Using Retail TV Graphics Successfully: 5 Tips to Consider

Graphics are a great way of supporting your advertising message. But if they’re not handled carefully, they’ll hurt the clarity of your commercial rather than enhancing it. Here are a few things to consider when adding prices, offers and logos:

1) Consider Letterbox.

Traditional Letterbox (see example below) places your commercial between two black bands, much like the format of your favorite DVD when you watch it widescreen. This usually requires planning before the TV shoot so the picture is condensed to fit the Letterbox size.

This format is wonderful for showing detail within a scene (because you’re condensing the picture), but it’s also a GREAT tool for placing graphics. Addresses, logos and phone numbers work beautifully when placed in a Letterbox format, keeping such elements from dominating your footage.

2) Restrict your color palette.

Be careful you don’t use all the colors of the rainbow when creating your “supers” (another word for on-screen graphics). It’s good to have some color variation (usually two colors) to compartmentalize the information so it’s read easily. Too many colors confuses the eye and detracts from the footage within the commercial.

3) Place your graphics consistently.

Don’t confuse the viewer by jumping all around the screen. Place graphics so that they enhance the message and don’t distract from it.  If you have a series of graphic elements, consider keeping them in the same placement.

4) Consider instances where the graphics may be more important than the footage.

If the footage is more or less the same throughout (i.e. rows of used cars or a showroom of random pieces of furniture), there may be an opportunity to let the graphics play a more dominant role within the message. In cases like this when large prices may cover most of the screen, try defocusing your background to enhance readability.

5) Introduce type elements in an interesting way.

If the pace of your retail commercial is “urgent,” consider introducing your type onscreen using motion. Your TV editor can offer a variety of ways to do so. This little trick spices things up, giving the price/super a life of its own.

And now for my disclaimer: The key to using the list above is knowing what’s appropriate for your audience and making choices with great care. A used car commercial and a financial services commercial targeting seniors are two different animals. In one, moving type and interesting visual tricks can add excitement. In the other, unrestrained stylistic choices can cheapen the message and appear distasteful. Determine the right tone for your commercial, and let it be your guide.

Here’s a commercial for a local car dealer that demonstrates all of the above.  

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