Shorter formats a double-edged sword

"It's not necessarily that we're walking away from 30-second spots," says David Chung, president of Toronto-based MaxxMedia. "But if we look at what we're doing with our clients, more and more of our campaigns have a mix of 30s along with...

"It’s not necessarily that we’re walking away from 30-second spots," says David Chung, president of Toronto-based MaxxMedia. "But if we look at what we’re doing with our clients, more and more of our campaigns have a mix of 30s along with shorter commercial lengths like 10s and 15s, and other [vehicles] like closed captioning."

Broadcasters, for their part, have been only too happy to answer advertiser demand for smaller, more affordable commercial units. In March, for example, Global Television introduced its new "Dot.Spots" – five-second units geared specifically toward dot-com advertisers. The spots, which are sold in sets of six, air on the network during prime time. (CTV is also reported to be talking to agencies about five-second spots.)

"We’re in an economy right now where there just doesn’t seem to be enough inventory to accommodate all the advertisers that want it," says David Cairns, president of Toronto-based Carat Cairns. "A lot of stations seem to be in a sold-out position, for the time being anyway. So one of the ways around that is to focus on other formats. If a station can sell two 15s instead of one 30, they can get twice as many advertisers on board."

Most advertisers, it’s fair to say, would still rather do a 30 or – luxury of luxuries! – a 60. (So, too, would most agency creative departments.) The realities of the medium, however, dictate a willingness to at least consider using non-traditional lengths.

"TV is just becoming more and more expensive," says Fiona Gallagher, senior vice-president, media director with Toronto-based TN Media. "And in the quest to keep efficiencies good, advertisers are leaving no stone unturned. Shorter units let you get into the game at a lower investment level – and, just as important for a lot of advertisers, you can [run your ad] in the marketplace for a longer period of time."

Kathy Gardner, media director with Toronto-based Bates Canada, agrees. "It’s a possible solution for advertisers whose budgets aren’t keeping pace with the media inflation," she says.

At present, 15-second spots remain the most commonly used shorter-form unit. (For the record, 15s are generally costed at a premium, selling for 65% of the price of a 30.) Some advertisers are also experimenting with 10-second units. Cossette Communication-Marketing of Toronto, for example, has created 10s for its client CGI, an information technology firm, by taking a closed captioning sponsorship buy and adapting that unit to include brand-sell creative.

If anything, the range of unit sizes available should increase as technology advances and commercial scheduling becomes more automated.

"As the broadcast world goes more digital, the medium should be able to accommodate pretty much any length of unit," says David Cairns.

If there’s a concern associated with the use of shorter commercial units, it’s the risk of increasing the amount of clutter on the airwaves – an issue much on the minds of media planners these days. Obviously, the more 15s and 10s that broadcasters sell, the more commercial messages that will be bombarding viewers.

"It’s kind of a double-edged sword," says Darryl Nicholson, associate media director with Ammirati Puris Lintas in Toronto. "On the one hand, it serves the purpose of letting some advertisers get on air who normally wouldn’t be able to. But as a media planner who’s got clients running 30-second ads, it’s concerning. Because I think consumers are starting to filter out more and more of our messages."

For media agencies, this poses something of a dilemma. They may decry the way clutter is eroding the effectiveness of the medium – but if a client’s interests are best served by purchasing 15s or 10s, they can hardly abstain. After all, if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity, what’s to stop a competitor from doing so?

"In order to keep pace, you’ve got to buy that stuff [if it's available]," says Sara Hill, senior vice-president, managing director with Toronto-based M2 Universal. "So you end up contributing to the overall problem of clutter."

Mind you, not everyone’s convinced that clutter is quite the menace it’s made out to be. MediaVest Worldwide president Sherland Forde, for one, describes it as "a non-issue." Today’s viewers – the younger ones, in particular – are used to processing more information than their counterparts of a generation ago, he says, and have no real problem with the larger volume of commercial messages on the airwaves.

So how are shorter-form units best used?

Traditionally, 15s have been employed to extend a television campaign: The advertiser will launch with 30s to establish the brand, then move to 15s to build frequency.

If your campaign is going to incorporate 15-second spots, then it’s advisable to have a whole pool of them. As MaxxMedia’s David Chung explains, 15s generally allow for greater frequency, which in turn increases the risk of wear-out.

A five- or 10-second spot, meanwhile, works best as a means of maintaining top-of-mind awareness for a brand, or else driving consumers to a Web site or toll-free number.

Given the challenges involved with the use of these non-traditional formats, it’s particularly important that the media and creative team work closely together on any effort that incorporates shorter-form units.

"The two sides have to work hand-in-hand on something like this," says Leslie Krueger, vice-president, group media director with Toronto-based OMD Canada. "We wouldn’t recommend, say, five-second spots without having long discussions with creative to make sure it was the right thing to do."

"Media planners need to be very sympathetic towards creative," agrees Cairns. "It’s easy to say that we should run a 15 instead of a 30 because we’ll get more reach and frequency for our budget. But if the creative people cannot execute the strategy within those 15 seconds, then it doesn’t have a lot of value."

Since television rates show no sign of dipping, it’s safe to assume that shorter spots will continue to gain in popularity. And it’s true that, for a lot of advertisers, the use of these units is a viable means of solving cost problems. But before they make the decision, Kathy Gardner says, clients and agencies must be certain that their brand message can be communicated effectively in the time frame.

"There are some things that you just cannot say in 15 seconds," she cautions.

Also in this report:

- CCM arouses interest with sperm spot p.TV3

- Painting the smaller canvas: How creatives make their mark in 15 seconds or less p.TV4

- Red Rose resurrects brand with funeral spot: Retires ‘Only in Canada…’ tagline in favour of ‘A cup’ll do you good’ p.TV6

- Ford Focus puts the squeeze on credits: Sponsored previews of top-rated shows in bid to give campaign added impact p.TV8

- Jetta campaign a brand-new love story: Automaker bids farewell to popular Phil and Loulou characters p.TV10

- Is TV worth the money? p.TV12

- BTV blurs line between editorial, advertorial: Companies featured on business show pay about $10,000 for repackaged material p.TV13

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.