Bye, Bye :30, Study Finds :09 May Be Mobile's Optimum Unit

As Madison Avenue begins rethinking the value of time-based advertising exposure, a new study suggests that nine seconds may be the optimum duration for mobile ads. The study, which was conducted by time-based mobile ad platform Sled Mobile’s Parsec, is based on a campaign for a pharmaceutical brand analyzing how different lengths of viewing exposure correlated to lifts in awareness for the brand, BioPharmX’s Violet iodine brand.

The study found that consumers who viewed the ad for nine seconds or longer increased their brand awareness 140% -- about twice as much as the 77% brand lift generated by the average of consumers exposed to any amount of the brand’s mobile ads.

The finding is significant, because Sled Mobile is among a number of media suppliers that are beginning to charge advertisers based on the amount of time consumers are exposed to their ads. Sled Mobile launched Parsec in July 2015 using what it calls a “cost-per-second” pricing model, and a number of big publishers followed suit with similar models.



To date, Sled Mobile has run six cost-per-second campaigns and has commitments from a dozen brands to use its Parsec platform, according to founder and CEO Marc Guldimann.

In one of those campaigns handled by Austin agency Proof for the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau, the client paid only for the amount of time that users were exposed to its ads. Sled Mobile works with viewability and attention analytics platform Moat to determine ad exposure and found that the tourism bureau paid only for 4.8 seconds on average.

14 comments about "Bye, Bye :30, Study Finds :09 May Be Mobile's Optimum Unit".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, January 19, 2016 at 8:49 a.m.

    Joe, brand awareness is the starting point for all "branding" advertisers, not the end point. The latter is how many "viewers" were convinced or motivated to change their brand buying preferences after "seeing" the ad. While I find the awareness "lifts" cited in this report to be rather hard to believe, I'd like to know how the motivational metrics looked from the same study---if Sled Mobile has them.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, January 19, 2016 at 8:54 a.m.

    One more point. I seriously doubt that many of the major branding advertisers will shift away from 30-second commercials or even "15s", based on this study. In fact, short attention spans----too short, probably---is one of the main issues facing mobile ad sellers when they try to convince traditional TV branding advertisers to invest heavily in this platform.

  3. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360 replied, January 19, 2016 at 10:18 a.m.

    Hi Ed,  Good points. Billing may be based on time spent in seconds, but that won't likely yield much actionable data about lift that might lead doiwn the line to conversion when the consumer has need. You're far more the epert on some of this than I am - even if a spot less than 15 seconds is viewed, isn't it hard to deliver a compelling message in just a few seconds? If a few seconds worked, Burma Shave could've hit the mark with just one road sign, not a series to tell a story. And there is a business reason why Instagram enables 15 second videos.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, January 19, 2016 at 10:50 a.m.

    Henry, when "15s" arrived on the scene in the mid-1990s at half the price of "30s" but 70% of the ad recall, they were hailed by some---not I---as "the answer" to rising CPMs. Many advertisers have since learned to use the shorter length in combination with their "30s", when their ad campaign has anything that needs a bit of time to get across---obviously the "15s" act mainly as reminders of the "30s" in such cases. This is not to say that certain advertisers can't  utilize "15s" on an exclusive basis, but at this point, many just don't feel comfortable doing that---especially at the outset of a new poduct launch or when changing the positioning strategy for an established brand.

  5. hank cohen from, January 19, 2016 at 12:50 p.m.

    I also believe that the age demo has alot to do with the viability of the success of 9 second spots. The younger demo has less of an attention span and i can see how much more effective it can be toward this age group.   One cannot just rely on this one touch point to drives awareness and sales.  Relevency is always crtical to the success of shorter ad lengths.


  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 19, 2016 at 1:04 p.m.

    Hank, while you are right in noting that younger consumers are more apt to get the point of video ad quicker, there are two factors to consider. First, only a small percentage of national branding advertisers are targeting people in their late teens and very young adults, exclusively. For most brands---bearing in mind that there are some exceptions----the younger, fast on the uptake set represents only 20% of their potential sales. A second point concerns the message itself. There's just so much sell plus info you can cram into a 9-second commercial for most products---even if you speed up the presentation so you push out 15-seconds of promotional content in your 9-second ad. I would also be concerned about the wear out rate for a campaign using only very short commercials, but that would vary depending on the nature of the product and the commercial's execution.

  7. Matt Cooper from Addroid, January 19, 2016 at 4:34 p.m.

    If you're trafficking 30 second spots into mobile placements I think you're really pushing users to try ad block. At my company we tested statics vs. video and video units (banners) got a higher CTR. Next we tested 7 seconds of video vs. 15 seconds of video and saw absolutely no lift in CTR. 7 to 9 seconds is plenty of time and far more friendly to mobile users. 

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 19, 2016 at 5:07 p.m.

    Matt, I'd be the last one to advise an advertiser client to use 30-second commercials on mobile as it is now configured. And that's the problem. If  thatmobile audiences can  only tolerate is 5-9 second ads, that relegates mobile to secondary reminder/support status for many branding campaigns, with niche targeting and/or timing/location, being its main advantages, not advertising communication. This might change if mobile deveolped the kind of engaging video content that holds the attention of audiences for sustained periods---like "legacy TV"--- but how that can be done escapes me for the moment.

  9. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, January 19, 2016 at 8:16 p.m.

    I agree with all of Ed's observations. But I'll also add that I find length needing to shorten based on screen size or viewing medium. 

    • A :30 on TV is not bad - and we know that :60's and :120's are highly effective when used right.

    • But on my desktop? A :30 in streaming TV on my desktop is horribly long and a 2 minute pod of commercials seems an eternity.

    • It's even worse on my 11 inch AirBook or tablet.

    • And in Mobile? Horrid.  

    That probable explains this result. But it doesn't conclude that 9 seconds is best. I agree with Ed's rationale. Clients need us to do far more than get a brand recalled after seeing the ad. Truth is I haven't sorted out what this study used to determine brand recall - is that 10 days later or immediately after? Is that amongst clutter or clean? Prompted? Online research? Mall intercepts?

    Supposing this conclusion is supportable, then it only covers the first micron of impact we need. What about the rest? There is no way you can achieve the rest in only 9 seconds.

  10. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC replied, January 19, 2016 at 8:47 p.m.

    Agree with Matt.  

    Google has it wrong.  Prerolls should be 5 seconds of story setup and then click to continue within a couple seconds or you automatically go to the content.

    Better to leave them wondering "what did I miss" than have them cursing the brand.

    I've interviewed 57 people in the last couple weeks about digital advertising and ad blocking.  Everyone would use a blocker if they could confidently install.  The level of annoyance with experience interruption is much greater than I had comprehended.

  11. John Grono from GAP Research, January 20, 2016 at 7:16 a.m.

    Some neuroscientist will probably find that the optimal ad duration is correlated to the size of the screen.

    When we studed 150 hours of seeing OOH billboards here in Australia, we found seven factors.   One key driver was the diagonal size of the billboard (we have some circular billboards here so diagonal worked well).

    Being a statistician, I wouldn't be surprised if it was in some way proportional to the square of the diagonal (just like standard error is inversely proportional to sample size) multiplied by some constant that 'converts' screen size to duration.

    I remember when I first started working with the local BBDO affiliate, our CD had a maxim - how do you make a good 30-second ad ... make the 15-second that the client wants and give it the extra 15-seconds to let it breathe.

  12. Doug Robinson from FreshDigitalGroup, January 20, 2016 at 9:01 p.m.

    Here at FDG, we create mobile ads for clients and have been recommending  :09 or :12 seconds for mobile for quite sometime.  If Snapchat is maxed at :10, then :09 is totally possible for telling a great story. It boils down to the content, and the story. Aren't we entering the golden age of storytelling?  That's what should determine what makes sense, especially for mobile.  Everyone should learn to raise their editing skills, and understand that shorter time ads, work.

  13. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate, January 25, 2016 at 4:40 p.m.

    Just a quick point of order, :15s came along in the mid-80s, not the mid-90s

  14. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 26, 2016 at 3:01 a.m.

    Darren, you are correct. Advertisers were buying "15s" in the mid 1980s, but very selectively and only in certain programs or dayparts. Frankly, many were afraid to try it and only 10% of all TV network spots in 1985 were "15s". The real push came about 7-8 years later, after rising CPMs and rating attrition from cable began to be felt. Then, supported by the finding that a "15" usually generated 70% of tha recall of a "30" but at half the cost, the networks and other sellers were forced to allow the shorter units in most of their programs and large numbers of advertisers jumped in, motly using "15s" as reminders of their "30s. By 1995, "15s' represented about 35% of all network spots and that figure has risen even higher, currently. Of course, no one seemed to consider the consequences of going with shorter ad units, namely many more separate and distinct sales pitches per break, with declining impact per message.

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