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Consumer Confidential: Shorter commercials, sweeter toy rewards, tube-free toilet paper

October 27, 2010 | 10:15 am

Here's your whip-it-good Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--A word from our sponsors is getting shorter every day. Because of digital recorders and dwindling attention spans, advertisers are increasingly favoring 15-second TV commercials instead of 30-second spots. The number of 15-second commercials has jumped more than 70% in five years, to nearly 5.5 million last year, according to Nielsen. They made up 34% of all national ads on the air last year, up from 29% in 2005. The upshot: More ads in the same amount of time. What fun.

--Just in time for the holidays: Toys R Us is boosting its rewards program, giving members 10% back in store credit for in-store and online purchases. The toy seller had previously offered members $5 back for purchases of $150. Now, along with the 10% credit, rewards members will also receive invitations to special shopping events and will be notified first when shipments of hot toys arrive. The new deal begins Sunday and runs through Christmas Eve.

--Who says progress is dead? Kimberly-Clark, the paper giant, has introduced a tube-free roll of toilet paper, hailed as the biggest advance in toilet paper in a century. The new Scott Naturals Tube-Free toilet paper is being tested at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club outlets in the Northeast. If sales take off, the cutting-edge TP will likely be rolled out worldwide. You probably didn't know this, but the 17 billion toilet paper tubes produced annually in the U.S. account for about 160 million pounds of trash and would stretch more than 1 million miles placed end-to-end.

-- David Lazarus