OPINION: There was a time, not all that long ago, when at various stages of production, TV advertisements were subjected to some kind of consumer research, writes Chris Moerdyk.
Sure, getting opinions from people in the street has it’s drawbacks and hassles, but on the odd occasion, going through the exercise has actually ended up saving a lot of money.
Somehow too many communicators have forgotten that research is critical to the efficiency of advertising. It is not an optional extra. It is an investment that pays dividends but is downright dangerous if it is not done properly.
These days far too many TV commercials seem to go on air without the agency or client giving much thought to the real impression it will have on viewers.
Basically, what happens unless an agency and its unsuspecting client are careful, is that the team involved in producing the ad get so involved with what they are doing that they don’t see the wood for the trees. Often, without knowing, they start at concept stage with an ad that is too long and too expensive. It is then cut down to a say, a one-minute or 30 second commercial.
Now, everyone in the production team knows what was cut out and so the eventual commercial makes sense. But the poor viewer hasn’t the foggiest notion of what is going on because they weren’t able to see the cut parts that made the ad make sense.
There are two other areas where a lot of companies fall down. The first is making the mistake of producing a ‘once-off’ commercial – unconsciously working on the basis that the ad will only be seen once. The second is wrongly assuming that viewers will absorb every aspect of a TV ad.
On the first point, it is vital that before producing an ad the creative team gets some idea from their media colleagues on the flighting frequency. Commercials are like jokes – hysterical when you hear one the first time but in most cases, no matter how good the joke, when you hear the same guy tell it the tenth time you want to smack him in the face.
It is the same with a TV commercial. Frequency is all-important but it can also be an advertisement’s worst enemy.
One way to test the difference between a good and bad ad is to take a 60-second commercial and count how many points of interest there are. A point of interest being something in the ad that gets your attention.
If there is only one at the beginning and one at the end – then you have an ad that should definitely not be run frequently.
No matter how excited an agency creative team and client might feel about an ad, the consumer will never share that level of excitement. What keeps the consumer watching and not channel swapping or heading for the kitchen are those little things – facial expressions, pieces of action, bits of dialogue – sufficient points of interest.
Almost the same way as a novel has to have high and low points running through it to keep the reader interested. Bad commercials are those that are totally predictable from the second time you watch it. Where one feels you have to plough your way through 60 long seconds.
Those are the ads that turn viewers off the product.
Lasting impressions are vital for the success of a TV commercial. This is where most ads fall down. Assuming the viewer is going to understand quite clearly what the message is.
One of the most memorable television ads ever flighted in this country was the ‘ISM Elephants’ commercial produced when IBM withdrew from South Africa and local management bought the company and called it ISM. They ran an ad featuring a ‘big brother’ and baby elephant in the desert.
It fast became one of the most loved ads in the country. It won awards and the hearts of the majority of South Africans.
What were the lasting impressions? Quite simply it was of a cute baby elephant. Most viewers could not remember who the advertiser was and those that eventually did link it to ISM were unable to say quite what the ads was trying to achieve. They had no idea of what the message was.
Equally, only a few years ago the Budweiser Beers’ ‘Wassup’ campaign won top honours at the Cannes International Advertising Awards. Everyone thought it was wonderful but also back at the ranch not only had Budweiser sales dropped but the brand lost a few percentage points in market share. A classic example of an ad that scored high with viewers but which ended up doing a disastrous marketing job.
On top of which, TV viewers don’t normally make a habit of being 100% attentive to ads. In fact the majority of television viewers do not hear even half of what is said. Try asking friends or family what the news was all about and you’ll get a variety of different answers.
All too often, TV commercials are being spewed out without anyone in the communications, creative or production teams giving an iota of thought to how the viewer will react. And that’s dangerous. Proper research is the best way of reducing that risk.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @.
IMAGE: Budweiser Wassup ad
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