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Television – The Super Bowl of Advertising

You watched the Super Bowl for the ads, didn’t you? That’s the trendy thing today. Whether you root for (or against) one of the teams in the game, you tune in mostly to see the ads. I have actually seen Super Bowl Parties where everyone gets a scorecard to rate the ads they see.

In fact, I use the Super Bowl ads and a Super Bowl party as the premise for my book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t).

Television has been, from its moment of inception, one of the greatest media for advertising. Why? Because it combines the three most important elements—Words, Music, and Pictures.

“Use a picture. It is worth a thousand words.”Tess Flanders

Pictures are storytellers by nature. Storytelling is one of the most powerful principles for making ads more effective. With thirty seconds you can tell a powerful, emotional story just with pictures alone.

“Control the music and you control the mood.” -Roy H. Williams

Music is emotion. Music allows you to speak to the heart. Regardless of the words or the visuals, music can change the way people feel quickly and fully. Don’t believe me? Think about the TV Show M*A*S*H.  Can you hear the soothing melodies of the theme song? Feel-good music for sure. Now go ahead and Google the lyrics to this song entitled “Suicide is Painless.” If that isn’t enough to make you scratch your head, check out the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife. Music controls the emotion. (I’ll bet the politicians who try to use the Boss’s song for their campaigns never bothered to read the lyrics.)

“In the beginning was the word …” -John 1:1

Words power the imagination. Words call whole worlds into existence. The right words in the right order can change history. When Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address many people of that day felt it was the worst presidential speech ever, mainly because of its brevity. Most presidential speeches lasted an hour or so. But Lincoln knew the power of fewer, more tightly written words. Now we consider it one of the greatest speeches ever because he said so much in so few words. God spoke the world into existence. You speak worlds into the imagination of your listeners.

What this trifecta means for advertising is that Television Ads have the ability to make a much stronger impact than any other form of advertising out there. A well-crafted television ad can be impactful with only one viewing. Just last month I bought two different flavors of Pringles because of the Super Bowl Ad I saw. Once.

The downside to Television?

  • It is expensive.
  • It is difficult.
  • Fewer and fewer people watch the ads.

It is expensive and difficult to create a great television ad that moves the needle. Just look at how many flops and failures to move the needle we had from this last Super Bowl. And these are companies with millions of dollars at their disposal. Too many companies try to be too clever. You simply need to step back and look at the three elements—pictures, music, words—and make sure they tell the story, invoke the feeling, and implant ideas into the imagination of your viewers so that they think of you first.

It is also expensive and difficult to schedule a television campaign so that your not-so-impactful ad can be seen enough times to make a lasting impression. Unlike radio, where listeners pretty much stick to one channel and don’t switch, television viewers are not as station-loyal. Some stations such as ESPN and HGTV do have a loyal group of followers, but those viewers often have the station on in the background, making your ability to attract their attention even more difficult. Most viewers, however, never let the remote control get out of reach and are quick to change stations as soon as a commercial break begins.

People are using DVR’s, Netflix, and Hulu to avoid advertising as much as possible. I know I am guilty of taping shows to watch later, fast-forwarding through all the commercials. Part of it is that I don’t have time to commit to the full show. I can save about ten minutes an hour watching on my own schedule. Also, frankly, most television ads suck. I don’t want to watch them. Even from its first days as a medium, people used the commercial breaks to go to the bathroom, get more food, or take the dog outside.

If you want to use television to get your branding message out to the world, here are some tips to helps.

  • Choose the words, images, and pictures carefully. They need to tell a story, invoke a feeling, and spur the imagination. Period.
  • Make it about the customer and her life, not about you.
  • Say something memorable, powerful.
  • Have your images move/change slowly. This way your images are more visible to the fast-forwarding crowd.
  • Choose shows or stations that people watch repeatedly. News shows, talk shows, and specialized programming stations are usually best.
  • Change the story (but not the message or the feeling) every three-to-four weeks. Ads grow old quickly, especially when humor is part of the ad. The joke wears thin after several tellings.

If you have the budget, the creative talent, and the knowledge how to use it correctly, Television still works incredibly well for delivering your branding message and driving traffic to your doors.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This is the first post in a series of posts on the different forms of media and how they work best. As I said before, all advertising works, but only if you know how it works best and use it the proper way. One area that Television is becoming less and less effective is in the Hype ads. Not only are Millennials “hype”er-sensitive and skeptical, they are teaching the rest of us to view hype that way. Even though one television ad can be quite impactful, if you have an event or sale to hype, there might be better, more affordable ways of getting your message across than television.