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Arif Durrani: An innovative TV format is not just about length

Five seconds was all you needed to take in those "hello boys" Wonderbra posters in the 90s. Now the man behind them, Trevor Beattie, wants to bring that billboard glance mentality to television at the expense of the traditional spot.

Arif Durrani: head of media at Campaign and editor of Media Week

Arif Durrani: head of media at Campaign and editor of Media Week

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Rumours of the death of the 30-second spot have been circulating for a while, like suggestions that Publicis Groupe is preparing to buy Interpublic, but last week’s intervention by adland’s favourite troublemaker has helped stoke the flames.

Having spent the past two decades berating his creative peers for being too safe and bland, Beattie dedicated his moment in the spotlight at Advertising Week Europe to call time on media’s most famous – and lucrative – format.

"I’m announcing the death of the 30-second TV ad – it is too long, it is bullshit," he said. "Five seconds is the right length."

The role of eccentric undertaker quite suits the shaggy-haired creative, and if Hacked Off’s success in undermining 300 years of press freedom has taught us anything, it’s that every movement needs a good frontman – Hugh Grant or not.

Whether five seconds or 15 seconds better suit today’s multiscreen-surfing viewers, the idea that the traditional approach needs to be shaken up has many supporters. Not least Fru Hazlitt, ITV’s commercial leader who talks to Campaign about the broadcaster’s own transformation this week (page 26).

'The best way to get noticed in today’s media mix is to somehow change the standard unit of consumption'

She calls for more help from agencies and clients in trying to innovate the 30-second spot. The Territorial Army’s "live" ads last month are offered as an example of what can be done with the right planning. Mercedes-Benz’s decision to let viewers decide the storyline of its ads via Twitter last year was similarly inspired.

And of course, Comparethemarket's multi-faceted tie-up with Coronation Street - including broadcast, mobile, online, mobile and licensing elements - continues to be the new benchmark for what can be achieved.

Where Beattie and Hazlitt are on common ground is the belief that the best way to get noticed in today’s media mix is to somehow change the standard unit of consumption. A more creative approach promises a better return for advertisers, a better viewing experience and incremental ad revenues. Simples.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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