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Radio Ads: How Long Should They Be?

Everything you need to consider when choosing between 15-, 30- and 60-second spots
September 13, 2004

At the beginning of 2005, Clear Channel Communications will lead the radio industry into a brave new world. For the first time ever, 30- and 15-second ads will be priced worth the money. Up until now, all radio ads were priced essentially the same, regardless of length, so everyone ran 60s, and you and I were forced to spend way too much time listening to ads. But now America's business owners are faced with a new, but very important, question: What length of ad generates the best ROI?

Shakespeare would argue for 15-second radio ads: "Brevity is the soul of wit." But W.C. Fields would suggest 60s: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull." I agree with both.

When people ask, "What's the best length for a radio ad?" I always think of Abe Lincoln's answer when asked, "How long should a man's legs be?" His answer: Long enough to reach the ground. In other words, a radio ad should be exactly as long as it takes to say what needs to be said.

Use 60-second ads when:

Use 30-second ads when:

Use 15-second ads when:

Use mentions when:

The most common mistake is allowing the ad budget to dictate the length of your ad. Never try to squeak by with 15s and mentions when you really need 30s and 60s. Reduce the number of people you're reaching instead of cutting the length of your ad, or buy a less expensive time of day or from a smaller station. Always make your message exactly as long as it needs to be.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.