Going Long: A Case for 60-Second Advertising on the Super Bowl

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New research from Gallup & Robinson shows that 60-second commercials can be more than twice as effective as 30-second spots in breaking through the clutter and being remembered, in some situations.

Contrary to conventional thinking, 60-second commercials can be attractive media buys for companies willing to pay $3.5 million per thirty seconds to advertise on the Super Bowl. New research from Gallup & Robinson shows that 60-second commercials can be more than twice as effective as 30-second spots in breaking through the clutter and being remembered, in some situations.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the average length of a commercial was sixty seconds. During the next fifty years, 30-second spots became the de-facto standard length for television advertising. This is because research both then and subsequently has shown that 30-second spots are generally the best way to buy commercial airtime. While longer ads are more memorable than shorter ones, the increase in memorability comes at a diminishing rate per dollar spent. This means that 60-second commercials are generally less efficient than their 30-second alternatives. On the flip side, while shorter units (e.g., 15s) are generally more efficient than 30-second spots, the level of memorability that shorter commercials yield is below what some companies have found is needed in order for a commercial to have an effect on the market. (Shorter commercials are also typically handicapped by not being able to adequately communicate much more than a single selling message.)

New research from Gallup & Robison shows that in certain conditions, such as when advertising runs in a commercial-friendly context like the most-watched telecast of the year, 60-second spots can yield better results than the 30-second standard. In an analysis of 464 commercials spread over 331 brands that aired during Super Bowls from 1995 to 2011, 60-second spots provided both efficient and effective value. On average, advertisers who ran a 60-second spot were remembered at more than twice the level as those with a single 30-second spot. They also broke through at a higher level than brands with pairs of 30-second spots at different times during the game. As shown on the included chart 60-second commercials generated average unaided recall levels of 7.6%, which is 3 times the recall as the 30-second recall (2.5%) and 1.2 times the recall average of 30-second pairs (6.4%).

Of course, strong 30-second spots do outperform weak 60-second spots, whether they appear in normal programming or high-engagement programming like the Super Bowl. However, if a Super Bowl advertiser has a choice between producing two :30 spots and one :60 spot, the :60 second spot may be the preferred choice

A possible explanation for this is that when it comes to the Super Bowl, advertising is as welcomed by consumers as the game itself. As a result, advertisers who have strong stories to tell and are able to do so in an engaging way are more likely to stand out and be remembered if they invest in more time when they do so.

Scott Purvis, President of Gallup & Robinson, Inc., commented, “Context is a critical component in communications research. Here’s an example of where advertising that is seen in one context performs substantially differently in another. It is another example of why companies need to know not only whether their advertising is well-liked, but also whether it breaks through the clutter in the context in which it will be seen.”

About Gallup & Robinson, Inc.:

Gallup & Robinson is an advertising and marketing research company based in Pennington, New Jersey. For more than 50 years it has helped leading advertisers understand the effectiveness of their advertising and improve its contribution to their business. For the past 20 years, the company has tracked the quality of Super Bowl commercials by polling viewers on the day after the game about commercials they remember and their reaction to them.


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Stefanie Dursin
Gallup & Robinson, Inc.
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