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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Creating Powerful TV Commercials

We’ve all seen those 30 second ads splashed across the TV in our living rooms, but have you ever wondered what makes a good commercial? Here are some ideas to producing memorable advertising in the 30-second visual medium:

#1: Sentimental Stories:

Advertising that guides viewers with relatable characters in a storyline helps people to remember the advertisement far better than one that simply touts the product or company with a laundry list of benefits to consumers.

For example, in a heartwarming MasterCard commercial, a puppy finds himself astray from his family and winds up hitching rides from various travelers. In the end, the dog never found his way home as he jumped into a truck and rode down a long road. This ad actually was structured as two separate commercials: Parts 1 & 2. Part 1 posed a question of whether this dog would return home. A question that goes unanswered means it lingers in the consumer's mind. Weeks later, Part 2 aired showing the dog returning home his family, satisfying the question.

#2 Make ‘em Laugh:

Laughter is one of the highest forms of emotional therapy and allows viewers to let down their guards. The Got Milk commercials were some of the most memorable and talked about ads for years.

Rather than discussing a list of nutritional benefits of drinking Whole, Skim, 1%, or Fat Free milk, the advertisers brilliantly told hilarious stories of characters placed in situations where they desired milk after eating a delicious cookie. The milk of course, eluded their grasp every time and caused viewers to empathize with the character at an emotional level rather than an intellectual one.

The effect? We relate to not getting what we want, whatever it was, and the symbolization of drinking milk became a way of satisfying that craving.

#3 Adapt Previous Material:

In 1984, Apple computers hired Ridley Scott, famed director of Blade Runner to direct a commercial to launch their newest computer, the Macintosh.

The commercial paid homage to George Orwell’s book “1984” as it depicted a woman in a colorful outfit running with a sledgehammer inside an underground facility while evading darkly clad police officers. As people in grey outfits and shaved heads mindlessly watched a dictator spew fascist propaganda on a giant screen, the woman destroyed the screen with her sledgehammer.

The effect? Macintosh computers would birth a new era of freedom and creativity with technology.

Additional Note: The 1984 ad aired once during the super bowl and in a few theaters, but because of the powerful message that people recognized from the book, it created a media craze. The commercial gained attention in print, radio, and TV newscasts, generating free advertising for Apple. This ad remains the most famous & popular commercial ever made.

Copyright Joe Lam. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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