A long story short: Rise of the 100+ seconder

21 May,2013


By Meghna Sharma


Long copy became synonymous with David Ogilvy after he espoused its cause in his book Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963): “There is a universal belief in lay circles that people won’t read long copy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”


While one may not see too much long copy in print these days, television commercial writers seem to be following the great man’s adage, if recent TVCs are anything to go by.


Dove’s Real Beauty Sketch campaign on the digital platform and the latest Tata Sky commercial, which made waves for being all of three minutes long, are proof enough. But in today’s fast-paced world where the 30-seconder rules, do such ads really work?


MxMIndia asks adwallahs what are the characteristics of a lengthy ad or campaign, and why some work – and some don’t.


Raghu Bhat, Founder Director, Scarecrow Communications Ltd & Founder, Fungus Designs

The biggest challenge any advertiser faces is how to make one watch his/her advertisement. For instance, if we take a movie, people make an effort to go and watch the film; the same isn’t the case of advertising world. How many log on or switch on their television sets to watch a particular ad? Hence, it is difficult to find a programme which has a captive audience as well as has a two- or three-minute window to showcase an ad. People are watching IPL, but spots are sold for 10-seconders.


For a mass brand, to launch a lengthy campaign, it cannot depend on the digital platform alone. It has to use television as a medium to reach its TG. And has to go beyond traditional content to catch people’s attention. For example, the Dove campaign turned out to be more of a social commentary and hence, caught people’s eye.


Ramanuj Shastry, Co-Founder and Director, Infectious Advertising

I would call such long-duration campaigns as branded content rather than advertisements, because people watch them more on the digital platform. A lot of such lengthy content is launched online, especially internationally, to go viral. However, it should have an ongoing story which will make one ask ‘what happens next?’. Apart from the story, other elements like music, acting, direction too are important. For such content to be played on air means that a channel has enough air space to fill; otherwise it doesn’t make sense to run them on TV.


Arun Iyer, National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas & Partners

I don’t think such lengthy advertisements or campaigns always work. The Dove real beauty sketch campaign worked because it was intriguing. It was almost like an experiment captured, which clicked with the people. But personally speaking, I think the Tata Sky is a bit too long, which wasn’t necessarily required. To run such ads on TV isn’t feasible for anyone and everyone. Maybe Tata Sky can afford to do so because they have their own channel.


Agnello DiasAgnello Dias, Chairman and Co-founder, TapRoot India

The Tata Sky TVC is one in a million. Today the biggest barrier the advertising agencies face is duration. Therefore, it is impossible to create something creative. TVCs today are just a reminder of a brand. What used to be known as edits are now the actual advertisement shown on television.



Kartik Smetacek, Group Creative Director, Dratfcb + Ulka

I think each piece of communication has its own ideal length (which isn’t always a pre-defined 30 seconds). A long-format ad has the advantage of drawing you into the story and building a much richer experience before the brand message is delivered. What you lose in frequency, you more than make up for in impact. Apple’s 1984 spot being a case in point. The key to a successful long-format ad is a compelling storyline that resolves to a relevant, well integrated brand message. The narrative must demand an extended build-up, so that every extra second adds to the intrigue. Apart from that, impeccable execution – whether it’s cinematography, casting or music – greatly helps the cause.


Last year, Chipotle released a two-minute film online that was totally worth the time. It was an animated film that told the story of a farmer who dismantles his high-tech, mechanized farm to re-embrace a simpler, free-range approach. Set to an epic track (Willie Nelson covering Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’), the film kept you riveted till the final second. The ad made its TV debut at the Grammies, by which time it had already travelled virally around the world, redefining Chipotle for a whole generation of customers.


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