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Sports and News – Possibly the Last Stand for the 30 Second Spot?

I realized something about myself on Sunday.  Despite all my tiresome hyperbole about being a representative of the "new marketing" generation, there I was camped out in front of the television set, bowl of popcorn in hand, anxiously waiting for the next 4 straight hours of live, commercial packed network broadcasting. 

And let’s be clear here, I sat through it all, almost single every one of those 30 seconds spots which I have claimed many times to be destined for the trash bin of history.  Besides the occasional bio-break, I literally sat through  45 minutes of commercials.  Once, I even raced back to the couch so as to not miss one of the funnier ones. That is more commercial consumption than I would normally take in a month.  So why, you might ask, with my PVR right there and a general dislike of television advertising, would I do this to myself?  One word.  Sports.  I love sports.  And the Superbowl is the grandaddy of all sporting events, where the 30 second spot shines like a star on the red carpet of the Oscars.

Watching the spectacle got me to thinking.  Maybe I’ve been too hard on the 30 second spot.  Maybe there is, in fact, still life left for these commercials even in this new world of PVR’s and TIVO’s.  That thinking then led me to an epiphany, a new prediction for the much maligned 30 second spot.  My prediction was that there are at least 2 places where the 30 second spot will continue to live on and to thrive: Sports and News.

I use myself as a test case. I will PVR everything that I normally watch on television except two things, live news and live sports.  Why?  Because news isn’t new if I’m watching it on delay and sports doesn’t hold the same appeal if I already know the outcome.  It’s like knowing the ending of a book before you read it only worse because all sports are essentially binary.

In case you were one of the few people who didn’t watch the game on Sunday, the New York Giants won, making history for a whole bunch of different reasons, and I got to watch it all happen. That real time experience was worth the 45 minutes of commercials I had to endure.  I’ll even admit to enjoying many of them at the time and then forwarding the ones that I liked to other people so they can watch them from the 30 second spot "secondary" market, the Internet. It was like being reunited with an old friend.


  1. Jenn
    Jenn February 5, 2008

    I think you are right, PVR and TIVO defiantly threaten the life of the 30 second commercial. The safest place for them is where watching someting live like sports or news has value.
    In addition to television recording devices, the presence of television available on the internet without commercials is also a threat. I know individuals who no longer pay for cable because they can watch all the TV the want online.
    I really enjoy good commercials and have many favourite commercials that I love to see. However these commercials are few and far between and I will not go out of my way to find them. Advertisers will have to create innovative and most importantly funny commercials to continue being watched. They will also have to tap into online television because that is where a large part of their audience is.

  2. David Coleman
    David Coleman February 5, 2008

    I completely agree with your article and who knows maybe there still is life out there for the 30 second spot. However, let me share my experience with everyone. Instead of watching the Canadian ad’s, I plugged my pc into television and every time the ad’s came on, I would turn on a stream of the American advertising. I was still watching the 30 second spots, but through the internet. What are your thoughts on that?

  3. Leah
    Leah February 5, 2008

    I agree with you concerning the newer world of PVR’s and TIVO’s, but I do not know how much longer the 30 second spot will thrive, even in sports and the news.
    I also watched the Superbowl and found myself annoyed at the amount of poor and repetitive commercials. I think there is just too much advertising today whether it be on television, at the movies, online or on the subway. In my own personal experience, I tend to just tune it all out, no matter what is on TV.
    Maybe my view is different because I lack PVR technology, so let me ask you this, what do you think the most effective form of advertising is for those who are not interested in watching live content?

  4. Michael
    Michael February 6, 2008

    Hey guys, thanks for the commments
    @ Joy – great post and not just because it supports my argument, although that certainly helps.
    @ Jenn – sounds like you and David are coming at the same challenge quite differently. Interesting.
    @ David – That is truly unique behaviour. See Jenn’s comment for an another view on the same medium.
    @ Leah – I think the current number is 3000 marketing messages a day, up 10 times from 20 years ago, so you are not alone in your reaction. For what it’s worth, my picks for the most effective marketing going forward are “referral” marketing (e.g. your facebook friend’s feed post on a site they like), “embedded” marketing (e.g. product placement integrated into the fabric of the media itself), and “emersive” marketing (e.g. an outdoor ad that recognizes you walking past and engages you in an interactive way). All of them are more human and at least attempt to be engaging versus interuptive.
    – M

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