The 24-Minute Commercial Break
Many people believe commercial breaks are too long, and getting longer. Trust me, they really aren’t.
When I’m socialising people sometimes ask what I do all day. I reply, “I’m in television darling!” and wave a business card at them promising I’ll make them a star… okay, I don’t actually do that. However, when inebriated people find out I’m in television advertising there are two questions I am always asked, word for word these are – 1) “Which ones, will I have seen any of them?” and 2) “I don’t like ads, why are ad breaks so long these days?” I sigh and decide whether to let them continue believing their conspiracy theory, or to explain why they are wrong. Commercial breaks are not getting longer; in fact there has long been regulation in place in the UK to make sure the balance always remains in favour of programming.
The UK’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom stipulates there can only be an overall average of 7 minutes of advertising per hour of programming – with an upper limit of 12 minutes of advertising per clock hour (i.e. including the breaks between the programmes as well as those within them). I concede that during primetime (6PM to 11PM) there is actually a slight increase in the amount of commercials shown, a maximum average of 8 minutes of ads per hour of programming. In reality, that’s only two more 30-second ads during an evening programme than during one in the daytime. This is a small but fair concession due to the fact that primetime programming is usually of higher status (more expensive) and that advertisers will spend more to have their commercials scheduled between 6PM and 11PM.
This morning I spotted a story that I hope will make the whingers consider themselves lucky the next time they feel the need to moan about commercial breaks being ‘too long’. According to data from the Emirates Media Measurement Company (EMMC) commercial breaks lasting more than 20 minutes are now common in the United Arab Emirates. The longest break observed earlier this month comprised of 76 commercials (yes, seventy-six commercials) and ran to 24 minutes in duration. Not surprisingly Chris O’Hearn, EMMC’s General Manager, commented, “People leave during a long ad break.” The length of commercial breaks is one statistic provided by EMMC’s new audience-measurement system which has issued its first public figures on TV viewing patterns in the Emirates. O’Hearn said the data on dips in audiences during ad breaks could prompt broadcasters to change their scheduling. Bhaskar Khaund, Regional TV Planning Director at media agency MEC added, “The ideal norm is about 15 minutes of commercial airtime per hour, and 45 minutes of actual programming, but it’s not being followed by everyone.” He added that government legislation on the length of breaks, like that of the UK, was unlikely to work in this region.
So, there you have it. Not only does Britain arguably produce the best television commercials in the world, but our ad breaks are actually some of the shortest. However, if my drunken acquaintances are not satisfied by my answer they may wish to move to Norway; television advertising is so strictly regulated that no channel in the country may interrupt a program, at any time, for advertising breaks. Happy now?