Reach, Frequency, Brevity

by , Feb 26, 2006, 9:56 PM
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I'll keep this appropriately short.

Anyone contemplating in-stream mobile TV or radio advertising should go directly to iTunes' podcast library for his or her first lessons. Remarkably enough, a handful of audio and video podcasters already see what short-form media sponsorships should be. Try the daily audio podcasts from The Onion. Not only are the shows a minute long, but the sponsor, Chili's, is happy with a 5-second end-piece. And it works. Likewise, Mondo Media's very popular Happy Tree Friends animated vodcasts have 10-second pre-rolls for the new album from The Strokes. Before I knew what hit me, I got a quick dose of images and music that convinced me these guys have that Franz Ferdinand vibe I like. Mission accomplished.

The fact that I even can recall the sponsors for these two shows is a testament to the effectiveness of frequency and brevity. I would love to see this metric take hold on all mobile formats. Advertisers too often confuse length with engagement. Mobile advertisers should not take their cues from the Web. I believe most in-stream advertising online is disproportionately long for the content pay-off. Agencies will protest, since they tell me repeatedly that even 30-second pre-roll ads enjoy 80 percent completion rates. That doesn't mean anyone really enjoys them or considers them a fair exchange for the free clip. I watch a ton of clips weekly online, and my "unaided recall" for any of these pre-rolls is 0 percent Well, I think SBC was in there somewhere, and I know Microsoft had to be in there, so let's call it 2 percent. Even publishers are gently pushing advertisers away from the repurposed 30-second TV spot and towards compact, tailored lead-ins that match the pace of the content.

I think extremely short and punchy ads bolted onto a mobile series do a great job allying sponsors with content. In contrast with Onion and Happy Tree Friends, Ziff Davis runs two good but long-winded vodcasts on tech and gaming, each punctuated throughout by longer house and vendor ads. I fast-forward through the spots out of habit, and I can't honestly recall the sponsors even though I watch them more often than Onion and Happy Tree Friends.

As my iPod, RSS feeds, and other aggregation tools move me toward my own on-demand nirvana, I understand how much impact and entertainment comes in smaller packages. The programmers at mobile video providers and podcasters tell me they themselves are amazed at how popular one-minute media is with users. The formats are helping them think more creatively inside smaller boxes and find that well-modulated jabs of have incredible power. I think the same will hold true for mobile advertising. I don't mind being hit every day by Chili's and The Strokes because I appreciate their polite sponsorship--and they get out of my way quickly.

 Short will be the new long.

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