Short Form Advertising vs. Long Form Advertising

A while ago I had the pleasure of visiting with a local media guru who answers to the name Lonny Kocina. Lonny has built quite a successful business helping companies get media coverage for their products. Over the years Lonny has developed some ideas about our media and he was kind enough to share some of them with me.

One of the things we talked about was how advertising has changed in the last hundred years. Obviously, many aspects of advertising have changed but a general trend Lonny has seen is what he calls “short form” versus “long form” advertising.

Decades ago, before we had so much media blasting away at us every day, advertising was simpler and more features based. Some would say it was more boring. But, people had more time and inclination to pay attention to advertising. And, advertising was a primary way for consumers to get product information.

Then, things changed. As mass production enabled our economy to produce many more products, mass media arose to help promote and sell these products. Before too long, our attention spans dwindled as we became inundated with more messages about more products and from more media than ever before.

As this happened, people became less interested in paying attention to all the ads they were subjected to. Advertisers found themselves in heated competition for the mindshare of their audience. So, they began making advertising more entertaining and less factual. If the ads were more entertaining, more people would watch, thus giving them the mindshare they want. Or so they believed.

So, today we find ourselves watching the “Swedish Bikini Team” pitching beer or Paris Hilton pushing burgers.

This is what Lonny calls “short form advertising”. It’s short, simple and without much substance. If your product or service is well known and needs no explanation, then short form advertising might work just fine. It’s mainly awareness advertising. It reminds us that a product is out there, waiting for us to buy it. And, it might offer a reason for us to make the purchase, such as a discount or a free gift.

Long form advertising is a different animal entirely. Now that we have access to so much information, we routinely research new products before we try them. We don’t mind taking time to look for and gobble up all kinds of information on products that interest us. We’ll go out of our way to do this.

This is where long form advertising comes in. Long form ads are longer, substantive and rich in information about the product it’s promoting product. They provide useful information to consumer to help them as they make their buying decisions. They do not pretend to be entertaining because that’s not their job. Their job is to inform and educate.

You’ll find long form advertising in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, the Internet and direct mail. (By the way, Lonny does a much better job explaining this in his book: Media Hypnosis.)

Note the difference in direction. Short form ads are CHASING the consumer. Long form ads are BEING CHASED by the consumer. Read my earlier article: On Chasing and Being Chased.

As an advertiser, which would you prefer?

Long form advertising is best for products or services that are new and or complicated. If your product needs explaining before people will buy it then long form advertising might be the best way to promote it.

How could these ideas affect your marketing? Are you using short form ads to promote a long form product? Or vice-versa? Before you spend money on advertising, think about how people make buying decisions. Do they need to be educated about your product? If so, then find long form ways to advertise and you’ll have greater success.