(By Bob McCurdy) Take a guess as to what year these articles were written:
– “The Nation’s Attention Span Has Become Terribly Short”
– “The Nation’s Attention Span Shrinks”
If you guessed 1991, which I am sure you didn’t, you were correct. Think they have gotten shorter since?
Diminished attention spans were already an issue three decades ago, before the Internet, video games, speed dating, Snapchat, Twitter, et al. Yet in 2019, :60s continue to be one of the two most popular commercial lengths in contrast to our “sound bite” culture.
As Bob Dylan wrote in 1964, “The times they are a changing,” and so are our attention spans. Research has indicated that, today, it stands at eight seconds — a decrease of 33% in only a couple of decades.
A creative director said to me that sitting down to write a :60 commercial is akin to sitting down to write Gone With The Wind. They are obviously not easy on the writer, often containing the kitchen sink, and not easy on the listener. The takeaway: let nothing get in the way of “tightness” — making the spot as long as necessary but as short as possible.
In 2008, working with Katz’s Bob Case, we created the following website that highlighted radio’s ability to communicate a powerful, creative message in several seconds. It’s likely more relevant today than when created and is worth taking a listen. Since it was built in “Flash” you might need to click on “enable Flash.” It also includes some other ways to creatively configure commercial messaging.
The other day, one media director mentioned to me that the radio listener was changing but radio wasn’t, suggesting that stations sounded largely the same as they did 40 years ago. He went on to warn that if radio and its advertising didn’t begin to change with the times, that it “risked finding itself out of sync with its listeners.”
A 2018 ARF/TVision study showed that only 3% of TV ads are :60s. It’s a path we should investigate, as 60 seconds today could be too big of an envelope for most commercials and be truly out of sync in this age of rapid communication and reduced attention spans.
When it comes to programming, it’s been said what’s not played is as important as what is. Maybe this applies to creative lengths as well. Do other audio options air sixties? Other media? Just might be time to become a reductionist.
Thanks for staying with me until the end. Your attention span is longer than a goldfish’s.
Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]