Longer is stronger? The most effective length of commercial video

Recently, we ran across an interesting experiment conducted by Google probing the most effective lengths for YouTube commercials. Previous research has shown that on television, the 15-second ads are roughly 75% as effective as 30-second version. Plus, the cost of a 15-second version is half of the 30-second, so it’s no wonder that the 15-seconds ads take over the television.

However, some advertisers argue that longer version spots create more engagement. But what about the length and effectiveness on YouTube? To find out the answers, Google partnered with Mondelez International and Droga5 to test real ads for Honey Maid.

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, Honey Maid created an advertisement based on the Gomez family sharing their experience as immigrants in America. The advertisement has three length versions – 15-second, 30-second, and over 2-minutes. Each of them contained a different proportion of story, product, and brand.   

The rationale between these three ad versions are as follows,

15-second cut: The shortest ad length will make it less skippable and hold the viewer’s attention to create the connection with Honey Maid.

30-second cut: Relatively short version to keep viewers entertained yet long enough to deliver a meaningful message without sacrificing the narrative.

The long cut: In-depth storytelling that reveals more facets of the family. The layered story structure pulls viewers in and keeps them engaged.

Longer may be stronger

Both the 30-second cut and the long cut were watched more than the 15-second version, with the 30-second ad the least skipped. While all three versions performed well above Mondelez international benchmark, the 30-second ad had the highest view-through rate (VTR), and its VTR was 30% higher than that of the 15-second cut.  

The research also shows that two of the longer versions are more effective in increasing brand favorability than the 15-second ad. For brands moving beyond brand awareness, a longer and in-depth story may be more effective to change viewers’ perception and behaviors.  




Connect length to goals, not just economics

The 15-second cut had  a significantly higher brand recall, while when examining the brand favorability, the longer versions have better performance. The shorter format is good for lifting brand awareness, keeping the brand top of mind, and delivering simple call-to-action behavior, like search. The longer version is effective on persuasion and long-term behavior change. Therefore, it’s crucial to decide the key objective of your advertising campaign and what metrics to evaluate when determining ideal ad length.



Don’t leave your brand for last

If you are telling the longer story, don’t leave your brand to the very last. Google research finds that only 15% of viewers watched the longest video ad all the way through, which means some viewers had no chance to see the brand if they skipped the ad before the brand was revealed. Instead of just showing your logo, find a subtle way to blend your brand value and story, which will surely create a meaningful connection with your target consumers.


In conclusion, as this experiment showed, making ads shorter doesn’t get them more attention—it may get them even less. With a captivating story, brands can take the time to create a connection and change a mind.

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