My Two Cents, Part I
I suppose there are lots of potential reasons to run a TV commercial.
Maybe you only want to inspire confidence in your brand, but not necessarily drive sales of a specific product. Maybe you want people to know you care about the environment so that you needn’t fear arriving at work to find the Save the Praying Mantis Coalition picketing your plant. Maybe you want investors to feel good about the stock they just bought. Maybe all you want is for the Board of Directors to take pride in the commercial. Maybe you want to be able to brag that your spot ran in the Super Bowl. Maybe you want your spot to accrue oodles of awards that you can use to attract more clients.
Fine. But usually, the idea behind a TV commercial is to sell something. Especially when you pay $3,000,000.00 or more to air it just one time. Plus the million(s) you spent making the darned thing in the first place.
Now, before we discuss the Super Bowl spots, let’s debunk a big myth about what sells in advertising. Many if not most ad people preach that if your commercial is “truly creative” — whatever the devil that means — it will sell. It is nonsense.
There are, however, plenty of ways to enhance a commercial’s selling power. For now I’ll name just four:
- Make sure the right people see it. Choose the right networks, stations, shows and times. At $3,000,000.00 per half-minute, you’d better be certain that the folks glued to the Super Bowl are the ones you need to reach. Good bet for colas, beers and automakers. But yogurt? Go-Daddy? The History Channel?
- Be relevant. Present benefits that matter to your customers. Note: Merely entertaining them doesn’t count. The Acura spot, for instance, does a better job of selling Seinfeld reruns than of selling Acuras.
- Make your product the hero. Making your product a prop in a comedy about something else (Matthew Broderick’s day off) doesn’t count. Neither does having your product emerge as the hero by doing something other than what it is intended to do (like having a car’s headlights kill vampires).
- Take advantage of TV’s visual nature. Ideally, a viewer should be able to turn off the sound and infer a product benefit from the pictures alone. Good luck on that one with most of this year’s spots.
By the standards above, most of this year’s Super Bowl spots flunk. Don’t get me wrong. Many of the spots are utterly delightful. Loved ’em. They are great short films. Just not particularly efficient advertising.
In my next post, I shall lighten up and do some one-line reviews.