TV Advertising Builds Brands that Last

October 27, 2009

Picture for Post #35

Let’s just cut to the chase? As it stands today, TV advertising builds brands. Internet advertising does not. There’s little doubt that once a brand is established, the Internet can and does keep the momentum moving forward, but until that point is reached all the banner ads and twitter tweets will do little to ingrain your brand into the psyche of the consumer.

Creating a memorable brand requires more than getting people to talk about your product on a social network. It requires the advertiser to make an emotional connection that television does so well.  Do you honestly think Nike would be the #1 sports brand if it wasn’t for television advertising?  Or would you feel the same connection with a little known insurance company if their AFLAC-ing duck never made its way onto your television screen? 

Sure technology has changed, but the basic rules of effective marketing remain the same. You still need reach and frequency to create most truly memorable brands.  And television advertising delivers both better than anything else out there.

Television has a rich history of transforming everyday companies into household names.  From packaged goods to insurance, from fast food to tires – television has been responsible for creating some of the most memorable advertising icons.

Who can forget …

The Energizer Bunny … Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes … Joe Isuzu … Tony The Tiger … The Michelin Man … Mr. Whipple … Dave Thomas … Mr. Peanut … The Keebler Elves … The Maytag Repairman … The Geico Gecko … Charlie The Tuna … Ronald McDonald … Mrs. Olsen … Jared from Subway … Clara “Where’s the Beef” Peller … Orville Redenbacher … The Marlboro Man …Colonel Sanders … Pillsbury Doughboy … Chef Boyardee … The AFLAC Duck … The California Raisins … Morris the Cat … The Quaker Oats Man … The Green Giant … Juan Valdez … The Doublemint Twins … The Budweiser Frogs … Rosie, The Bounty quicker picker upper … Aunt Jemima … Mr. Clean … The Verizon Wireless “Can You Hear Me Now” Man … Betty Crocker … The Lucky Charms Elf … The Geico Cavemen

Now, recall just one advertising icon or brand that wasn’t first introduced to you on television.

I’ll wait …

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What Makes a Good Retail TV Commercial?

October 1, 2009

Picture for Post #32The ultimate test of an effective television commercial is NOT how entertaining it was, but did it get results.  More specifically, did viewers respond with their hard earned money?

As a retailer, if your agency can’t produce tangible results for your business then show them the door.  And you’ll probably be ushering them out sooner rather than later, if your commercials lack any of these six basic elements:

 Does your TV commercial…

1) Motivate viewers to take action immediately.

2) Explicitly communicate your product or service’s advantages over other choices.

3) Visually arouse your prospect.  Test this by turning the sound off and see if it still has the same visual effect.

4) Inspire trust, confidence and believability.

5) Provide a single consistent message that penetrates the viewers’ minds and stays there long after the commercial is over.

6) Grabs the viewers’ attention within the first three to five seconds. Remember the remote control is your worst enemy.  You must engage the audience quickly or risk losing them.

I want to thank David Frey, author of the best-selling manual, “The Small Business Marketing Bible” for these tips.  He’s spot on!

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Traditional TV Still Far Ahead of Internet & Mobile Viewing

September 28, 2009

Picture for Post #30The latest Three Screen Report from Nielsen finds there is again another jump in viewing done over the Internet. And to the surprise of some, traditional television viewing also continues to grow. However, the report notes a slight decrease for watching video on mobile devices.

“Although we have seen the computer and mobile phone screens taking on a significant role, their emergence has not been at the cost of TV viewership,” Nielsen’s Jim O’Hara commented.  “The entire media universe is expanding so consumers are choosing to add elements to their media experience, rather than to replace them.”

In the second quarter of 2009, the monthly time spent watching TV in the home by each user reached 141 hours and 3 minutes, up from 139:00 a year ago. 

People who watch video on the Internet averaged 3 hours and 11 minutes compared to 2:02 last year.

However, the monthly time spent watching video on mobile phones was actually lower than a year ago … down from 3 hours and 37 minutes to 3:15.

Is it any surprise that major retailers still turn to traditional TV to reach the masses?  People spend more time with television in just two days than they spend all month long watching video on the Internet and mobile phones combined.

And when it comes to critical mass, TV continues to lead the way in a big way.  While Internet and mobile viewing are showing growth over previous years, numbers that do so are still relatively small, especially for mobile viewing.

Nielsen finds that 284.4 million Americans watched some TV in their homes during the second quarter.  Less than half of them (about 134 million) watched some video on the Internet, while only 15.3 million watched video on mobile phones.

 

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How to Use Music in Retail TV Advertising

September 25, 2009

Music, in my opinion, is one of the most powerful yet underutilized tools in advertising.

Anyone who remembers the mid-70s also remembers:

Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a Sesame Seed Bun!!

Thirty years later I can still hum this old McDonald’s commercial. Times have changed, and trends in advertising music have definitely changed, but music’s role in advertising is as relevant as ever.

The biggest problem in today’s jingles is executions that push TOO HARD to make the viewer feel a certain way about the brand. Watching TV the other night, I saw a commercial for a local carpet store. At the end, a singer belts out gleefully:

JB factory carpets … the biggest … the best … always the lowest price!

I have to question whether I believe the singer’s sincerity. Is she really that happy about JB’s selection of fine carpets? Doubtful. And neither are the viewers.  It’s the classic mistake of an advertiser talking about themselves, rather than addressing the viewers wants from the viewer’s point of view. Or maybe it’s the trite use of “biggest and best” … which ranks right up there with other homogenous phrases like “we won’t be undersold.”

True, the old McDonalds piece is a list of what you get on a burger. But it had charm and invited viewers to participate in seeing whether or not they could remember the list. And most importantly, the singers never hit you over the head with a refrain of “limited time only.

Like many jingles in the 80s, the music painted a happy vibe that viewers associated with the brand. Remember Dr. Pepper’s “I’m a pepper, you’re a pepper”? And Toyota’s “I love what you do for me? Major advertisers haven’t forgotten how music can build brands …the executions have simply evolved.

Ba da ba-ba-ba … I’m Lovin’ It.

Indeed, I am. Here, McDonalds does it again. The music (and singers) establish an emotional connection with the listener, letting the Voice Over do the selling. The overall result is a commercial that reminds customers that McDonalds is more than just a value menu – but an experience you WANT to have.

Of course, there are times when the singer/music has to contribute a little more muscle within the message. Like singing the phone number for example. Just make sure the melody isn’t overly sappy if the lyrics are little more than a set of digits.

The music in this commercial humorously plugs the word “Free” 9 times within the span of 15 seconds. This is a perfect example of music conveying a very pointed message.

 

Here, a musical sting at the end of the spot reinforces the phone number. This is a more aggressive example of using music to achieve a very specific communication goal.

 

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The Art of Saying it all in a 15-Second Retail TV Commercial (and having it stick)

September 24, 2009

Yes, 15-second TV commercials are a wonderful tool for building media frequency. In fact, I’ve been a big proponent of them for years. And having been involved in the creation of hundreds of them, I can tell you they’re harder than 30s to pull off.

In developing the “creative idea,” focus on scenarios and situations that viewers can understand quickly. If they’re spending the entire commercial trying to “figure things out,” they’re not listening to your advertising message.

Since time is against you, it’s even more important to reinforce your brand along with the message. Consider finding ways to play up your brand’s colors … finding unexpected ways of integrating the logo … or dramatic moments that illustrate your point succinctly.

In short, things that will stick with the viewer long after the commercial has ended. 

Above all, PACE yourself. Make sure the message is clear from the beginning because you won’t have the time to repeat everything. Most 15-second commercials feel like 30s that were crammed into half the time. If your pace is too quick, all will be lost.

Below are 3 examples, each using a different technique. All are unique in their own way. Yet all establish the premise immediately and pace themselves carefully.

In this commercial for one of our financial services clients, we used the entire span of 15 seconds to take the viewer on a visual journey ending up at an unexpected visual element that reinforces the client’s brand.

 

Here, multiple cuts and scenes make this 15-second spot seem longer than 15 seconds. At the end, the brand is represented by its people.

 

In this more recent commercial for the same client, the actor delivers lines directly to camera in a simple monologue format –  while the “visual surprise” reveals itself in the window behind her.

 

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How a Splurge Can Give Your Retail TV Commercial Serious Creative Firepower

September 22, 2009

I’ll begin by stating the obvious: not everybody has the ad budget of a Fortune 500 company. But that doesn’t mean your creative can’t compete on a national level. You just have to make your production money work harder. 

Should you opt for an animated logo treatment? Custom music track? Film instead of video? A big name talent? You DON’T have to use them all to give your commercial serious creative firepower. They key is knowing what to splurge on.

By spending your money on one or two pricier components, the rest of your commercial production is elevated to a new level. Here are some examples where one or two splurges gave the TV creative national-caliber impact without a national-caliber budget.  

Here, the storefront footage already existed. All we did was resize it and add quotation marks, which was VERY inexpensive. However, we needed a special voice over talent to bring the commercial to life. We opted for Tom Sharpe, for his widely recognized voice and unique style of humor. He was the only expensive component (10 times the cost of your average voice over talent) but well worth the expense. 

 

Here, the custom music track and the animated logo treatment were the most expensive items (about $7,000 combined). However, these elements were used again and again in future commercials keeping long-term production costs down while keeping production values up.

 

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Giving Retail TV Commercials the “Film” Look Without the Film

September 14, 2009

Companies who want their TV commercials to look national often hone in on the “look.” And the biggest commonality among commercials produced by major brands comes down to a four-letter word: FILM.

Major advertisers overwhelmingly choose film for their commercials for all kinds of reasons. Ask the country’s top commercial film directors and they’ll go on and on. Film has warmth. Film makes ideas seem more credible. Film makes a commercial seem more important to the viewer. Film provides a glow and softness that makes the viewer forget that there’s a camera and crew in the room.

Problem is, not everybody can afford to shoot on 35 mm film or even 16 mm film. Fortunately, there are viable options that didn’t exist a few years ago.

First up is the Veracam, a video camera that simulates the look of film. This one has been around and works beautifully.

Another option is the “Red” – one of the newest cameras on the market. This camera is entirely digital and simulates the look of film. And many say it’s the best at doing so. 

The Red also comes with another plus. Because it shoots everything digitally – and at a VERY high degree of quality – the images can be used in print applications like ads and brochures. (Do that with film and everything’s fuzzy.)

In both the Veracam and the Red, there is no film stock to buy…and no expensive telecine lab needed for color correcting. However, final shots selected for your commercial will still need color correction, which can be done easily by the editor or the director.

Without getting too mired in technical data, why not judge for yourself.  Can you tell which was shot on film and which was shot digitally (Red Camera)?  If you can’t … do you think you customers will?  

Picture for Post #22

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Three Stages in the Life of a Retail TV Commercial

September 11, 2009

If you’re wondering why it takes longer to produce some TV commercials Picture for Post #21than others, it helps to know some of the nitty-gritty “behind the scenes” stuff.

There are usually three stages in the life of a retail TV spot:

1) Pre-production

2) Production

3) Post-production

And the level of complexity in each varies greatly. While EVERY production is unique, the following offers a brief glance at the kinds of things that happen in each stage:

Pre-production

In this stage, it’s all about planning, planning, planning.

The production company (and sometimes the ad agency creative staff) meet with all the venders needed prior to get the ball rolling.

  • Timelines and budgets are finalized
  • Prop people get the proper specs so they can gather everything needed to stage the set appropriately
  • Castings are held to choose the right actors
  • A wardrobe specialist is consulted so the appropriate attire and accessories (and sizes) can be gathered for the actors
  • A location scout is sent to find an ideal place to hold the shoot (if it’s not in a studio).
  • If a custom music score is being written, the composer is briefed during this stage so that the music fits appropriately with the creative vision and is ready in time for Post Production.
  • If animation is being used, animators may begin their work, sometimes showing up on the shoot day to take proper lighting measurements depending on the animator’s needs.

All the while, the agency’s creative director and the commercial’s film director will collaborate closely to supervise and ensure a unified vision.  Prior to the shoot, the film director will compile a shot list so everyone is on the same page come shooting day.

Production

This is where the film director, creative director and film crew come together to bring the storyboard (the script and accompanying visuals that were used to explain the idea) to life.

Sets are constructed. Actors arrive.  Scenes are carefully lit. Performances are tweaked. And because every moment counts, a detailed shot list and schedule keeps everything on track. Subsequently, a composer may now be elsewhere working on a custom music track, and animators may be on set taking lighting measurements (or at their studio bringing additional components to your TV commercial to life.)

Post-production

If you’re shooting on film, this process begins in a telecine lab where the film is color corrected. From there it goes on to editing where the shots are laid out and the commercial gets its rough shape (called a rough cut). Often, any animation will also be added into the commercial during this process.

Then it’s off to sound design where the voice over is recorded and the music (stock or original) is added in along with any sound effects. Then it’s back to editing where everything gets married together.

It isn’t always this intense. In a “graphics commercial” with little more than price supers and still photos, it may be a simple matter of the ad agency giving definitive direction (and a tool kit) to the edit house along with a voice over and music track.

But don’t be fooled. Even the smallest of projects require thorough planning.

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Retail TV Advertising in Local Newscasts is More Engaging

August 28, 2009

TV commercials that appear in local newscasts are the most engaging, Picture for Post #15according to a recent study conducted for Hearst-Argyle Television by researcher Frank N. Magid Associates.

Speaking at the annual Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Conference in New York, Hearst-Argyle CEO David Barrett pointed out that local TV newscasts are more “DVR proof” than other broadcasts because viewers tend to watch the local news live and therefore are not as likely to fast forward through the commercials.

The study also found that viewers were more engaged with ads in local newscasts than with radio (72% compared to 28%) newspaper (64% compared to 36%), direct mail (55% to 45%) and magazines (57% versus 43%).  

Survey results also showed that 47% of the 2,500 respondents said local TV news was “my most important source of information in my community.” That figure was the same for newspaper, but topped Web sites (30%) and radio (17%).

Hearst-Argyle operates 29 TV stations from coast to coast, reaching 18% of U.S. Homes.

 

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Retail TV Advertising: “It’s not creative if it doesn’t work.”

August 22, 2009

1960-Philco-TV-AdAs an ad agency owner, it never ceases to amaze me on what makes this business tick. In light of the worst economy in 60 years, logic would say that agencies should be pitching their ability to make the cash register ring.

Instead, any talk about getting customers through the door is obligatory at best with a lot of agencies. Why talk about results when you can drone on and on about your agency’s “award winning” TV commercials? After all, it’s how many awards an agency wins that separates one shop from next. Right?

Who’s kidding who, it’s a lot easier for agency people to wax philosophical on their “break through creative” (the most over-wrought words in advertising) than to defend their work through the prism of increased market share and higher comparative sales.

Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues have forgotten the golden rule in retail advertising:

“It’s not creative if it doesn’t work.”

And even more prefer the easy way out through the creation of advertising that “tells not sells.” You know, the kind of commercials that spend 22 seconds setting up the joke and the last 8 seconds poorly selling the product.

So the next time, you’re ad agency is enthusiastically trying to sell you on another “award winning” television campaign. Keep them honest and ask four simple questions:

  1. What is the strategy behind what you’re proposing? (Note: “because it’s such a cool idea” is not a strategy.)
  2. Why is this campaign the best use of my advertising dollars?
  3. Is there anything else we could do that would deliver a better ROI?
  4. Will this campaign increase awareness or sales? (Note: awareness is hard to measure; sales are not.)

Then, just sit back and get ready for the show; along with developing all those award-winning commercials – many agencies have become quite adept at the lost art of tap dancing.

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