Apart from the Super Bowl, that magical day on every advertiser's calendar when people actually look forward to watching commercials, Madison Avenue is usually facing a losing battle in the war for consumers' attention. Blame it on our collective attention deficit disorder or gadgets such as TiVo, but the only time most people will sit through a 30-second commercial is when the batteries on the remote control go dead. The message to advertisers trying to get their pitch across: Make it short and sweet.

So they're going shorter -- really short. Cadillac revved up visits to its website 458% by hosting a five-second film contest; a nice tie-in to its five-second commercials for the new V-Series. A Belgian breath freshener created a buzz in advertising circles when it barraged Belgian TV with 500 one-second commercials over the course of one day.

Of course, the fact that people are talking about these ads is probably due more to their novelty than to their actual effectiveness in swaying customers. However, perhaps advertisers should think twice about those long-winded commercials that are heavy on cinematic effects but light on getting the brand across. Is it worth spending 28 seconds of a 30 second commercial on sweeping camera angles and character development when most viewers are going to change channels before they get to the actual payoff?

A one-second commercial may be a little extreme, but it is a good sign that advertisers are beginning to accept this new reality where, for good or ill, a few seconds is all we can spare right now.