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Do Brands Need 60 Seconds for Super Bowl Ads to Stand Out?

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When a Super Bowl ad fetches between $6.5 million to $7 million for just 30 seconds of airtime, it’s no wonder many brands opt to run short versions of their commercials on game day. But shorter doesn’t always mean better, a phrase that rang especially true this year. 

Most of the Super Bowl 58 ads that proved popular among critics and consumers were the 60- or 90-second versions that never aired on TV, while some of the 30-second cutdowns that ran during the broadcast fell flat. 

In today’s media landscape, it’s become the norm for Super Bowl advertisers to extend their campaigns beyond a brief TV break. Many release long-form versions of their spots before the game and strive to capture attention through other avenues including social media, online content or in-person activations. 

The days of relying on one standalone moment may be over, but 30 seconds can still make all the difference among viewers. When the game is wider, the art of short storytelling is becoming increasingly harder for Super Bowl advertisers to master. 

David Kolbusz, chief creative officer of agency Orchard Creative, which made Etsy’s Super Bowl ad this year, advised brands and agencies making ads to “always plan on the shortest version of a spot that is most coherent.” But perhaps counterintuitively, he prefers to “tell the longest version of the story first, and then whittle it down from there to the key components.” 

“It’s like turning a block of marble into a sculpture–it’s harder to add things on later,” he said. 

A common danger in cutting down ads is losing the narrative structure, Kolbusz continued: “A lot of the stories [in this year’s Super Bowl] don’t have that much of a coherent, narrative thrust.” 

The best 30-second spots are conceived with that format in mind, according to Shayne Millington, chief creative officer at McCann New York, whose agency made this year’s NYX beauty spot with Cardi B.

“If you go at it as a 60 and then cut it to a 30, you’re never going to win,” Millington said. “You’ll have a 30 that doesn’t land.”

The team at Erich & Kallman made the Reese’s Super Bowl spot specifically as a 30 and packed it with action in the form of sight gags and physical humor.

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