The Difference between Long Ads and Short Ads

by Mike Tyler | November 24, 2014

Back in the early days of advertising, when lots were on pulp, ads would look like this: Big headline, long story-weaving copy.

Nowadays, a current Timberland ad might look something like this.

It’s been somewhat of a must-do rule to keep copy brief and pictures strong on any poster-based ads. The reason for this has been the sheer increase in ads and decrease in attention time. I’m sure you’ve heard about it – “consumers are more likely to glance over your ad more than ever now due to the quantity and their understanding that you’re trying to sell something to them.”

But What About Videos?

It seems more and more frequently now that we see online videos that are 3, 4, even 6, 7 minutes long. Why’s that? And what are the benefits and disadvantages to long format ads?

Well, Kevin Stirtz on allbusiness writes that:

They provide useful information to consumer to help them as they make their buying decisions. They do not pretend to be entertaining because that’s not their job. Their job is to inform and educate.


Short form ads are CHASING the consumer. Long form ads are BEING CHASED by the consumer.

Hmm, let’s think about these two statements.


Long Ads Don’t Have to Entertain?

Sure, long ads don’t ‘physically’ have to entertain but if you want to hold a consumer’s interest level high, in a way that makes them appreciate the brand, the values, and perception of quality, you better damn sure make your 5 minute product video entertaining. Think about all the cool 3-minute+ ads lately: Dove Beauty Sketches, Ram’s Former, IKEA’s bookbook, the Thai Giving story, Chipotle’s Farmer, etc.

They aren’t just product information dumps. Hell, they’re way more entertaining in the sense that they have a story. I say long ads have to entertain even more. As Kurt Vonnegut always says, “don’t waste the time of your audience.”

Chase and Chased?

In the Great Gatsby, SFG writes: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.

It doesn’t really relate to what I’m about to say but I enjoy that sentence.

This notion though, that long ads need to be actually sought out by consumers is correct. We can’t put a three minute ad on television between episodes of The Walking Dead. We can’t put out a three minute ad as a pre-roll on Youtube. No one would stand (or sit) for that.

The only way people digest your long ad is if they WANT to – (hint hint: Hence why it has to be interesting).

So what do these things mean? Well, something so simple 1-sentence would have explained it but a 1-sentence blog probably wouldn’t do so well.


Long Ads Need To Be Entertaining & Marketed Well

Well, duh you might say. All ads need to be entertaining. True, let’s not argue that and move on to the more important idea.

I’m saying that you need to advertise your advertisement.

Here’s why. Often I work with clients to produce long ads. Things like product videos, corporate branding videos, etc. These videos are one minute, two minutes long. They don’t go on advertising spots and that’s fine. They are going on their websites and here and there.

The video turns out pretty good but afterwards, sometimes things just fall flat, they deflate. PBffffft……

The reason for this is because no one is watching your video. Follow me here. No one is watching this video because the video is not being chased! The video is not being chased because no one knows it exist. No one knows it existed because – dun dun dun – it’s not as entertaining (in a story sense, in a global-social sense) as it can be.

Dove’s Beauty Sketches have nothing to do with Dove. It has nothing to do with their product. It’s not on television. It’s not on their corporate homepage. It lives virally. It dwells on hashtags and links. The ad is being marketed (not in the traditional sense) but in the modern sense of contextual and behavioural targeting, social media, and buzz(Online PR).

So the benefits on long ads – which is holding your consumer’s attention, having longer to engage them, etc – all go to waste if no one is even clicking ‘play’.

So what?

Well, if you’re going to make a long-ad, for whatever reason, think back to what made the long paper ads of yesteryear of successful. They were far and few in-between that people actually wanted to read them, and two, they crafted beautiful narratives and stories. Go ahead, check out any of them if you don’t believe me.

Find a way to do that and you’re gold.


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