital advertising has impacted other channels in plenty of ways, from the advancement of multi-channel marketing to streaming services challenging traditional TV. 

MediaRadar now highlights yet another way the fast-paced world of digital marketing has impacted traditional ads: TV commercials are getting shorter. 

We won’t bury the lead. 

The average TV ad in 2019 was 24 seconds long, compared to 26 seconds in 2018. 

Those two seconds may not sound like a lot, but that’s an 8% decrease in the average length of a traditional TV ad. 

Last year, we wrote that TV ads are getting shorter when looking at Q1 2018 compared to Q1 2019. With full 2019 data available, it looks like that trend is continuing. 

But that’s not all:

  • Ads 15 seconds or shorter now make up over half (57%) of all TV ads. That’s a 5% jump from 2018.
  • The biggest drop was in ads 16-30 seconds. This length made up 36% of ads in 2018, compared to 39% in 2018. 
Percent of total TV ads by ad length

To the primetime viewer, this might not be as noticeable — most of the shift is due to longer ads in overnight and early morning dayparts. 

Primetime ads are less than a second shorter in 2019 when compared to 2018 (in both years, primetime ad units had the shortest average run-time).

Average ad length by daypart chart

The range of TV commercial lengths is also getting shorter. In 2018, the difference between an average primetime unit and an overnight unit was over 11 seconds. In 2019, the difference was under 5 seconds.

The shift isn’t due solely to 15 second ads, either. Very short ad units, like the 6-second ad, are getting more popular. YoY we saw an 11.6% increase in the number of commercials that came in under 10 seconds. 

There may not be a direct relationship between these shorter ads and the increase in digital advertising, but they’re almost certainly connected as all audiences change the way they consume media. 

“Marketers continue to see positive results as they experiment with extra-short video ads, which were popularized online, on platforms like YouTube and Snapchat,” writes Erica Sweeney at Marketing Dive. Now blending these short ads with more traditional commercials can boost performance. “This blend could open opportunities for storytelling and brand-building, with the short ad or bumper teasing the rest of the creative that’s then fleshed out later in a longer-form spot.” 

In fact, in 2019 over 1100 brands ran TV ads under 10 seconds long. Most frequent utilizers of this ad length run the gamut in terms of industry; they included P&G, Sanofi, NBC, Pepsi, and General Mills.