Should we consign the 30-second spot to death row?

In the glorious decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, 30-second TV commercials were at its peak and it would be almost cruel, like benching the music of Mozart for some mere Broadway Jazz, to put the 30-second spot on death row. The 30-second spot was more than the founder and CEO of advertising; it was the King. Today, it remains the “standard unit” of consumption, and is the backbone of reminder advertising. However, shifting into the Digital Era has changed the face of advertising and the 30-second spot does not hold its prime level of recognition as it once did. The initial objective of advertising that was to showcase basic product promotions has evolved to memorable cinematic masterpieces, which do not interrupt but rather earn and respect consumers’ attention. Hence, a time constraint is not applicable in such a grand transformation. Nevertheless, confining a 30-second spot to death row is nonsensical. Whether it is 5 seconds or 6 minutes, the length of the ad becomes trivial in such an era where the essence is the story.

In the Digital Era, we may fall victim to a virtual reality where a “Big Brother” scenario has enslaved us to such crippled interactions; however, as a growing human race living in a society where change is happening as I am typing this, we have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to evolve and adapt. The Internet was once thought to be TV’s biggest enemy, but as a medium, TV has evolved to accommodate these changes and remains one of the most dominant forms of advertising today. With its “fifth consecutive year of growth, the sector is on track to exceed £5 billion for the first time”. Moreover, “double screening” has become a trend, which involves an interaction with the TV followed by a reaction posted on social media or the Internet. An example to parallel this idea would be the United States annual Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl celebrates its 30-second spots more than the act of the game itself. The spot primarily serves as a reminder to individuals of a brand/product and as a result, boosts awareness immediately online. 30-second spots taken by brands such as Doritos effectively manage to deliver a story naturally, light-heartedly and gracefully. Essentially, a 30-second spot here proves to be a trusted medium that can deliver a story and a brand reminder simultaneously, and that too, to a mass audience of perhaps 100 million consumers. Recently, however, some leading ad industry pundits such as Trevor Beattie questions the 30-second spot and labels it as “tired” and “old fashioned”.

Trevor Beattie, a man whose career is defined by two billboard campaigns (Wonderbra and FCUK), claims the 30-second spot is “too long and bullshit”. He further supports his claim when he continues: “We live in a tapas existence…everything is bite size”. Although he attacks the length of the 30-second spot, his panoramic vision is such that we must condense adverts to 5-second spots to fit into our digital lives. He continues to kindly serve us dollops of his wisdom on a silver platter with his prophecy – ad breaks will soon consist of a range of 2 to 3 minute commercials and a flood of 5-second commercials. Kudos to Beattie for voicing his opinion so confidently, but a revision is needed to accommodate for other trends in the industry. The act of storytelling has become a monument for sentimentality with which such consumers are now captivated to watch adverts for as long as 6 minutes.

Johnnie Walker’s “The Man Who Walked Around the World” starring the charming Robert Carlyle was a 6-minute short film. Many differentiate this advert not simply because it was 6 minutes, but rather because it was filmed in a single, continuous shot.

Although the only involvement was done by a single character throughout the film (minus the Scottish individual playing the bagpipes in the beginning), and there was initially the thought of a lackluster recall of a brand’s history; this advert manages to cleverly deliver 200 years’ worth of Johnnie Walker with the careful placement of certain objects, impeccable timing and an engaging monologue by Carlyle. As someone viewing this advert, I do not feel conned into a sales promotion nor do I feel like I am an outsider watching an interaction. I am physically a part of the interaction while Carlyle delivers his monologue. This almost triggers a high in your mind because you feel a sense of empowerment and importance. This advert was highly effective because of its creative freedom and cinematic appeal in the delivery and execution of the historic recall. Most importantly, it told us a story.

Without a story, the product is on death row. Surprisingly, or not, all individuals are motivated by a story that begins with “Once Upon A Time”. (Or in the above example, “Shut it”) We are human beings who seek escape and fantasy, wishing a sense of connection and familiarity with those on screen. When a connection is established and we become immersed in in a story, “…we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally and this seems to leave us defenseless”. A story is the ultimate weapon, especially in resonating with the hearts of the consumers. Therefore, a question for Beattie: is 5 seconds able to tell a story?

Today, fast-forwarding and recording have become somewhat of a norm, and even setback television as a medium. Technology has provided us with an escape from television, and acted as an agent of justification for our virtual lives. As a result, advertisers have had to evolve to meet the needs of Generation Y, especially Generation Z. Beattie uses this evolutionary change in human behavior to justify his statement to “embrace impatience” amongst the Generation Z. However, we must question if a consumer will physically purchase a product after a 5 second advert. After all, the purpose of marketing is to persuade and sell the product. Regardless of the length of the advert, the “annoyance factor” is evident when an advert interrupts rather than engages us. Imagine a 5-second advert that begins with a loud bang and an image startles you as it jumps out of the screen towards you. It is closely followed by the product name or brand and then, the screen goes black. A 5-second advert is equally as likely to roll you up into a frothy ball of uncontrollable rage as a 2-minute advert could do. Therefore, as technology has matured, advertising has evolved and embraced the act of storytelling to engage, respect and persuade consumers to purchase their products.

For that reason, time is not the most important factor. All brands are unique in their own aspect and hence, suited to different lengths, styles and executions in delivering a message. A 30-second spot successfully conveyed a story for the Doritos brand in the Super bowl 2015, and a 6-minute short film managed to execute 200 years of Johnnie Walker history. The length of the ad becomes irrelevant as noted in the popular 2007 Cadbury gorilla advert whereby “in the space of a fortnight, 58,000 households took time out of their busy days to watch a long-form version of the ad”. Although time is not of the essence in advertising, the 30-second spot does not receive as much attention as it once did.

In light of today’s Digital era, social media advertising has triumphed the 30-second spot on traditional TV. Companies wish for their adverts to be liked and shared across social media websites, and most of all, to ‘break the internet’. In other words, virality is a dream advertising agencies and companies hope to see as a result of effective storytelling. Scientific and academic research suggests that the more emotion an advert elicits, the more shares it will receive. Therefore, social media advertising has become a primary method to deliver a story and receive ‘virality’ for it. The 30-second spot may be able to deliver a story, but its spot tends to be used as a reminder of a brand rather than introduce a new product.

The Global Ads Chart on Mashable lists the top 10 viral ads including the Evian “Baby & Me” commercial, which received over 3 million shares online. Most notably, the average length of these videos was 4 minutes and 11 seconds long. If you zoom out and look at the top 50 ads, a pattern can be observed whereby the shorter the ad, the fewer the shares. For example, “the average length of the 11th to 20th most shared ads of all time is 2 minutes 30 seconds…” and the average length of the 41st to 50th ads is “1 minute 45 seconds”. All of which are over 30 seconds, denoting that the 30-second spot has taken a backseat in advertising.

If the 30-second spot hopes to stay relevant, the challenge is truly left to the television producers. Since television is the most cost effective medium, and is able to guarantee the largest possible reach towards a company’s target market, producers must be innovative and creative when creating content. Advertisers need to become adept in breaking through clutter, especially with social media advertising becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Regardless of the current trends leaning towards social media advertising and lengthier adverts though, television remains a dominant medium. The 30-second spot has not finished its run yet.

Go to bed now,



Obama’s Immigration Speech

I have already written a post about India’s PM Narendra Modi and his marketing strategy. Obama deserves his own post too.

I noticed that in marketing yourself, especially through a speech, the words you say must not only be meaningful, but also shake you to your very core.

I want to applaud Obama for his very well done speech. He definitely got peoples’ attention earning his fair share of respect and criticisms, which only tells us his speech was heard – loud and clear.

Obama has wanted to pass a bipartisan bill since his seat in office, but with no help from the Republican leaders in the House, the immigration system continues to suffer.

I’m going to pick apart his speech and help us understand why he was effective in delivering his message.

First, he starts on a positive note with a hint of history to get that rush of pride flowing through all Americans:

“For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations.”

He addresses the problem head on. He doesn’t keep us in the dark. He tells us that it’s time to face the truth:

“But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.”

He gives us the facts. And nothing speaks louder than the facts:

“Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.”

He demonstrates and reinforces his stance and authority as president. This confidence reassures Americans and will only make others fonder towards this nation:

“But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.”

He brings us back to the main message quickly with a clever literary technique that only makes his message stronger:

“Felons, not families. Criminals, not children.” These are the individuals that will be deported, but not those who have lived here a long time and have become a part of the American life.

He gives a 360 approach. He addresses certain misinterpretations people may have of his intentions:

“I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.”

Nice family touch, Barack:

He understands many may disagree with his actions, after all, his ancestors too did go through “painstaking work” to become citizens. No one should get a free pass towards American citizenship.

He reminds us of the bigger picture these actions will support and throws in some rhetorical questions for emphasis:

“Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?”

He gives a story of a young girl, Astrid Silva, who lived in the shadows all her life, but dared to strive and make a life for herself in America.

An emotional touch will do the trick. How can you not feel for this girl whose “…only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on.”

He shows his religious side and references the Bible:

“Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.”                                                                        

And wraps it up neatly with a rephrase of his introduction:

“My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants.”

Well done, Obama.

(All quotes from his speech was taken from USA Today)

Go to bed now,


Is Scandal Good?

No, I am not talking about the ABC’s TV show, Scandal, starring the gorgeous Kerry Washington.

Upon seeing Spotify’s name tarnished by the “Shake it Off” singer, Taylor Swift, who yanked her single off the music streaming service only to have her YouTube views double afterwards. I wondered if this scandal was spun into a marketing ploy.

Spotify vs. Swift

To educate those in the dark about this subject matter, safe to say Swift was not a happy camper about letting her music be heard for free. In an exclusive (we should only be so lucky to have some one-on-one time with Taylor) interview with Yahoo, she said:

“The landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

CEO/Founder of Spotify, Daniel Ek, supported Swift’s belief that “Music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it.” He revealed a figure of $2 billion paid to the music industry (since 2009) in order to stream artists’ songs on the service.

According to Mashable, within the week of the Spotify-Swift spat, her YouTube and Vevo streams (for her official videos and user-generated content) has soared from approximately 12.5 million daily views to almost 24 million daily views.

That is nearly double the views. There was a 120% increase in views for the single “Shake it Off”

Enough with the figures, here’s a graph.

Graph for TS

Basically, Swift continued her strut and sold two million copies of 1989 in only three weeks. And by the end of her debut week, the album was the “first and only album released in 2014 to earn platinum status.”

“It was the biggest sales week since 2002’s The Eminem Show.”

Taking a break from Taylor Swift, I want to take the opportunity to discuss Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout” Campaign (which many could initially interpret as a scandal to the chain’s loyal customers) and Urban Outfitters’ frequent scandals of offensive designs.

Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout”

The advertising agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CPB) came up with the prank. All those Burger King lovers will agree when I say: Don’t mess with the Whopper.

Americans love the Whopper. So, when CPB decided to permanently remove the option off the BK menu for a day in a Las Vegas Burger King outlet. The agency videoed the peoples’ reactions of BK employees (actors at the time of the experiment) letting consumers know the Whopper was no longer available.

What happened? People freaked out and there was a lot of Internet traffic. There were 1.3 million YouTube views (on a 8-minute video) and no number to share the word of mouth coverage.

In the eyes of the BK lovers, this prank was definitely quite the scandal and worked in BK’s favor.

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters has pulled more than the usual share of scandals to think the hipster chain was a goner. But, the chain seems to be doing great.

No matter that they designed a V-neck sporting the words “Eat Less”, suggesting a “pro-anorexia stand” according to One Tree Hill star, Sophia Bush.

No matter that they designed a shirt covering both the front and back with the word “Depression”.

No matter that they designed a bloodstained Kent State University sweatshirt of the 1970 massacre.

UB Dumb people

No matter that these offensive, awful designs have been approved and folded onto shelves more than once.

According to TIME Magazine, Urban Outfitters Inc. reported quarterly sales of $811 million.

When you take a step back and think of all the scandals, you have to question whether any publicity is good publicity. Either way, there is always more Internet traffic, more word-of-mouth, more awareness. And for some, even more money.

Go to bed now,


A Bold Move by Airbnb

Today, Airbnb announced the release of its print magazine, “Pineapple”, which will hone in on the local peoples and community while traveling. (A bold move, I might add)

The new, glossy magazine will be distributing 18,000 copies to Airbnb hosts… for free. Let’s not stop there, ladies and gents; this 128-page magazine has no advertisements. Let me repeat, no advertisements.

This needs to be italicized and underlined because in this digital world, everything seems to be swallowed up in mobile phones, iPads and advertisements. (It is a billion dollar industry for a reason). Each issue will focus specifically on three cities with London, Seoul and San Francisco to be featured in the Winter 2014 issue. Pineapple Example 1 Example 2

Let’s take the time to analyze all of the tactics by Airbnb to market itself as one of the world’s largest story-doing platform.

What is its mission?

In a few words, Airbnb is all about bringing people together. It’s beyond the mere tourist attractions. In fact, it’s in the substance of relationships, connections and the community you are surrounded by when you are traveling and exploring a new city.

What is the objective of the magazine?

According to the Business Insider, Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall announced the magazine “will combine the emotional and practical sides of traveling by giving a comprehensive guide to neighborhoods and cities, as well as capturing the sense of belonging that comes from a memorable trip.” The magazine will cover a myriad of subjects such as travel, art, culture, food (the most important of all, let’s be honest) in the form of photo essays and profiles. But, we come back around to asking, why a magazine? You could easily showcase this information on its website. Andrew Schapiro, the head of brand creative at Airbnb, clears this question up: “The realization is the majority of experience [after booking online] is offline in people’s homes or neighborhoods around the world. So it was a natural transition to tell stories in a printed format. We see the magazine living in people’s homes on their coffee table.”


What else has Airbnb done to market themselves successfully?

I’ve noticed that every action and step it takes towards success is always in making its mission brighter than ever.

  • Their main office in San Francisco is large enough to plan host events. It’s all about bringing people together after all.
  • The most recent advertisement, “Wall and Chain”, tells a story of belonging. (It’s a very cute story of a daughter bringing her father back to Berlin for the first time since the wall had fallen.) A reminder of the “power of hospitality and resilience of the human spirit,” said Airbnb on a website.

CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, emphasizes the power of a having a mission and sticking by it for long term survival.

Go to bed now,


Emotional Branding

Emotional branding isn’t a new concept. Advertising has evolved in the past years and continues to evolve with new trends, products and services. Brands are not simply selling their products or services; they are selling an idea; a way to become the better version of yourself and essentially, an improved lifestyle.

The stories embedded into advertisements are meant to hold your attention for at least 15 seconds. Once they’ve past that point, they have officially captivated your attention. You are listening to them. You may even want to change. The tear jerker Thai mobile commercial or Coca-Cola’s security camera commercial are both examples of successful emotional branding.

                                                                                                                                                              What is displayed in this commercial?

In one sentence, Coca-Cola is reminding us to celebrate the little things in life. The seemingly trivial but vast impact it can have in our days and our lives.

Sometimes we forget. We forget to smile and say thank you when we purchase a pack of gum from a convenience store. We don’t know that a smile can give a little boost.

Sometimes we settle. We settle for the societal norms that have forced certain views and perspectives onto us. We settle because it’s easier. We, therefore, walk past a crowd of protestors in Marsh Plaza demanding simple rights. In bold red letters, it said Justice for Janitors. I remember walking past to my next class.

Sometimes we forget to laugh loudly and not care what people around you think.

Sometimes we forget to be happy and in love.

Sometimes we forget to care and engage in crazy, harmless, sword fighting in the middle of a market.

Sometimes, we live. We accept ourselves for being human beings that may not be perfect, but we are can be amazing creatures, too.

The message of Coca-Cola is to appreciate every act of kindness, love, craziness and effort. Because if we do, can you imagine the most wonderful effect of all these acts? I imagine living in a utopian fantasy, a sense of euphoria rushing inside you every time you step outside the door into this world.

The strategy of this commercial was such that it did not impose or push its brand into viewer’s faces. I didn’t even know it was a Coca-Cola commercial until the last second.

                                                                                                                                                               What is effective in this commercial?

It was not only the story, but the execution of the video that worked particularly well. The low pitched, loud keys played on the piano when the 60 year old café owner thuds to the ground. His fall was intentionally played in slow motion for the viewer to remain in a tense position, which dragged the reality of the moment a few extra seconds more. The gentle piano playing that extended to a beautiful crescendo as the daughter reads the letter and replays the events that happened 30 years ago.

All these production elements helped execute the storyline to its full emotional potential.

The commonality of their successes?

The commonality between these two videos is the powerful emotion of happiness and sadness each of them was able to produce. It is important that an advertisement can not only cause you to really think about yourselves and your community, but also to feel.


If your commercial can create this emotion, it has a high likelihood of being shared, and therefore going viral. And that is the end objective of emotional branding – virality.

Go to bed now,


“Femvertising” – Are we breaking or propagating stereotypes?

Pro-women campaigns have now been coined a term “femvertising”. Being a feminist, I was initially very pleased to see advertisements such as Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’; however, the increasing usage of the word “femvertising” does cause great concern. The intention of these campaigns may be to celebrate women, but by shining a light on our stereotype, we may be propagating it rather than breaking it.

What is the stereotype of women?

The most common stereotype of women is their nature. Women, who carry the seed of the fruit, are nurturers. Hence, their nature derives from their only objective in life, which of course is to bear children and raise a family. (I apologize for the sarcasm) They are naturally collaborative and sensitive to others. Therefore, women tend to be second place to men because they are not competitive like men.

What is “femvertising”?

Using Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ sketches as an example, its objective was to empower women. It does not objectify women, but celebrates us for being exactly who we are – and loving it!

Always’ #LikeAGirl commercial is also sending a positive message to young girls. It is recognizing gender barriers and blatantly rejecting them. Moreover, “femvertising” seems to be working out for the industry too.

A survey shows that 52% of women have purchased a product because its advertisement portrayed a positive message towards girls and women.

The industry is booming. Women seem to be happy. Is this a win-win?

Under Armour’s Campaign Under a Lens

The example of Under Armour’s “I Will What I want” is an excellent example to discuss the potential backfire of “femvertising”. There are three women featured in this campaign.

  1. Misty Copeland
    On screen: An African-American ballerina who has the ‘wrong body’ to pursue ballet.
    Personal Commentary: She is flawless.
  2. Gisele Bundchen
    On screen: A Brazilian model who is loved and hated online.
    Personal Commentary: She is flawless.
  3. Lindsey Vonn
    On screen: An American World Cup alpine ski racer at a training session.
    Personal Commentary: She is flawless.

I do applaud these commercials for fighting against the gender stereotype and underlining a woman’s determination to achieve our goals. However, these commercials are also objectifying women.

According to article produced by SALON, an online entertainment website, advertisements like “I Will What I Want” is “sell[ing] these idealized snapshots as legitimate feminist commentary to the media at large.

It begs a few questions:

  • Do we have to look like these women to succeed?
  • If we are not succeeding, does that mean we don’t want it as much as these women?

Risks of “Femvertising”

In a Harvard Business Review, Meredith Fineman said inauthenticity in the storytelling behind “femvertising” could “cheapen[s] the idea of women’s equality”. This means that the over usage of “femvertising” increases the likelihood of pro-women advertisements becoming fake. This has a damaging consequence of hurting both the brands and the feminist movement.

Go to bed now,


PM Narendra Modi – the Marketing Icon for India

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is a very clever man.

Traveling around the United States, Modi is taking advantage of his position in the spotlight and delivering speeches on a global platform to market India.

The question is: How is he marketing India?

He uses his personal history to connect with the common man.

Imagine a man standing on the sides of the streets of India, selling masala chai (Indian tea). Imagine him standing behind his stall, unnoticeable to many. Imagine him standing there in the sweltering heat of the July summer, and during the unstoppable rains in August. Imagine him standing behind that very same stall, every day, for many, many years. Now, imagine him standing in front of 18,000 Indian-Americans in Madison Square Garden. Now, this man has become the Prime Minister of India. More than that, he has become a symbol of India.


Ask yourself, do you have hope now?

Words are meaningful only when supported by actions.

Modi’s actions demonstrates his positive governance in India since his election in May this year.

  • “Clean India” project: Cleans the Ganges River for both religious and climactic reasons.
  • Constructing toilets around the country.
  • Removing obsolete laws.
  • PIO (Person of Indian Origins) card holders to have life-long visas (This is directed towards Indian-Americans).
  • American citizens to get visa upon arrival. These tactics all demonstrate the steps he is taking to making India’s future brighter. Moreover, offering American citizens a visa upon arrival is a smart tactic to increasing tourism.

The substance in his message

Modi simply states the advantages: what are India’s strengths?

Many around the world are unaware of what happens behind those doors. Modi is giving us a sneak peek of what the future prospects of India look like.

  • India has the oldest and largest democracy. (Whether rich or poor, anyone over the age of 18 can vote. Modi’s ability to connect to the common man strengthens his image).
  • We offer youth – 65% of Indians are under the age of 35. (In 2020, India will be providing the workforce).
  • Demand – “The whole world is looking at India”, he says. (The economy keeps on booming).

His message, his actions and his history are all the ingredients he used to deliver his marketing message. The bonus was the 18,000 Indian-Americans that were crying out “Modi! Modi! Modi!” showing the power and influence he has over India.

We all know that a leader needs his followers, and it seems that Modi has definitely gathered his followers.

Go to bed now,