Tag Archives: creative

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.

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?”

The Armory on Pima Gets It

One of our mantras when it comes to advertising is, “Be memorable.” An ad that doesn’t stand out in some way — that people forget immediately after they see/hear it — is an opportunity wasted.

The guys at the Armory on Pima in Tucson get it. I don’t know who wrote and produced this spot, but as local ads go, it’s one of the best examples of “Be Memorable” I’ve seen in some time.  Well done, you guys!

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?