This is a guest post from Amanda Green
An effective TV commercial has many of the same attributes as a good movie. How often have you sought out a funny ad to rewatch it on the internet? That’s the dream of all advertisers—the viewer actually enjoying being sold something. We usually don’t think of commercials as mini movies, but it’s amazing how much of a story you can tell in 30 seconds or less.
If you have voluntarily subjected yourself to watching commercials you’ve already seen, you’re probably doing it because you’re entertained. The most successful commercials are just plain fun to watch. But to say movies and a rare few commercials are entertaining is much too simplistic, because there are a thousand different reasons why we find things entertaining. Let’s break it down.
Our minds latch onto emotions more than words and images, and when we do retain vivid images or words in our memories, it’s because we’ve associated them with some emotion. Even apparently shallow action movies and slapstick comedies evoke emotions strong enough in us to keep us coming back. If you want people to enjoy a commercial, identify the emotions you want them to feel. Do this during the planning and conceptual phase instead of allowing it to “just develop” or be inserted by the director.
The emotions you want to evoke in viewers depend on your product. If you’re a local mechanic, you’ll want to convey trust, which means making viewers feel comfortable or at ease. If you’re selling a car or new gadget, you’ll want to impress the viewer so much that they’ll experience dissatisfaction with what they currently have and want to upgrade to what you’re offering. Unfortunately, the most common emotions appealed to in advertising are fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Whether you agree with the ethics implied in scaring people into buying, it can be very effective, although not very entertaining. Just think of the last commercial you saw for a home security system.
You probably have something to say, or you wouldn’t be wasting money on air time and production expenses. The tricky part sometimes, is knowing just what to say, and what not to. The most common mistake is to try to say too much. Remember, there’s a difference between a commercial and an infomercial! As you plan your ad pick one, maybe two things you want to express about your product, but no more than that. For example, convenience. Or low cost. Or luxury and exclusivity. Why would someone want to buy your product? You probably have quite a list, which means if you want to talk about all of them, you’re going to need to make more than one commercial.
Commercials are just too short to include a bunch of information and still keep them entertaining and memorable. On average, people need to see an ad seven times before it’s firmly enough embedded in their minds to make them act on it. If spouting 10 different reasons people should buy your product, they won’t remember any of them. If you limit it to one or two, they might remember after a few times watching.
The Call to Action
You’ll typically want to include a call to action in your TV ad. This could be a “Call this number now!” repeated five times or a statement about what retail outlets carry a product. This can work well, however it lacks… sophistication. Many extremely successful commercials don’t ever ask you to do anything. That’s because they’re using an implied call to action, which is typically tied to the emotions they want you to feel.
A great example of an implied call to action is the old prototypical beer commercial—attractive people playing beach volleyball when suddenly, ice cold beer cans start raining from the sky without giving anyone a concussion. They never tell you to go buy a six pack, but what they’re saying is, “Go buy a six pack and even you, who haven’t left your couch in a week, can experience a small part of this party life!” It’s subtle, and it’s the difference between telling someone to buy, and getting them to want to buy.
There’s more to consider when planning a TV ad, but an entire book could be written on the topic. If you understand these basics and find a quality production that knows the rest, you can make an extremely effective commercial.
Commercials cost a lot to air and can cost a lot to produce so you may want to look at hiring a creative ad agency to help you come up with something that will leave a lasting impression.
About the Author: Amanda is a online blogger in her spare time normally writing about business, finance, and marketing, however she has been known to hop around the blogosphere and write on topics like fashion and even Eco topics. Her main focus is finance relating to the business world and you can find her each and every morning with the WSJ and NY Times finance sections.