Image courtesy of Jaki Good

People tend to rather bang on about the death of the 30 second television commercial.

It is unclear which bit they hate the most, the 30 seconds, the television or the commerical.

Obviously I am a big fan of the commercial element, I like being commercial.

I’m still rather unsure about the television component of course. I think that we have to accept that the potency of commerical messages added to the broadcast stream is being significantly challenged – by technology, by consumer behaviour and by media fragmentation. That said there is plenty of evidence that telly is in rather rude health at the moment – time shifting may spell trouble for advertisers but it is making TV a rather more enjoyable pastime. Indeed Nielsen have recently reported that in the 2005-2006 season television usage hit an all time high in the US at eight and a quarter hours a day.

But today I want to have a go at the idea that somehow creating 30 second bursts of ‘broadcast’ communication is at best moribund and at worst sexually deviant.

I want to argue that while digital media are beginning to offer brands an unparalleled means of immersing consumers in rich and often interactive brand experiences there is nothing quite like the 30, 40 or 60 second blast of message and meaning that comes from what we used to call a television ad.
Don’t getting your knickers in a twist that they are linear in form and that they represent the brand in ‘broadcast’ mode – sometimes brands and consumers both need that. And sometimes it does the digital experience no end of good into the bargain.
I will stop going on about the Old Spice campaign shortly. But I strikes me that the reason that I persevered with the whole online experience was because I got what they were up to. And I got what they were up to because I had been subjected to their ad, once on a blog and once on the Old Spice site. In 60 seconds a single linear, non-interactive ad had primed me to forget everything I understood about a brand, put aside a truck load of cynicism, deployed a brand idea accurately and delivered up a brand personality all of which are essential to ‘getting’ and sticking with the online experience. Oh and I laughed too, not bad for 60 seconds work.
I think the PC and Mac ads work in a similar way. In the UK Apple have celebrated the launch of Windows Vista by reworking their combative US personification of PC and Mac with the comedians Mitchell and Webb.

Its not entirely clear why this was necessary as we Brits expect Mac to have a US ‘accent’ as provenance is part of the Apple story. Any road up here is a brand famous for design led communications that said little but made you feel good, resorting to good old didactic advertising that lands a punch with every outing. Our relationships with the Apple brand are extremely rich and complex but sometimes there is a place for communications that tell it like it is. And the added twist is that the regulatory environment in the UK prohibits these ads being shown on TV and so the promise of seeing them at all is being used to draw people to mac.com where the viewer can be subjected to the full on charms of Apple’s online experience.
In a way short form ads, however they are delivered, are working not as a window onto the entire brand (like say CDP’s classic Hovis work) but as the brand’s storm troopers – going in fast and executing a specific task with ruthless efficiency. A sort of primer for the online experience to come and which promises to explain it all in more detail.
Ads do what digital experiences are poor at, delivering quick, accurate and often emotionally rich communications. Digital does what ads are bad at, immersing the consumer in the brand world and facilitating two way conversations between people and that brand.
Time to stand up for the 30 second commerical even if you are may be more likely to see it online than on the telly and time to recognise that ads and digital enjoy a marriage made in heaven.

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