Advertising: Your Guide to the Right Ad Unit Size for Your Business

Posted by Carolyn Lieberman on May 9, 2013 at 3:39 PM

Advertisers in the Washington D.C. metro area have to make difficult decisions about their advertising – choosing the right length for their Radio or Televisionadvertisinglengths resized 600 commercial or the right size Digital Display ad. At the end of the day, the mission is to choose an ad size that will provide you the right balance of enough space for your message, while not purchasing more than you need to accomplish that goal.  This article will help you with some suggestions on how to determine what is best for your situation.

The “one size fits all” mentality should NOT be used with your  advertising!

Up until the late 1990s, most radio advertisers utilized :60 second commercials.  And most TV commercials were :30 seconds.  Why?  Mainly because it was just the “industry standard.”  The advertising community felt that on TV, you had the power of audio AND video to convey your message, whereas on radio you only had audio so you needed a longer time to capture the audience’s attention and tell your story.  In fact, :30 second commercials on radio were often priced the same as a :60 second commercial since radio programmers only cared about the number of “interruptions” (i.e. Commercials) and less about the total length of the stop set.  Most advertisers, when given the option, would chose to run :60 second commercial since they were paying for the time anyway.  Turns out it wasn’t always the best idea though.  Many advertisers forget that commercial messages still need to be focused on one concept…and extra available time, does not mean that cramming additional selling points about your business makes the commercial MORE effective. It actually makes the commercial LESS effective!

However, in the early to mid 2000s, most radio companies started changing the way they approached commercial lengths.  They began to offer their clients different options at different prices. Now, :05s, :10s, :15s, :30s, :60s, are common…and even :90-:120 second units are sometimes offered at a premium price.

When deciding the right ad length for radio or TV, your primary goal should be to capture the attention of your target audience.  You need to accomplish that without going on too long or giving too much information, since that will only lead people to tune-out your message and not remember the important points you are making. With all the different messages your customers are exposed to, from all kinds of different sources, grabbing the attention of your target audience is more important than ever.  Consider Super Bowl ads. You don’t remember how long the ads were, you just remember them because they were creative and/or funny. Examples of this include the ad with model Bar Refaeli kissing Walter,  or the visually appealing and emotionally attention grabbing ad, God Made a Farmer” featuring Ram Trucks.
In the digital world, advertisers have multiple choices with Leaderboard Ads (728X90), Super Leaderboards (970X90), Big Block Ads (300X 250), Monster Banner Ads (300 X 600), Roadblocks – Synced ad web page opportunities, Filmstrips (300 X 3000), Billboards (300 X  1050), the list goes on and on…

According to the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), “The new portfolio offers marketers a range of IAB Standard Ad Units to deploy against their different objectives.  Whether a campaign is brand focused and measured by engagement and attitudinal lift, or performance oriented and optimized for conversion, the new-for-2012 IAB Standard Ad Unit Portfolio provides the creative canvases at scale to reach one’s goals.”

With that background, here are a few tips that include some downloadable templates and links that can help you in choosing the right length copy or size of online display for your next campaign.

Commercial Script Lengths
  • Start by writing out the commercial copy to get a sense of how long it is.  This is best done using a copy writing guide sheet so you can properly track the length.  Here is a version you can use.  Don’t rely on reading it to yourself.  By itself, that technique doesn’t work well and will often leave you with copy that is much longer than it should be.

  • The best use of a :60 second commercial – This length gives you the ability to tell a story. Use this time to be creative and to connect emotionally with the listener. In order to do that, more details might be required, and those take time.  In addition, the last thing you want to do in any radio or TV ad is rush.  Don’t rush the audio.  That is a sure fire way to lose all effectiveness of the ad.  They say “less is best” and this certainly applies to radio and TV commercials.  A 60 second length commercial can also be used for ads that require disclaimers.

  • The best use of a :30 second commercial – “Keep It Simple, Stupid”.  While this is a good suggestion for any length commercial,  it should really be taken to heart with a 30 second commercial.  When your message is simple, or your product already has brand awareness, you are able to focus on the offer instead of introducing the product.  This approach can work well in a 30 second commercial.  Get to the point and be very clear about your call to action or message.

  • Short form ad units (:05s, :10s, :15s) – Utilize these lengths for branding/awareness building, name recognition, simple offers for a well known product/company, or jingles that can leave a lasting impression.

Digital Display Ad Units
  • Half Page Banner Ads and Monster Banner Ads – As larger canvas units, they are recommended for businesses with products to showcase, such as automobiles, furniture, jewelry, Clothing, etc…  Let the image speak for itself with a simple call to action.
  • Horizontal Ad Units (Leaderboards and Super Leaderboards) – These are good options when you have more text than images. Think recruitment, events, and issues. These units generally work better with more text since it is natural for people to read from left to right.

As you work on your marketing plan and develop an advertising strategy, we have a e-book that will of help. The Marketing Strategy Model includes sections on identifying your target audience, understanding the “benefits sought” and then tying it together with effective positioning.  Click here to download this guide:

Marketing Strategy Model

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Tags: Advertising, Advertising Creative



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