January 10, 2019

Over the years, the TV commercial has become a favorite whipping post, under attack from TV “visionaries,” agencies and marketers sounding off in the press, or at the hands of consumer outrage on social platforms.

But the “commercial” is not the problem. In fact, the full-screen medium of TV remains the best way to communicate a brand message and story. The TV ad does not need to be reinvented, it just needs to be evolved.

Music is my analogy here: the commercial is no more a problem to TV than the song is to music.  It’s the rigidity, passivity, repetitiveness and monotony of the commercial that’s ruined it. Consider:

Frequency and ad load. Even your favorite song would become pretty annoying if you were forced to listen to it seven to 10 times a day. So why are we surprised that viewers get so pissed at commercials?   

Telling a story.  Bands release full albums instead of just one song so they can tell a story, convey an idea or an emotion. So why are we blaming the commercial when marketers run a single 30-second piece of creative for a year or more?  

Length. Just imagine if every song was required to be three minutes in length: no more, no less.  Context matters in life. There’s a time and a place to zone out to some quick hits on the way to work, versus mellowing out to that 15-minute epic Phish jam at home. Same goes for commercial length. The key is finding the consumer ad threshold that coincides with the main viewing content.  

Targeting. Ariana Grande is number one on the Billboard 100 as I write this, but hers is not my preferred music genre, so I will never want to listen to that song. The same goes for ads. You might have the best ad, but if you’re targeting the wrong audience, they’re going to hate it no matter what.

Personalization. Having a wonderful picnic outside with the kids? Probably not the best setting to blast some Rage Against the Machine. Your message is more likely to resonate when it aligns with the viewer’s life stage, mood, and other circumstances.

Engagement and immersion. Imagine music without the immersive, live experience of a concert. Similarly, if you have the best brand or ad on the planet, but don’t provide interested viewers a path for engaging, you’re missing out on all that enthusiasm (and sales).

Transaction. Lastly, what if we couldn’t buy our favorite album easily, or there was no T-shirt to commemorate the concert? Viewers hate friction. Digital audio theft declined dramatically when it finally became easier to pay for that digital track than it was to steal it. Adding easy shopability to commercials is inevitable, too.  

So, there’s nothing wrong with the commercial, no more than there is something wrong with a song. The commercial just needs to be evolved to fit the tastes, preferences, technology and experience of today’s viewer to be relevant, effective and lasting.

by Robert Aksman
courtesy of mediapost



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