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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Yes, Retail TV Commercials CAN Be Creative

September 9, 2009

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The problem with a lot of TV commercials is that the offer is buried. All joke, and little homage paid to the offer. But let’s examine the flip side. A TV commercial that simply beats the consumer over the head with an offer does a poor job of engaging a viewer’s interest.

Let’s be honest, nobody watches TV looking for ads, if you can’t engage the viewer’s interest, your message will fall on def ears.

Therein lies advertising’s oldest challenge. How do you capture your consumer’s interest AND get them to listen to your sales message? The world famous Young & Rubicam advertising agency put it beautifully when they described their definition of the word Impact: anything that enlivens a customer’s mind to receive a sales message.

Sounds extremely simple, but the process can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, your starting place is always the same. Find the connection between your offer and the consumer’s motivation to act on it. Then, and only then, can you start getting “creative.”

If it’s a price discount, maybe there’s an interesting way to make “price” the creative idea within the commercial. Here’s an example: a barbecue restaurant is selling all-you-can-eat chicken for $6 instead of $9. In the commercial, a sculpted sign is dropped down over a plate of mouth-watering chicken. As the voice over makes the big price drop announcement, a hand dramatically turns the $9 into a $6. Yes, the offer is front and center, but the idea combines the incentive with the “creative aha moment” viewers want.

CAPTION: Who said price and item advertising can’t be creative. Here, the price discount was big news – and thus the central idea within the commercial.

What’s your message? Convenience? Superior service? Value? Authenticity? Once you’ve boiled it down, think of what it means to your customer. And then find the most dramatic way of making your point – without straying off message. The result will be a commercial people remember, and an offer that consumers are motivated to act on.

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July’s Top 10 Most Memorable New Retail TV Ads

August 24, 2009

So, what good is a retail TV commercial, if a day later you can’t recall who the commercial was for?  It’s not enough to entertain the masses; your commercial must have above average brand recall if you want to make the cash register ring.

The following companies get that.  And that’s why they were named as Nielsen’s Top 10 Most Memorable Ads for July 2009. 

The list is based on the top recall scores of new commercials that ran in July.  The Recall Score is the percentage of TV viewers who can recall the brand of an ad within 24 hours they were exposed to it during the normal course of viewing TV.  These scores are then indexed against the mean score of all new ads during the period (Recall Index).

A score of 100 equals average.  For example, with a Recall Index of 245, the top ranked Pizza Hut ad has proven to be over 2.4 times more memorable than the average new commercial that aired in the month of July.

Now that I got that out of the way … sit back and enjoy! 

And don’t forget to come back next month to see who made the August list …

Pizza Hut: Index 245

Gatorade: Index 234

Old Navy: Index 226

KFC: Index 224

Progressive: Index 219

Kool-Aid: Index 211

McDonald’s: Index 206

Pizza Hut: Index 196

Skittles: Index 188

Hallmark: Index 187

 

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The Gap replaces retail TV budget with Web and Social Media

August 23, 2009

Picture for Post #14After reading about The Gap’s new online advertising campaign, I was left yearning for the days where retail advertising had a more concrete purpose – like maybe selling something.  

 

 

 

 

I thought agencies were about developing engaging strategies to increase sales and market share.  And I thought those who were responsible for such strategies had some accountability when it came to delivering results.

If the new Gap strategy is any indication – my thinking may have been wrong.  

The new ad campaign from The Gap, titled “Born to Fit,” includes no TV commercials instead, for the first time in the retailer’s history, The TV budget has been replaced with Web and Social Media – more specifically Facebook.  Print, cinema and outdoor ads have been developed to drive consumers to the campaign’s Facebook page.

Always open to new ideas … I eagerly logged onto The Gap’s Facebook page. After a few seconds, I clicked onto the video section, expecting to hear why people like wearing Gap jeans.  Instead I was treated to a short video from seven so-called celebrity “icons” – each one yammering on and on about the complexities of their “intriguing” lives.  

As they speak, each “icon” (and I use this world loosely) is sitting on a stool against a white background while the camera – occasionally – pans down to the Gap jeans they are wearing.  By the time I watched all of them, I wasn’t sure if The Gap wanted me to buy a pair of jeans or question my place in the universe.

Julie Channing, senior account director with The Gap’s digital agency explains the strategy this way, “We were really looking to reach out to fashionistas and influence audiences to start a conversation about how Gap has built this line of denim from the ground up.”

Really?  So, consumers are going to visit a Facebook page and soon after begin conversing with friends and family about the development of a new brand of blue jeans?

Channing goes on to say, The Gap had set no numerical benchmarks to determine success in the campaign, but rather would look at “how much consumers interact with the brand” to gauge ROI.

So, let me make sure I understand this – The Gap’s ROI objective is to count how many people are talking about jeans, not how many are buying them.

Don’t you just love how some companies are using social media?

 

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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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3 Basic Elements to an Effective Retail TV Commercial

August 14, 2009

TV Call To Action for Post #8TV advertising can be the most effective form of advertising you can use to grow your retail chain – or it can be colossal waste of money.  

You decide. 

Don’t depend on your ad agency to tell you.  A lot of them are too busy winning awards with your money to worry about what’s effective or not. 

 It’s up to you to know the difference between commercials that win acclaim and those that win customers.  

 To help out, here’s s are some basic (but essential) elements that every retail TV commercial should possess.

 1)      Call to Action:  Why advertise if you’re not providing consumers with tangible reasons to shop your store?  The key word here is tangible. Stay away from generic platitudes like “low prices” and “great selection.”  Or other obvious claims like the one I saw the other day for a fence company, where they proudly advertised: “We build dependable fences.” As if there was a market out there for undependable ones.   

 2)      A Brand Promise:  A lot of retailers (and some ad agencies) think that a strong call to action and a branding message don’t mix well in a 15 or 30-second TV commercial – you have to choose one or another.  On the contrary, it’s only when both the brand promise and the offer coexist, that you have the makings for an effective TV commercial.  Would you rather have a .99 cent hamburger from a no name burger joint or a .99 cent Big Mac from one of the most recognizable brand names in the world?  Without a brand promise, your price and item commercial will fall flat.

 3)      Consistency:  Al Ries, probably the nation’s foremost authority on retail marketing said it best:

“Brand building is boring work. What works best is absolute consistency over an extended period of time.”

Find something that works and stick with it. Just ask BMW who has stayed the course since 1975 with “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.  Or how about Maxwell House Coffee’s 94-year history with its “Good to the last drop” positioning?   Short and simple – consumers reward consistency.

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