The Future of the 30 Second TV Commercial

Some History and the Current Situation

My first employer-employee job in video production was working for a small cable advertising company in Chico, California. I had paid work before that as a freelancer, but this was an 8-5, Monday through Friday job. I made 30 second TV commercials – a lot of them – five days a week. Eventually, my work took me to freelance and I started my own production company, and the 30 second commercial remained a stalwart of my production portfolio.

Frame from a Tri Counties Bank commercial shot on location at Mugshots Coffee in Oroville, CA.

Frame from a Tri Counties Bank commercial shot on location at Mugshots Coffee in Oroville, CA.

The 30 second TV commercial has been the standard in video advertising for decades. This is what I was making daily in the early 2000’s, a hay day for the cable advertising industry.  

Fast forward 17 years and I’m still making videos, but a lot less of the 30 second commercials. There are a few reasons for that.  

  1. My pricing is higher than many local and even regional advertisers want to spend. TV stations offer production services that is incredibly cheap, which is hard to compete with. However, “you get what you pay for” rings true here.
  2. The internet has opened up a whole new world for advertisers to spread their message. Distibuting your video content (it doesn’t have to be 30 seconds) is easier than ever before. This means I am producing videos that don’t fit the “30 second commercial” mold, but often serve a similar purpose. 
  3. The pricing for traditional media is overpriced. TV, Radio and Billboards are struggling to keep attention. They offer reports that are biased and ignore human behavior trends. This leads to fractured attention, and paying too much to reach too many of the wrong people. Whereas Google, Facebook, Instagram and others offer you attention at a fraction of the price, and you can laser focus your spending on the ideal audience. Some advertisers are catching on and killing it, others are stuck in the past and may go the way of the dinosaur. 

So, What is the Future of the 30 Second TV Commercial? 

If You asked me this question when TiVo and DVRs first came out, I would have said it was bleak. However, as we’ve moved to on-demand TV, YouTube and other online distribution, the pre-roll ad has created a new distribution option for time-constrained advertising. Better yet, advertisers can laser target their audience and get better metrics then traditional media could ever offer. Add in re-targeting, look-alike audiences, and other modern advertising strategies, and you have an incredible ad space to work within. Oh, and did I mention, it’s incredibly underpriced!

Now, let me say that I think traditional advertising can still work. I do think it is overpriced, but for certain businesses in the right markets there is ROI and benefit. I also still make these commercials on a weekly basis. However, advertisers may reap greater benefits on those same dollars elsewhere, and many are splitting their budgets between traditional and digital platforms. 

There is now an even better, larger, and more effective way to advertise your business. By creating content, advertisers can skip the media companies and deliver messaging directly to their customers, fans and audience. This is so much more effective, conversational and authentic. Creating content and using platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to connect with your customers puts you directly in the driver’s seat. What’s more, you don’t need a big following online because this same content can be placed in targeted demographic’s newsfeeds just like ads, for a fraction of the price of traditional media. Best of all, it’s right where people are paying attention. 


Attention is what you are after. The TV ad has a shelf life. But great video content is here to stay and growing exponentially.

Great messaging, audience connection, and strategy are the key elements to being remembered and inspiring customers to take action. How are you using video to get your message out there?