Tag Archives: slatersgarage

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?

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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.

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.

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.

 

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!

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?

Vintage Local TV Advertising

As a guy who spent the first 18 years of his life plopped in front of the TV, I had a LOT of time to absorb the lilting, dulcet sounds of all the commercials as they wafted through my mind. If you grew up around the New York City area in the 70s/80s, you may remember such classics as…

The Ritz Thrift Shop… “You don’t need a million to look like a million…”

Mount Airy Lodge… “Have a fine winter time in the Poconos…”

Crazy Eddie — His prices were insane. (And I found some Crazy Eddie outtakes, too.)

Carvel Ice Cream Stores… If my memory was ever completely erased, I think I’d still be able to identify Tom Carvel’s voice.

And finally, a JFK Express double-shot… “Take the Train to the Plane.”

Hope these bring back some great memories. If you know of any others, by all means, share ’em!