By Nilesh Vaidya
Executive Creative Director, Network Advertising
It took me over 15 years in advertising to figure this one out. It’s the best kept secret in our business. Why all TV commercials are just 30 seconds . (Unless your agency’s name starts with O or L, of course. That’s a numerology thing.)
They tell you it’s because of the cost of media. Nonsense, there are enough low-cost channels around. Or a viewer’s attention span. Even more ridiculous, people watch things like Bigg Boss for 60 minutes!
About time we let our big secret out. The real reason is that when an ad is just this long, you can get away with telling half the story. If it went on longer, your plot/situation would backfire on you…
Consider the Verito ad. A man and his woman are driving their Verito out of a parking lot, when a car full of louts starts honking at them incessantly. The Verito man gets out of his car and strides purposefully towards them. But instead of picking a fight, he asks “Tu achcha bajaa leta, gaata bhi hai kya?” Laughing, he gets back into his own car and zooms off.
Now imagine what would have happened if this ad went on a few seconds longer. The bad guys chase and corner the Verito in a dark alley. They drag out the Verito man, the lead thug tells him “Ab main bajaata hoon, aur tu ga” and they beat him to a pulp. Then they pull out the woman and drive off with her.
That wouldn’t have worked very well now, would it? I’ve been guilty of this myself.
A few years back, I wrote a film for Max New York Life’s retirement policy. It starts with a boy who, on his way back from school, wants to have a dip in the nearby lake. But just as he’s about to jump in, his parents appear in front of him. And we show how every time he wants to take a risk or be himself, throughout his life, the people who depend on him appear to stop him.
Finally, we show him older, retired, without a care in the world. He takes his wife to the same lake and, fully dressed, jumps in as she smiles on. The voice-over says something sweet about living your retirement without compromises. End of story.
But if it hadn’t ended?
After a couple of seconds of splashing around, the old gentleman realises his wet clothes are weighing him down. He struggles to stay afloat, and shouts to his wife for help. She just looks on, a cruel smile on her face. And as he’s about to go down, she asks: “Woh kitne ki insurance policy thi?”
Take the famous Mentos walking-backwardsinto- class commercial. It would have been so sad to stretch it longer. Imagine. Just as the smug Mentos guy is revelling in the attention his stunt has created, the professor asks him a really tough question to which he has no answer. As a result, he gets extra homework and assignments, is asked to stay on for three hours after class, call his parents for a meeting – enough to dim anyone’s batti, no?