Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lend me your ear (or 2 second access to it)

Attention spans and patience levels keep getting shorter. And what with our instant ability to skip an ad entirely by press-buttoning our way to another station, radio ads are getting shorter and shorter, too.

Clear Channel (which, it seems, runs just about every commercial radio station in the world) is now offering its advertisers "blinks" (2 second commercials), and "adlets" (which run for 5 seconds). The new development was described in a recent Boston Globe article by Se Young Lee.

I'm seldom listening to Clear Channel stations, so I don't think I've heard any of these, but there's an ad on the oldies station I occasionally cruise that I'd welcome in 2 or 5 second mode. (For the life of me, I don't know why an ad for a local New England supermarket chain like Stop & Shop would run an ad in which an anthropomorphized bottle of water speaks to us in what has to be the most god-awful, full-nasal, Midwestern accents I've ever heard. And as the daughter of a Chicagoan, I've heard plenty of them.  Despite what my Ant Meeery (Aunt Mary, for those of you who don't understand Midwestern) says, the Midwestern way of speaking English is not considered "accent free" and is not now, and never has been, the manner of speaking universally embraced by national broadcaster. This can't possibly true. I'm positive that I would have noticed by now if Brian Williams voice came across as if someone were shoving a screw-driver in my ear.)

In any case, I haven't heard a blink or an adlet that I'm aware of. The blink example ("Sweet tea at McDonald") will obviously work for a company with a powerful, known brand already working for it.

An adlet packs in a whole lot more, and looks like it will be giving the traditional 60- and 30-second ads a run for their money.

(Mostly I listen to NPR or NPR-ish radio stations, so I don't listen to all that many ads. But the NPR little mini-ads for their sponsors, which I consider the epitome of getting a lot of clear information into very few words, are some form of adlet or another.)

The article notes that the proportion of 60-second ads on Clear Channel's Boston stations have dropped from 95% to 60% in just three years.  30-second ads now account for 30% of the ads, with blinks and adlets making up the rest. Blinks and adlets not only keep listeners from fleeing from your ad - as I do when I hear the noxious Stop & Shop ad - but they also cost a lot less. We'll look for the cost for blinks and adlets to go up, however - although not to the lofty levels of the full 60-second ads.

TV is not yet working with the short-form ads. Apparently it's too inconvenient to deal with commercials of different lengths, given the length of a standard TV ad block. But with the pressure on from all those TiVo-ing folks who bypass the commercials entirely, it's probably just a matter of time before blinks and adlets start popping up on TV, too.

In the meantime, "creative types" will be looking for new ways to capture those short attention spans.

My advice for the Stop & Shop agency: bag the "nice Midwest lady" ad for something that I might be willing to listen to. How about: Stop & Shop. We sell food.

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