Tag Archives: television

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 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!

Cello, Again, Cello

Have you noticed the recent surge in cello music in commercials?  Facebook is the most recent offender — their video explaining their new “Messages” feature sounds disappointingly similar to several other spots currently on the air and online.  Here’s just a mere smattering of similar-sounding background music which, to me, makes every ad blend together into a meaningless din, starting with the aforementioned Facebook:

The last two examples even use the same piece.  Granted, the dog food ad was from a few years ago, but nevertheless… Is that the ONLY piece of music that could fit either of those spots?

When preparing to produce an ad, I’ve had more than one client tell me, “We love the _______ commercial.  Can you do something like that?”

Well, yeah, I can.  But as a business trying to gain market share from competitors, why would you want that?  Don’t you want something that reminds prospective customers of YOU, instead of somebody else?

Funny thing is, now that I’ve pointed out these, I betcha you see/hear “cello spots” all over the place.  I know I’ve missed a bunch.  Please feel free to share the ones you find in the comments below.

Next week, we’ll tackle ukulele spots.

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.