TV Commercials Getting Shorter, But Are They Getting Any Less Crappy?

In case you hadn’t noticed as you fast-forwarded through the ad breaks while watching Biggest Loser, a growing number of those ads you’re not watching are now half the length of the ads you used to have to sit through in the days before DVRs.

Geico has been running 15-second commercials, featuring any number of its myriad spokesthings, for years. The insurance company often doubles up their ads into one, 30-second double-feature.

More recently, as ad budgets were hit with the shrink ray and the viewing public decided 30 seconds was too long to care about a commercial, more and more major advertisers have switched to the shorter segments.

From the AP:

The number of 15-second television commercials has jumped more than 70 percent in five years to nearly 5.5 million last year, according to Nielsen. They made up 34 percent of all national ads on the air last year, up from 29 percent in 2005.

Is it possible that the shorter time frame is making for better commercials? Aside from being mercifully short, a number of 15-second ads were mentioned in our discussion of the best commercials currently on TV.

There’s the Old Spice guy, wooing women from atop a horse in only a quarter of a minute, Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man In The World spots.

ESPN, whose in-house commercials have always ranked among the funniest and most clever on TV, have recently moved to shorter ads, like the one featuring the University of Oregon duck staring wistfully out the window from his desk at the duck pond outside the ESPN office:

Conversely, Burger King’s new 15-second ads for its breakfast menu have proved divisive, with some finding them quirky and funny while others just finding them strange and irritating.

There are some commercials that just beg to be shorter, like these wordless spots from John Hancock, which feature only the sounds of typing and incoming instant messages. At 15 seconds, it would be tolerable; at 30, it’s enough to make you throw a brick at the TV (assuming you have a loose brick in your living room).

While we’re on the topic, remember that we’re already asking for nominations for the next Worst Ad In America Awards, so send your e-mails with those ads you hate the most to with “WAIA” in the subject line.

TV ads shrink to match attention spans []