Tag Archives: marketing

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.


8 Voiceover Tips for Beginners

I spent some time this week recording some radio spots for my friends at Sephone Interactive Media.  They host my web site, and are my general go-to guys for all things web-related.  Incredible team.

The series of radio spots I’m producing for them have a small section recorded by each of the team members, followed by a common closing recorded by me.  As I packed up my gear after the session, they asked me, “What tips can you give us to help us improve?”  So I thought I’d post a few of them here.  Bear in mind, this post is gonna be strictly about technique.  We can cover WHAT to say in another post.

I’ve recorded LOTS of clients over the years, and many of them are new to voicing their own spots.  Whenever I meet a new client for a first-time recording session, this is what I tell ‘em.

1)  Be yourself.  You’re not an announcer, and it’s totally OK if you don’t have “that voice.”  You WANT to sound like you.  Authenticity is key in people believing your message.  It’s even OK to work with your engineer/director/producer to rewrite parts of your script on the fly, to make it fit better with the way you naturally speak.

2)  If possible, stand to read.   If not, at least sit up tall.  And hold your script at eye level, so you don’t have to look down to read it.  This will pinch your airway, and affect how you sound.

3)  Position yourself with your mouth about one fist’s width away from the microphone, and speak across the mic – with your head slightly off center — rather than directly into it.  This’ll eliminate popping P’s and B’s, and improve overall quality of the recording.

4)  Smile as you read.  People CAN hear smiles. (If your spot is a happy one, of course)

5)  Over-emote.  Now OVER-over-emote.  If you’d like to convey a mood of happiness, then read as if you’re crazy-happy.  If it’s a sad, or sincere piece, then furrow your brow, and really ooze that sincerity.  No matter how far over the top you may feel like you’re going, it never sounds as overboard on the air.

6)  Envision yourself talking TO someone.  Imagine your ideal customer, or potential customer, and speak to him or her.  And imagine ony ONE person.  While your message may be heard by many, the best impact is made when each person listening feels like you’re speaking only to him or her.

7)  Practice.  Most of the time, you’ll have your script in advance of the session, so practice it.   Try different deliveries, different inflections, and so on.  This will help you with pace, and timing, as well as help you feel less self-conscious about “performing” at the session.

8)  Relax, and have fun!  This is your chance to “play radio” for awhile, and break out of your comfort zone, so enjoy it!  I’m here to do one thing: Help you be clear in conveying your message, and we’ll stay until you’re happy with the result.

These tips don’t just apply to radio, either.  Podcasting and online video are also becoming viable media outlets for businesses to communicate with their customers.   If you’ve thought about starting a podcast or a YouTube channel to help market your business, these tips will assuredly help you there, too.

Got any other tips?  By all means, share ‘em in the comments section.   And thanks, as always, for reading.  Good luck!

Selling Small Pleasures

* By Brett Slater and Kelly Slater

I guess it’s official now: We’re in a recession. Businesses are cutting back, and consumers are tightening their belts — maybe not going out to eat as often, or not treating ourselves to extravagances we once did. So does that mean no one’s buying ANYthing anymore? Obviously, not. We’re just being a little more conscious of what we spend our money on, and how we choose to enjoy our expenditures.

As consumers, we still want to spend money and have “stuff,” but lately, the media and “society” make us feel like we shouldn’t (or can’t), when in most cases, we can, but on a different scale. Perhaps we may have to skip the big Florida vacation in lieu of a vacation closer to home. Or maybe we go out to eat every two weeks instead of every Friday. But we still desire those simple pleasures.

Take these guys, for example. The Cigar & Smoke Shoppe is doing great business in spite of the flagging economy — or maybe because of it. For a couple bucks, you can sit in their store, in a big comfy recliner, in front of a fireplace with a great cigar, put your feet up, and enjoy a few minutes of relaxation and escape. A simple pleasure, indeed. And that’s how they market themselves in their advertising. “Come relax, put your feet up, and enjoy a great cigar.”

During economic slowdowns, many businesses opt to cut their advertising budget. Imagine! “Hey, things are slow out there. Let’s stop telling people to come see us!” In fact, you should be changing your message to suit the times, not eliminating the message altogether. If you’re a local hotelier, consider an ad that caters to the consumers in your own town, pitching a weekend or overnight getaway, rather than gearing your marketing to attract vacationers from out of town, or out of state. Spa owner? How ’bout offering 15-minute chair massages to people on their lunch breaks? Jewelry store? Maybe, rather than, “Buy a pair of earrings, and get a free cleaning,” you say, “Bring in your earrings for a free cleaning, and get a discount on your next purchase.” You may not make a sale at that moment, but you DO get ’em in the store, and you DO provide a small pleasure which they’ll talk about later.

When economic times are tough, consumers are looking for more and more of those small pleasures. Expenditures that aren’t considered “extravagant” won’t feel extravagant when purchased. So, if you tell your customers, “Yeah, it really is okay to spend your money on this [bar of soap, bottle of wine, dinner, etc.], because it’s a small indulgence, and it makes you feel great,” you’re giving them permission to continue to enjoy themselves.

And in return for giving them that small pleasure, you’ll have earned their future business, regardless of the economic climate.

Another Venue For CGA: Local TV

If you ask me, the only definition of “Broadcast Quality” video production is that it be, well, broadcast. These days, no longer does one need thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, lighting, actors, post-production equipment, monitors, playback and editing gear, etc. As equipment and software become more advanced, amateur and semi-pro producers can do a LOT more, with a LOT less.

Case in point, this commercial I produced for Dorr’s Equipment, a tractor dealer in my home town of Bangor, Maine:

Relatively speaking, I don’t have a lot of formal training in video production. In fact, all I know about it was self-taught. My Panasonic camera and Vegas software came from Best Buy, and I bought Anime Studio for fifty bucks online. Gone are the days when advertisers are beholden to the TV stations to produce their commercials for them. Nowadays, people like you and me are more than capable of creating compelling advertising at far less cost than many TV stations might charge for their production.

However, there are some things to bear in mind — constants that hold true in the creation of ANY effective advertising:

  • The message is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT factor in any ad. Is the message compelling enough to entice people to act? And are you presenting that message in the clearest way possible? Which leads me to the script:
  • In a TV spot, you have 30 seconds to convey that one message. Dorr’s asked me to promote their Zero Percent Financing on Kubota Tractors through the end of 2008, so that’s the singular message in this ad. No mention of chainsaws, used equipment, parts, service, etc. No clutter. One message.
  • There should be a certain level of quality to the production. It doesn’t have to be slick and polished — these days, I’d even go so far as to say that’s a negative. The spot can, and in some cases should look a little rough. It adds a certain personal feel, a certain uniqueness to the spot. However, it should be technically airable. If not, the TV stations probably won’t run it. It should be 30-seconds on the nose. The V/O should be clear and well-recorded, and the video should be as tightly-edited as you know how to do. Most of this is attainable with a few extra minutes of scrutiny during editing.
  • Schedule is tantamount to message. An ad that cost a million dollars to produce, but only runs once, won’t work as well as one that cost a thousand dollars, but runs more frequently. “Repetition builds reputation.” The more a message is seen or heard, the more it’s remembered. If you ask me, less spent on production, and more spent on schedule is a better investment of ad dollars.

Bottom line: Production cost doesn’t necessarily equal effective advertising. I’ve seen multi-million dollar ads aired during the Super Bowl which are not as effective or memorable as spots produced locally for just a few hundred bucks. And now, with the creativity, ability, and talent I’ve seen among my peers online, amateur creators like my brethren on sites like YouTube, GeniusRocket and PopTent have the opportunity to help local businesses create unique TV advertising that also works.

The 7 Commandments of Video Contesting

I was recently fortunate enough to win the Grand Prize in the Maine Association of Realtors“My Piece of Maine” video contest which ran April to June of this year. And over the past year or so, I’ve had a pretty good batting average with many of the “consumer-generated advertising” contests that brands have held online, be they on their own, or through creator/company matchmaker sites like XLNTAds.com and GeniusRocket.com.

Many people ask, “How do you find out about these contests?” or “How do you come up with that stuff?” So, this post is an attempt to answer some of these questions, and share a little about what I’ve learned at this stage of the game.

1) Thou shalt be brief. This is one for Advertisers to bear in mind as well as Creators, and to me, it’s the most important. With the internet cultivating such short attention spans in its users, you gotta make your point, then wrap it up, especially when you’re making an ad. 60 seconds is plenty. 30 is better.

2) Thou shalt play by the rules. This one’s simple. Read the creative brief, contest rules, instructions, etc., and follow ‘em to the letter. If they ask for an .mpg, don’t send an .avi. If they say “no more than 3 minutes,” don’t submit a video that’s 3:45. Don’t give contest administrators any reason to disqualify your entry before it even gets viewed.

3) Honor thy target demo. Is the advertiser trying to reach women 35-54? Men 40+? Pet owners? Gamers? Make your video a mirror of that target viewer, so when they watch, they see themselves.

4) Remember thy deadline, and keep it holy. Don’t be late with your submission, and don’t ask for an extension. It’s not fair to the people who were on time.

5) Thou shalt not be a poor sport. Be humble when you win, and gracious when you don’t. Congratulate the winner(s) sincerely and affably, or don’t say anything. You may not agree with the judges’ decisions, but they were made for a reason. Besides, if you hit the target every time, it’s either too close or too big, right? Get ‘em next time.

6) Thou shalt get involved in the community. As creators, we all strive to be original and unique, but we do have at least one thing in common: each other. Interact. Read and subscribe to related blogs. Comment and ask questions of other creators. Learn as much as you can, and offer help to those who ask it of you. We’re at the forefront of this burgeoning advertising medium, and in a few years’ time, we’re going to be the seasoned experts, so we’re gonna have to know what the hell we’re talkin’ about.

And finally,

7) Thou shalt not enter a contest in which I am also competing. Because face it: I don’t need the competition, and neither do you.

Obviously, I’m kidding about the last one. I actually welcome the competition, and quite enjoy it. There are a TON of outstanding video creators online, and when I see a good video, it always makes me want to step up my game a little more.

If you have any other tips you think would make good “Commandments” for your fellow contesters, by all means, please post ’em!

Good luck!