Why Use Only Half?

Would you consider producing a TV spot or internet video ad with no images — just an audio track over blank screen? Of course not.

Then why would you produce one with ONLY images, and no copy?

I’ve always found the practice more than a little frustrating. When there’s no V/O or dialogue as part of your video, and the viewer turns his head, or looks at her smartphone, or is otherwise distracted away from the screen, the ad becomes worthless. If the viewer HAS to be engaged — HAS to be looking at the message to receive and process it — then I think you’re passing up an opportunity to make a stronger connection with your audience.

Meantime, when I’m watching TV, and a commercial break comes and I get up and head to the kitchen for my beverage of choice, from over my shoulder, I’m still able to hear…

And the advertiser STILL has a chance to make an impression on my thirsty and impressionable little mind. Because here’s the thing: While video doesn’t permeate consciousness unless you’re actually watching, sound still works, even if you’re not actively listening. Add a catchy jingle like in the above example, and a high-frequency broadcast schedule, and now you’ve got a formula for an effective ad campaign.

To put it another way: In your TV ad, you have the opportunity to both say something AND show something. Why wouldn’t you do both if you have the chance?

The Power of Audio Triggers

This weekend, we drove past an auto repair place in Tucson, and as we passed by, I heard from an open bay the unmistakable sound of a pneumatic wrench taking the lug nuts off a tire:

Here’s what it sounded like…

In that brief instant, I was immediately ten years old again, hanging out in the original Slater’s Garage in Woodridge, NY, listening to my uncles work on giant mid-70′s model American-made cars while my brother and I dismantled old carburetors they gave us to keep us busy until it was time to go fishing. The memory was so strong, and so concentrated for that moment, it was quite remarkable, if not a little disconcerting.

Here’s another great example. One of my friends posted this on Facebook this week, and it immediately conjured some VERY strong childhood memories of getting ready to watch the Charlie Brown holiday specials CBS aired back in the 70′s.

It made me start thinking about how we use sound effects in radio ads. Just like a song can take you to a certain place or time in your life, ANY sound can act as a trigger in a listener’s mind, to effect, if you will, a desired emotion or response.

But the key is to make sure the sounds work WITH the copy, and not independently of it. Sounds (and background music) must work to strengthen the emotional connection your spot seeks to build. There has to be a cohesive reason for the sound to be there if you hope to not only get (and hold) a listener’s attention, but also evoke a strong enough emotional response to get the listener to act upon, or at the very least, remember the advertiser’s message. (Just as an aside, this is why I’m perpetually confused by explosion sound effects in car commercials: In addition to being cliché to the point of ridicule, is “kaboom” really a sound you want people to hear when you’re trying to sell ‘em a car?)

Don’t underestimate the power of a sound effect, a jingle, musical hook, or some other audio cue in your advertising to help you make that emotional connection with your listener.  Of course, the other part of this equation is making sure you run an advertising schedule with enough FREQUENCY to make sure that trigger is repeated and remembered.

Magic Brownie Adventure Movie, Starring Cheech and Chong

This is how it’s done, friends:

Fiber One has knocked long-form sponsored online video out of the park with this one. It’s genuinely funny and entertaining, and they found the absolute perfect spokesmen to reach the perfect demographic for the product (which you’ll note, we aren’t even exposed to until two minutes in).

It’s advertising like this that inspires me, and makes me proud to be in the business. I’d write more here, but I wanna go think up one for my clients, now.

Advertising is Not “Art”

People who make ads shouldn’t confuse their work with that of an artist.

An artist, by definition, creates something uniquely beautiful  — makes tangible some otherwise intangible emotion or idea from inside him/herself.  And then the appreciation of that creativity is where the “art” happens.

An advertisement, on the other hand, is a public piece — be it print, audio, video, a Tweet, blog post, etc. — whose primary purpose is to promote a product or service. So as an ad writer/producer/creator, that should be your primary purpose.

As soon as you impart your “vision” of what the ad should say, sound like, or look like, without first taking into account the ad’s message and purpose, then you’re putting yourself ahead of the Advertiser. In much the same way that a commercial should be about the customer rather than the business itself, so should the ad be written in the voice of the business, rather than the voice of the ad maker.

Let the ad interrupt! Let it sell! Don’t disguise it, or try to make it apologize for itself! In short, to quote David Ogilvy, “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”  If the “art” of an ad takes away from its ability to effectively promote the product or service being advertised, then it’s an ad wasted. It may look great, be shot with the latest state-of-the-art cameras, voiced by the finest thespian voice over artist, and win an Addy. But the bottom line, at the end of the day, is whether or not the Advertiser’s sales were up as a result of the ad’s creation and distribution. That’s really what’s important to the Advertiser!

Is that to say that an ad shouldn’t be well-produced, remarkable, visually or aurally appealing, clever, and memorable? Of course not. It should be all of those things. But only inasmuch as they enhance the ad’s primary message and goal, rather than undermine and distract from it.

Is there an art to creating an effective ad? I absolutely think so. But I believe the art of advertising is found in the ad maker’s ability to REMOVE his or her perspective from the piece, leaving only the ad’s message, spoken in the unique voice of the Advertiser.

If you make ads, don’t think of yourself as an artist. Just make effective ads that bring your clients increased business.  Then others will think of you as an artist. And that’s WAY more satisfying.

Filemail: Large-File Transfer Made Pretty Darn Easy

Most everyone I know who works with video or photos is always on the hunt for an easy way to share or transfer them.  Tough part is, unless you’re sending a REALLY low-resolution video, most video files are fairly large — too large to simply attach in an ordinary e-mail.

There are a ton of websites that allow you to send large files, and I’ve tried several. And with most, there are positives and negatives. Some are paid, many of the free ones are riddled with ads that make navigating the site confusing, and others may limit your file sizes to only a few hundred Megabytes.

Filemail is one I found recently that seems the most intuitive and user-friendly.

It’s free, but upgradable to Premium service for only $4 monthly.  The free version allows transfer of files up to 2 Gb.  Premium service ups your allowable file size to a whopping 10 Gb. It also allows you to upload multiple files, which is huge for photo-sharing with friends or family, because now all (or most of) your photos can be sent at once. There’s even a Corporate upgrade. You can compare the various plans here.
But even if you’re not interested in a paid membership, Filemail is still an easy to use and VERY convenient free service for the once-in-awhile large file sharer who doesn’t have his/her own FTP site.

Train Wrecks and Singing Cows…

Over in Washington, D.C. at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, they TOTALLY see the value in using a little online video marketing to drive home their point about the overreaching regulations the Federal Government is trying to impose on the U.S.’s Agricultural and Ranching  industries.

And in their ultimate wisdom, they even saw fit to hire Slater’s Garage to produce these two pieces.  The first is called “The Over-Regulation All Across the Nation Blues,” and features the work of some of my favorite collaborative partners, John Hill, Bill DaButler, and Thom Osborne, who lent their animation, facial, and vocal skills, respectively, for this video:

And the second is called “The Regulatory Train Wreck,” which features many of the Federal regulations “coming down the track” for farmers and ranchers, reaching the inevitable conclusion when the track runs out:

Thanks to the NCBA for pulling us in on this project. We were pleased to be a part of it.

 

How to Find Freelance Partners

I’m a big fan of Nick Bertke, whose professional handle is Pogo. He’s a VJ/producer who creates songs using music and sounds from films like Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Recently, Pogo hosted a contest inviting people to provide video to accompany a song called “Mellow Brick Road,” which uses audio from The Wizard of Oz.  Here’s the winning entry, by a guy named Reed Gauthier:

As a freelance producer of audio and video, I do a fair amount of solo work. But I also have a circle of partners I work with: voice people, singers, animators, graphic designers, etc. And a common question I’m asked is “How do you meet these people?”

Well, it’s pretty easy, actually. I reach out and introduce myself. I sent an e-mail to the animator of the above video, saying “I’m a fan. Congrats,” along with a short introduction of myself, and telling him how I’m always on the lookout for freelance partners. I don’t know the guy even slightly, and we may never end up working together. But now that a connection has been initiated, there’s an opportunity — a door instead of a wall. That door may not open, but a wall NEVER will.

It’s SO easy to make connections in the digital world. Isn’t it worth a few minutes of your time to reach out to someone in your field, even if only to say, “I’m a fan. I enjoy your work?”