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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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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Create a National Looking Retail TV Commercial for Under 10K

September 8, 2009

 

You don’t need a big budget to have a big idea. In fact, lots of great TV commercials have been produced based on the merit of simple ideas.

Two or three years ago, Nissan did a TV campaign for its Z sports coupe using little more than dramatic, sepia tone still photography of the car in action. Viewers saw still shots of the car handling hairpin curves … smoking its tires on the pavement, etc.  There was no script, only a powerful music track until the very end of the commercial where a single line of type appeared: “Words fail.”

Nissan could have spent seven figures on a single TV spot for its legendary Z, but instead, the agency chose to present a simple idea based on its own merits, rather than trying to hock an overly slick TV production. I seriously doubt that the goal was to save money. And I doubt the commercial was created for under $10K. But it’s a perfect example of still photography replacing an expensive motion picture shoot – successfully!

Still photography is a powerful tool.  But there are more…

Take for example stock footage. If the core advertising message of a financial services firm is financial stability, consider dramatic footage of a full moon rising in the night sky and a voice over that says, earnestly and intimately: “Sleep well, even if the stock market goes bump in the night.”

True, using stock footage requires creativity. You have to find ways to adapt an idea or a message to something that already exists. But if done correctly, you’ll get a national looking campaign for a fraction of what it would normally cost. 

Other inexpensive yet highly engaging spots use motion graphics, typography and witty writing to engage a viewer’s interest with the advertising message.  A solid idea and a talented motion graphics editor can go a long, long way.

On the verge of exceeding your budget? Keep in mind, assets like custom jingle packages and animated logo treatments can be used again and again in future commercials, so there are major economies of scale working in your favor.

Even if you spend more than 10K for your first campaign, future campaigns may cost half that if you can reuse your most expensive elements. 

Here, stock footage is used to promote a financial services firm. Our agency creative director produced this spot along with two others for $7,500.

 

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