Trevor’s 30-second rule

Apparently, Trevor Beattie thinks the 30-second TV ad is ‘bullshit’ because we absorb information much faster than that. He says five seconds is the optimum length of message/consumption:

“30 second [TV ads] are ridiculously long, it is a lifetime,” he said. “People know within two seconds if they like something. The absorption of information is so fast these days it is amazing.”

Now, the slightly cynical part of me would suggest that Trevor (speaking at some conference) was looking for a headline-grabbing remark. I’m not saying he doesn’t think a 5-second communication is a good idea, but to say that thirty seconds is bullshit might be overstating the case somewhat.

To me it’s like the adage that we don’t read these days, when the truth is many of us read thousands of words on the internet every day. Can we cope with thirty seconds? Yes. Is five seconds going to work for all the things we want to say? No.

Having said that, I have to confess that I rarely watch longer things through to the end and if a clip says it’s going to be 2 1/2 minutes my heart sinks a little. But that depends what mode I’m in. I’ll gladly read a book for hours, but if I’m in ‘pissing around on the internet’ mode I’ll most likely feel a more pressing impatience. However, I can usually cope with 30 seconds.

I think that’s what behind this might be the standard of ads these days. It’s now so unlikely that a 30-second ad will be a rewarding use of your time that none of us is now inclined to choose that way of spending half a minute. Name a 30-second ad you’ve seen in the last year that you’d go out of your way to watch again. There might be five, but that means the odds are ridiculously low.

So what really matters may not be the timelength so much as what you choose to fill it with. As the big voice in Field Of Dreams almost said, ‘If you build it well, they will come’.