Tag Archives: business

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.

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Believing in Your Fee

Great story I’d heard before, but was reminded of while reading The Simple Dollar, a new blog I discovered recently:

A French woman, upon seeing Picasso in a Parisian restaurant, approached the great master and insisted that he put down his coffee and make a quick sketch of her. Graciously, Picasso obliged. When he was done, she took the drawing, put it in her handbag, and then pulled out her billfold.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked.

“$5,000,” was Picasso’s reply.

“$5,000? But it took you only three minutes!” she exclaimed.

“No,” Picasso answered. “It took me all my life.”

Picasso was always good for a quote that carried some impact, wasn’t he?

People with talent didn’t just come out of the box that way. Just because something appears easy doesn’t mean it is, or that the journey was. It takes years of education, years of practice, years of prior failure.

Pricing my services is probably my biggest ongoing challenge as a small business owner. In advertising production, many clients only have the perspective of seeing the finished 30-second TV spot, or hearing the 60-second radio commercial.  Far less often do they see the hours spent drawing animation artwork, editing and enhancing audio or video, searching for the right read, the right voice, the right take, and writing and rewriting copy to ensure that their advertising message is unique and salient and remarkable. That stuff not only takes time to execute, but it also takes time to learn to do, and get good at. And that’s what your clients are paying a premium for.

Very often prospective clients hesitate, hem, and haw when they inquire about my rates for voiceover, production, animation, etc., because to them it “seems expensive for just a 30-second TV spot.” All the more often, I find myself turning away business when that happens, rather than trying to justify my fee. As much as I hate to pass up work, I know that a client who dithers on price right out of the gate doesn’t value my time. And the client who doesn’t value my time ends up being the one who demands the most of it, usually amidst a constant debate as to why they shouldn’t have to pay me for it. I find that time is much better spent honing my skills, networking, and building my business in an effort to find better-quality clients who enjoy being involved in the creative process, and who appreciate what goes into it.

Don’t devalue yourself, your work, or your time just because others might not see the value in it.

Good luck!

When Do “Bad” Ads Mean Effective Advertising?

Take a look at this spoof commercial from The Midnight Show:

Maybe I have a different philosophy when it comes to advertising, and professional videographers who consider every commercial they produce to be “art” may put a bounty on my head for what I’m about to say, but I honestly don’t think that “good advertising” is defined by how the spot looks… Rather, it’s about what the message is, how memorable it is, and where, when and how often it runs.

We have a used car dealer in town whose TV spots positively suck, aesthetically speaking. He’s an annoying on-camera presence, and the ads are campy and poorly shot. He runs his ads heavily and non-stop all over cable TV, and EVERYBODY in town mocks him and his tag line, and talks about how bad the ads are.

Did you catch that last part?  Everybody in town is talking about him.  And if you have damaged credit and need a car, his dealership is the first place you think of.

Lousy ads?  Or effective?  When his ads come up in conversation, mine is usually the lone voice that says, “Aw, man, GREAT campaign!”  To me, the worst ads are the ones that get forgotten as soon as they air.  I’d name a few, but they were so boring and ineffectual that they didn’t make any sort of impression.

“Just because your ad looks good is no insurance that it will get looked at. How many people do you know who are impeccably groomed… but dull?”  — William Bernbach

Now, quite obviously the above video was done strictly for laughs, but I think an ad shot like the one above is actually MORE effective because of its (albeit intentionally) lousy production value. It makes it more memorable.  I probably wouldn’t use a spot like this to advertise video production services like these guys did, but I think I could make a case for any other product or service using a spot like this — something “so bad it’s good” — as an opportunity to poke fun at itself, give viewers something to talk about, deliver a strong, salient message, and create something really unforgettable.

What do you think?  As a business owner, would you care what people said about your ads if, at the end of the day, your sales went up, your revenue increased, and your business improved?

Working Together, Living Apart: Chapter 2 – The Remote Studio

About six weeks ago, my wife Kelly started her new job in Tucson, Arizona, leaving me to contend with winter back in Maine. Well, a few days ago, I decided I needed a break, so I packed a bag and flew out for a visit. I’m now writing this post from the apartment we’ve dubbed “Slaterville West.”

True to winter’s form, a Nor’easter prevented me from flying back to Maine on my regularly scheduled departure date, leaving me stuck here in Tucson for a few more days. With projects due back home. So it’s been a great opportunity to set up our remote studio and take it on a little test flight. Frankly, I’m amazed at what technology enables us to do.

In addition to my computer and related audio and video editing software — all of which I already had — I’ve invested in two tools that have enabled me to complete all the work I otherwise would have had to push back. The first is a USB-powered Samson C01U microphone. It provides studio-quality sound with only the most minor enhancement needed, and is an absolute steal at about a hundred bucks.

The second: GotoMyPC.com. For an annual fee of $100, I’m able to access my main (or Maine) computer from anywhere, at any time. It’s quite literally like looking through a window into my home office. All my files, programs, e-mail, everything is accessible, usable, and transferable in both directions. Pretty awesome. It was easy to purchase, and easy to install. In fact, with the one radio spot and one TV spot I’m producing this week, both the mic and GotoMyPC will have paid for themselves.

(The view from my AZ computer to my ME computer via gotomypc.com)

As my wife and I prepare to make our permanent move west, there will likely be a lot of travel back and forth between Maine and Arizona over the next six months. I’d had some initial concerns about missing work opportunities due to the technical restrictions that working remotely might present. But it seems like every day there’s a new bit of software, a new equipment upgrade, or a new application that allows us to keep right on going with our lives, no matter where our lives may lead.

So while my travel plans may leave me in warmer climes for a few more days, I must admit, I’m kind of torn. While I’m thrilled that I won’t HAVE to miss any more work, I also won’t GET to miss any, either.

Reward Loyalty

Whose happiness is more important to the success of your business — that of your future customers, or that of your longtime customers?

I let my cable/internet/phone provider have it yesterday, because I found out that new customers are able to purchase their services for a lower “introductory” price than I, who have been a customer of theirs for nearly a decade.

I knew there wasn’t much I’d be able to do.  I have no intention of switching services, and the customer service rep did everything she was allowed to do to get my bill as low as possible.  But I still asked to speak to a supervisor, because if it were my business, I’d want to know if a ten-year customer wasn’t happy.

I first explained what a pleasant experience I’d had with the customer service rep who transferred me (true).  Then I told him about how happy I’ve been with their product over the years (also true), and how often we recommend their services to others (also true).  And when I (courteously) expressed my displeasure with the notion that someone who isn’t even a current customer has access to a better rate than me… you know what happened?

He apologized me off the phone.  I didn’t get my bill lowered, I wasn’t satisfied, and I still have great services at a price I feel is a bit too high.  Overall, not much has changed.  Although things between us won’t quite be the same, and I’ll probably recommend their services a little less enthusiastically now.  But more importantly, I spoke up.  And I’ll probably still follow up via e-mail to their corporate office.  Because as I mentioned, if it were my business, I’d want to know.

Best of all, the experience has reminded me to first make sure my current customers are happy, before I worry about pleasing strangers.

Working Together… Living Apart

Today, Slater’s Garage changed in a pretty significant way.  Kelly Slater (my partner in life and in business) just packed up the car and departed from Maine to start a new job in Arizona.  This is a WELCOMED move – one we’ve been dreaming about, plotting, and planning for a long time, and we’re incredibly excited about the opportunities that moving to a larger (and warmer-weather) media market will bring.

The job offer and subsequent relocation happened very quickly, and during winter in northern New England, which means that for now, it’s not really practical for the rest of the family to make the move.  Our two kids still have to finish college come spring, and listing and selling our house in Maine may take awhile, so the rest of us stayed behind, while Kelly establishes “Slaterville West.”

Like many self-employed people, Kelly and I work pretty closely together.  I brainstorm with her about clients, we co-write many radio and TV scripts, and when we need a female voice for a spot, she’s almost exclusively my go-to person.  Notwithstanding the personal aspect of being apart, this move will also change the way we work.

In addition to my usual posts about media, ads and audio I also plan to share with you some of the facets of being a married couple who works together, but lives apart.  We believe it CAN be done effectively, especially with the availability and simplicity of digital communication, e-mail, phone, Skype, and related applications.

Will there be challenges?  Of course.  Mistakes made?  I expect a few.  But there are other families who’ve made such a dynamic work, and I’m interested in meeting them, and learning what I can from them about better ways to do business together, while living apart.

Keep watching the blog, and we’ll share what we learn along the way!

Cable TV and the Economic Stimulus

Every so often on cable TV, I see promotions offering incentives to new cable subscribers: “Sign up now, and get the first 3 months FREE!” or some similar reward to prospective customers.

I’ve been a loyal cable subscriber for the past 8 years.  I’ve paid my bill every month, and use my cable company for not only TV, but also internet and telephone service.  I think that’s worthy of some sort of reward or sign of appreciation, don’t you?  Certainly more worthy than someone who’s not even a customer yet.

So, one time, after seeing one of these offers on TV, I called the cable guys and asked ’em, essentially, “What about me, your long-time, loyal customer?  Aren’t I deserving of a similar spiff?”  The good news:  They were kind enough to extend the same offer to me.  The bad news:  I had to ask.

Similarly, when I found out about the recent housing stimulus President Obama proposed in Mesa, Arizona last week, I was prompted to write another “What about me” letter — this time to Maine Senator Susan Collins:

Dear Senator Collins:

As I watch President Obama speak in Mesa, Arizona today regarding the economic stimulus plan and the effort to slow the mortgage foreclosure rate in the U.S., what I’m seeing raises a few concerns: President Obama discussed relief for those home buyers who were permitted, and in some cases, encouraged to “overborrow,” and are now “upside down” in their mortgages, as well as extending incentives to lenders like Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac to help lenders refinance and lower their monthly payments on said loans.

My question to you regarding this matter: Could you please provide a list of government-subsidized incentives, rewards, and/or programs which are available to Americans like myself, a small-business owner who have spent my entire adult life living and borrowing within my means, working to maintain impeccable credit, and always striving to make payments on time, provide for myself and my family, and generally “playing by the rules?”

I’m very interested in learning more about how President Obama’s economic stimulus plan will address the concerns of citizens like myself who don’t need or want a government “bailout,” and who feel that WE are the ones who should be rewarded for our fiscally responsible behavior. Instead, as I see it, we seem to be the ones who will end up paying the most for these mistakes, and the extremely expensive measures which President Obama is taking to remedy them.

Respectfully,

Brett Slater

It’s only been a week, but as yet, I have not received a response.  I know Senator Collins’ office is good about getting back to those who write, but I’m not expecting the same satisfaction I got from the cable company.

New business is important, obviously.  But in that quest for new customers, don’t take for granted those long-term clients who’ve stuck with you, paid their bills on time,  and continued to do business with you “the right way,” during good times and/or bad.  And (Mr. President) don’t ask your good customers to make up for the shortfalls of your bad ones.

At any rate, to MY customers, thank you.  I sincerely appreciate your continued business.  I’ll knock myself out to make sure you’re ALWAYS taken care of.  And I’ll never ask you to pay extra to cover for my or anyone else’s mistakes.  I value your business far too much.