30 Or 60 Second Radio Commercials - Radio Advertising Tips
by Dan O'Day
As a radio advertising expert, often I'm asked, "Which is the better length for a radio commercial -- 30 seconds or 60 seconds?"
To answer that question, let's first look at the Revolution From 30-second radio commercials to 60-second radio commercials.
Until the late 20th Century, U.S. radio stations sold both :30s and :60s. A 60-second spot cost twice as much (or almost twice as much) as a :30.
Cost-conscious advertisers typically sought to maximize the number of times their commercials would air by buying :30s.
And there was a time when that made sense especially when there were far fewer commercial messages being broadcast and if your business was the only one in its category advertising on the radio.
This remains true today in emerging markets in countries where until recently there were no radio commercials. Often the governments of such countries limit the amount of commercials per hour, which automatically makes the ones that do air stand out.
If you sell water in the middle of a great desert and yours is the only water within 300 miles, you can simply erect a huge sign that says “Water!” and you’ll be advertising both effectively and wisely.
But if you’re selling mineral water out of a shop in a big city, with lots of competition, probably you need to make more of an effort to tell your sales story.
If yours is the only restaurant advertising on the radio, you might well be able to profit from 10-second blurbs that proclaim, “The best Chinese food in all of Luxemburg, at Wah Lee’s Original Chinese Restaurant on Val Fleuri, across from the Post Office!”
In mature commercial radio markets, however, there is no novelty factor inherent in simply advertising on the radio. And most advertisers don’t have the luxury of being the only one in their category to run radio commercials.
The gradual shift in large and medium U.S. markets to a predominance of 60-second spots came about as the result of a startling research discovery…by radio stations, not by advertisers.
Which do you suppose most listeners find more objectionable?
A) A 3-minute commercial break that consists of six 30-second spots?
B) A 4-minute commercial break that consists of four 60-second spots?
A): What we discovered was that listeners perceive the number of commercial interruptions…not the number of minutes devoted to commercials.
When I started in radio, most U.S. stations limited the number of minutes in a commercial break. Today most stations limit the number of commercials in any given break. That’s because each time a new commercial begins, the average listener perceives it as yet another interruption.
That’s why most large and medium market stations now charge the same (or almost the same) for a :30 as for a :60 because they’re not selling varying blocks of time, they’re selling “units” i.e., interruptions to the programming.
Although the original intent was to protect the station’s programming, it has had the added benefit of giving advertisers a better opportunity to maximize the impact of their sales messages.
Because that, ultimately, is what the advertiser should be trying to achieve: not “number of times aired,” not “cost per point,” not even “recall” but IMPACT.
With 60 seconds instead of 30, you can:
* Take the time to engage the targeted consumer in a conversation.
* “Pace & lead” begin by matching and reflecting the targeted consumers’ own experiences and then lead them to your sales message in a natural fashion.
* Take more time to show targeted consumers how your product or service can make their lives better.
* Take more time to explain what differentiates your product/service from that offered by your competitors.
* Give the announcer more time to speak at a slower, more conversational, more understandable, and more relatable pace than you hear in most radio commercials.
And if your commercial utilizes entertainment as a tactical tool for delivering the sales message, you have more time to weave the sales message into the entertainment…so that the listener cannot be entertained without simultaneously receiving the sales message.
(Sadly, this is not how most “entertaining” commercials are done. Most of them try to make you laugh for 50 seconds and then, at the end, throw a 10-second sales pitch at you.)