6 Ingredients to Making a Blockbuster Commercial
The importance of sight and sound (preferable together) can’t be underestimated in the brand building process. Walter D. Scott, Assistant Professor of Psychology in Northwestern University who studied the psychology of advertising says “the function of our nervous system is to make us aware of the sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, etc., of the objects in our environment, and the more sensations we receive from an object the better we know it.” The more senses a brand can touch the more memorable the brand message. No wonder the video expression of the brand is king.
There was a day when a 30 second commercial could change a brands image overnight as long as the viewing audience was large enough to create a tipping point. Ergo the NFL Super Bowl where 114 million people are anticipating the commercials as much as who is going to win the game. But this also comes with a hefty price tag of almost $5 million per 30 seconds or $166,666 per second. At this rate you better have a message that achieves a touchdown.
Not dissimilar to the movie industry, there are blockbusters that captivate the world, and then there are hundreds of movies that pass through the night with no residual effect or impact. The average Hollywood movie is about 150 mins long and cost about $200 million (or $11,000 per second or $330,000 for 30 seconds) to make.
According to the last published report on this topic (2011 Television Production Cost Survey) the average cost of a 30-second commercial was $354,000. If you project that number into 2016 prices, it’s fair to say the average cost is around $380,000. During those precious seconds, you’ve got to tell a story that’s so memorable it burns a life-time image in the consumers mind.
Take for example the iconic 1984 Apple’s Macintosh commercial that ran only once on the Super Bowl, it is still being talked about today 32 years later. While the media buy was for one 30 second spot it broke the barrier beyond advertising into non-paid public relations as the commercial was on every talk show and news show. Oh and, by the way, they sold $155 million worth of Macintoshes in the first three months. A touchdown indeed.
A successful brand video (TV commercial or online) must have one important ingredient to be successful – it must be emotionally engaging. You must feel it.
Being edgy helps to be memorable, but it must be relevant within the times. Humour is often used to capture the heart with the help of a likeable character. Animals and babies are generally foolproof in pulling on the heart-strings. The most memorable commercials are those that solicit the “wow” factor by combining sheer entertainment with something you never thought of or have seen before. The two strongest reactions are a hardy belly laugh or an emotional tear. Every Telus commercial tries to put a smile on your face with their zoo animals or Budweiser with their puppy love commercials.
Extra Gum – The Story of Sarah & Juan
Kmart – Ship my Pants
Relate To People
Mitch Joel, president of Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation says brands cannot be human but acknowledges that brands are made of people who actually care about their customers. Likewise, people like connecting with other people (including pets, but that’s another discussion). Mitch states “[successful] brands may never be human, but they can become more humane.”
Brands spend millions of dollars trying to be more human-centric with better customer-service, and constructing lovable brand personalities that convey human characteristics and values. What better way to add the human touch or face to a brand than seeing the brand as a person. The premise is simple. If you like the person you will like the brand. Some brands cheat or exploit their relationship by using a famous person’s celebrity status to instantly add millions of followers, but others build a unique personality from the ground up.
Old Spice Man
Apple guy vs. Microsoft guy
Be In Tune
In a study by Jacob Jolij and Maaike Meurs, the researchers found that “mood, as induced by music, is also reflected in visual awareness, both in biasing processing sensory input, as in the generation of conscious visual percepts in absence of structured visual input. In other words, the music you are listening to might directly alter the way you perceive the world.” The soundtrack is hugely important in stirring the emotions and feelings. Think of all the great movies like Titanic, Jaws and Star Wars. You can probably hum the tunes right now. Can you still feel the intensity? What would these films be like without a soundtrack?
The Dirt Devil – The Exorcist
Everyone has a story that’s unique to them – as does a brand. Uniqueness make the story worth sharing. Inspire and awe your audience. The most memorable commercials holds a place in our memories forever. They are essentially pieces of art that display the latest designs, music and culture at that moment of time. In a world where art expression is everywhere, commercials must earn consumers attention and not expect it. Ken Segall, who worked on Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, attributes the success of this commercial on its ability to be thought-provoking and disrupt the advertising world by creating “a commercial that is totally revolutionary in the world of advertising and is seen by a huge audience.”
Nike – Find Your Greatness
Red Bull – Space Jump
Achieve Greatness, Responsibly
Any brand with tons of cash and a very creative agency can create an awesome commercial. But if it doesn’t match the product or customer experience, you are wasting money and could inadvertently damage the brand. The commercial can transform a brand image, but is must also support the core brand values and promise. Nothing is worse than setting high expectations with a great commercial to have people disappointed when they advertising promised isn’t delivered by the product. I think of Banks or Airlines who continue to over promise and under deliver.
The California Raisin Board created memorable TV commercials in the 1980s. They portrayed raisins as cool sunglasses-wearing Claymation characters singing and dancing to Marvin Gaye’s soul music. Using beer advertising classic technique of associating their product with music and fun. However, fun and music are generally associated with social events (where beer may be present). I’m not sure the same stories are shared around a bowl full of dried grapes…that will never be wine! In fact, raisin sales did get a small bump from the commercials but soon slumped. Maybe “the blues” would have been a better fit.
In 1997, the Taco Bell Chihuahua was the fast-food chain’s big attempt to establish the dog as the brand mascot. While the ads were great fun and memorable, sales went into the toilet. I guess no one wanted to buy spicy ground beef from a dog. Maybe the same happen with the Subway monkey commercials.
10 – 600 Seconds to Shine
No longer are we confined to the 30 sec or 60 sec video format built by the classic TV commercial. The digital world has redefined the rules. However, most agency and brands are still stuck in the TV commercial format, primarily because television commercials still greatly influences a buying decisions. According to Deloitte‘s 10th edition State of the Media Democracy survey done in 2015, 63% of Americans stated that TV advertising still has the most impact on their buying decisions. This has dropped from 86% just four years ago. Meanwhile, millennials rely more on recommendations from their social media circle and online reviews.
Make a Blockbuster
Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore in their book, The Experience Economy, make a compelling case that today’s customers want and expect to be “positively, emotionally and memorably impacted at every level of their commercial existence.” The fastest and the most impactful way to make this happen is video. A brand video has the power to make customers cry, laugh or change their perception forever.