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It’s Time For Radio To Make Spots Shorter

YouTube has announced that they will no longer support 30-second ads that viewers can’t skip, starting 2018.

No more. Nada. Zip.

We’re committed to providing a better ads experience for users online. As part of that, we’ve decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers.

This change will not affect shorter ads – the 20-second videos and six-second bumpers will continue as before. But they are, by definition, shorter.

Obviously, radio is no stranger to shorter ads, but it’s my observation as a listener and a professional in the space that there are still way too many longer ads out there, and “30-seconds” does not begin to describe the duration of the longest. Indeed, the recent trend to endorsements has, if anything, made ads even longer as tiresome duration is cloaked under the guise of “content.”

This, I suggest to you, is fooling no one.

And radio is not alone here. Podcasting’s love affair with lengthy endorsements may prove effective in the direct response market, but rare is the listener who doesn’t skip to the end of a over-lavish Blue Apron recipe list or yet another predictably vivid illustration of the nightmares of the post office courtesy of

Well, maybe it’s just online that users hate long ads, right?


In a research study I conducted for the hivio conference last June, I talked to hundreds of audio consumers and asked this question: “When Does An Audio Ad/Message Turn You Off?”

In this word cloud you can see their answers (the largest words are the most frequently mentioned):

As this picture proves, nothing is more irritating to listeners than an overlong ad. Nothing is more irritating to listeners than an overlong ad Click To Tweet

Separately, we asked how likely listeners would be to pay attention to different ad messages possessing different characteristics. While you can’t strictly predict what folks will attend to from their own statements, you can certainly read their preferences for content. And if you believe that their preferences define what is, to them, an optimal user experience, then this is a good guide for the shape of audio ads:

Note that EVERY ad duration shorter than 30 seconds is preferred over a 30-second ad. And in case you predict that shorter is always better, note that consumers indicate they’re more likely to pay attention to a 5-second spot than a 2-second one.

Note, too, that 15-second spots perform much better than 30’s. As do one-sentence promotional mentions.

And this is the top of the chart. Everything else – endorsements, longer spots, etc. – score worse.

[If you want to see the full research presentation from hivio, you can find it here]

Back to YouTube:

The 30-second ads were designed to court traditional TV ad budgets. While advertisers might not like the shift, the argument that television commercials can translate directly to digital appears to be a losing one. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have been able to get brands on board with shorter video formats as video continues to proliferate. YouTube has long offered TrueView ads that can be skipped after five seconds.

It’s time to wake up. The world is moving to shorter ad formats because that’s where consumer demands are driving us. Following this path will no doubt get some push-back from advertisers (who too often want to buy time rather than effectiveness), but it’s good for you to remember that they are being pressured on all sides for shorter messages and for the same reasons.

Give the audiences what they want and give the advertisers what works.

That sounds like a great proposition to me.

And to your audience, too.

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