The 45 second TVC up-sell – why does this happen?

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This post is by Clive Duncan a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. As a Director and DOP he has an appreciation for the value of great creative and outstanding production values, while also recognising the importance of delivering value for money solutions to the advertiser.

Would you like fries with that? Or, “How come I ordered a 30 second TVC and ended up with a 45 second TVC?”

I have been in advertising for more years than I care to admit and I have seen the 45 second TVC up-sell happen on a regular basis. So why does this happen?

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It usually happens when the “entertain and engage” part of the commercial has a complex plot scenario or the director has suggested some extra shots to enhance an already “full” TVC.

Many director’s think that it is their job to make these suggestions and to bring that “little bit extra” to a TVC, after all isn’t that what separates them from their rivals?

Every time I sit in on a director’s presentation and he or she says “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just add ……..”, I know that someone will be disappointed, and more often than not that will be the client.

Management of the TVC

If TrinityP3 is involved in the management of the TVC we suggest that a timed animatic is presented to the client and the agency so that decisions can be made before the shoot regarding what will fit into the 30 second version stipulated in the production brief.

Sometimes it is a chance to weigh up if the director’s suggestions could replace some of the agency’s story line but this is very rare indeed as the agency’s script has been crafted to fill the advertiser’s brief.

The director’s suggestions are typically there to enhance the drama, comedy or performance or whatever is the main driver behind the “entertain and engage” story. Quite often the timed animatic never gets made, and the cost to produce an animatic or the delay to the schedule is sited as the reason.

The advertisers in their innocence are told by the agency producer and client services that the director and creative team “know what they are doing” and that it will all “fit in” especially if there is no lip sync to drive the timings.

Are agencies deceiving their clients?


In my experience the creative team and production house know exactly what they are doing. They will produce a 45 second version anyway, and then sell it to the client, and everybody will be happy. This logic is somewhat flawed as the client now has a TVC they have not bought media for and the agency has deceived them.

Remember the line the advertiser is told by the agency producer and client services, “the director and creative team know what they are doing and that it will all fit in” when clearly, it does not.

If I were the client I would be very angry with the agency. Not only do they disregard the media schedule, the 45 second version will attract extra costs in talent, voice over, music, on-air dubs and FACTS compliance. There will also be extra funds needed to at least get the 45 second TVC on-air for a limited number of spots and still meet the required number of TARPs that the media agency has calculated the client will need to meet the necessary reach and recall figures.

What is the real price of the 30?

Another major piss off to the client is if they paid a certain price for a 30 second version and the agency produced a 45 second version for the same money. What should the real price of the 30 have been? Have they been ripped off?

By applying simple budgeting logic to the scenario the client would have to think the answer is “yes”. The agency’s credibility sinks even lower. What if the client cannot use the 45 second version because the media schedule is locked in, and the 30 has to be used no matter what?

The client should rightly feel aggrieved, because the big toy has been dangled in front of them but they can’t play with it. So whether the client uses or does not use the 45 second version, damage has been done to the client / agency relationship.

Why do agencies persist in this behaviour?

The short answer is that the agency gets to use the 45 second version on their show-reel as does the director, music producer and post production house. And if the TVC is considered award worthy the agency can enter the 45 version in any number of award competitions.

To enter an award many of the award bodies stipulate that the TVC must have been screened “in the commercial sense on FTA TV”. So many agencies will buy airtime for one spot on some obscure rural channel at the cheapest rate possible to fulfil this requirement and hope that any actors in the TVC will not see it (the 45 second TVC) so they arch up about a 45 second version that their agent never negotiated for.

This puts the client at risk because ultimately the advertiser is responsible for the media exposure of the TVC. This is very unethical behaviour by the agency and often makes me wonder about their integrity.

The disclaimer

TrinityP3 and I do not want to be labelled as agency bashers so I will include the disclaimer that not all agencies behave in this manner.

Of course there are always 2 sides to every story and the views expressed above are mine alone.

If you are a brand manager or marketing department executive and the scenario above has happened to you, and you think it was a positive experience I would very much appreciate your feedback.

Remember a good TVC is both commercially and creatively effective.

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About Clive Duncan

Clive has spent all his working life in the film and television industry and was invited to join the TrinityP3 team as their TV production senior consultant. Clive has the unique advantage of having hands on experience at almost every level of TVC production and understands the complex relationships required to produce creative and cost effective TVCs. View Clive's full bio here

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