• U.S.

ADVERTISING: An Hour Commercial?

2 minute read

As television viewers might suspect, the Federal Communications Commission takes a permissive position on how much time stations may allot to commercials. The general rule: stations that want favorable FCC consideration when their licenses come up for renewal should hold their commercials to just a mind-numbing 16 minutes an hour in non-prime time and 9½ minutes in prime evening time, which is the limit specified by the nonbinding code of the National Association of Broadcasters.

Lately, at least one station has tried for the ultimate: an hour-long commercial. Station WUAB-TV, Lorain, Ohio, applied to the FCC to run an hour program paid for by real estate men and featuring houses and land for sale. Part of a sample spiel: “Look at what the Lions from Leo [a local real estate company] have this week! This lovely Georgian bi-level on a sprawling treed lot! The price for all this? Much less than you think! Call the Lions from Leo!”

The FCC, condemning the program as “a 60-minute commercial,” refused to grant permission for it. But other purely commercial programs of 15 to 30 minutes in length are being placed by advertisers on small stations round the country. Usually the FCC does not find out about these abuses until an irate viewer blows the whistle.

Some sellers are going to the other extreme and filling the air waves with a series of short-short commercials. A few years ago most TV promotions were 60 seconds long; today the majority are 30 seconds. The past few months have brought the debut of the 15-second commercial, which is certain to increase the confusing clutter on the home screen. Alberto-Culver pairs two 15-second spots in a half-minute time segment to push its For Brunettes Only hair coloring and Calm 2 deodorant. Fearing a possible trend, critics—including Norman B. Cash, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising, an association of TV network and station executives—warn that the short-short commercials will further sour viewers.

James C. Richdale Jr., president of Corinthian Broadcasting, has complained to the National Association of Broadcasters about the splitting of 30-second spots into smaller units. Says Richdale: “I feel that we must clean up our own house to be effective.”

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