Is the 30-second TV ad dying?

The 30-second television commercial, once a cultural mainstay, has lost its relevance in today’s world. But, in an evolving emerging media world, the rules are changing and many companies are having a trial run on some standard ads being replaced by sponsored content.

Sponsored content is not a new marketing strategy and we see it frequently use throughout sports games and other events. Although not “new,” the replacement of 30-second commercials with this sponsored content is emerging direction.

This new sponsored content will include extra scenes and interviews with stars from the shows with the sponsored brand mentioned before and after each segment. For example, NBC has been experimenting more with new ways of weaving marketing messages into shows for a while. For example, in “Playing House,” the characters have starred in customized spots for sponsors like Samsung Electronics Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. that appear during the program when viewers watch on demand.

Why is this happening?

TV commercials had their peak in the 1960s when people had a surplus of time, particularly in the evenings after work. With this and the lack of emails, text messages or social networks to keep up with, the consumers’ work and life had distinct boundaries.

Today, consumers are becoming less tolerant of 30-second commercials because of the availability of digital media. Today’s internet-enabled consumer perceives TV commercials as possibly the least efficient way to learn about a product. “They are 30 seconds of sell when all we really want to do is sit back and watch our show,” according to Wolk.

Thus, many TV networks are cutting back on commercials to appeal to younger viewers who are used to watching shows ad-free on Netflix and to appease marketers who are concerned their messages are getting ignored amid the clutter. Today, people don’t want to be interrupted by advertising. “They want to engage with it on their own terms when they’re in consumer mode and thus in the proper mindset to listen to a brand’s messaging,” said Wolk.

With the growth of the “cord cutters,”  (consumers who chose to ditch traditional TV in favor of streaming devices) and Apple TV, Roku and other “smart” devices where consumers can opt out of commercials, brands need to embrace new strategies to connect with consumers. It will be interesting to see the growth of sponsored content and new developments that allow for uninterrupted advertising.


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