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Rules for winning TV ad campaigns

Jul 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

For anyone looking for tips on creating hot advertising campaigns at last week’s CTAM Summit in Boston, the place to be was the “Dirty Details of Creating Advertising Campaigns” master course.
The advertising course, the only session closed to the press, according to convention organizers, was taught by Jane Maas, chairman emeritus, Earle Palmer Brown Advertising & Public Relations. Ms. Maas, the self-described mother of the “I Love New York” ad campaign, reviewed the elements that made some classic TV ads memorable and some recent network branding campaigns effective.
The effective networks include HBO and NBC, which have pre-empted important qualities from their competitors by touting “It’s not TV (it’s HBO)” and “Must See TV,” respectively; Hallmark Channel, which is catching the mood of post-9/11 America with its “Great stories that stay with you” campaign; and Animal Planet, which is running a menagerie of witty spots, including one with a gorilla baby sitter, that proclaim, “Life is better with animals.”
Turner Classic Movies, whose viewers tend to be in the 55-and-up demographic, is successfully appealing to a younger generation, with witty ads spoofing classic films (a production of “Rocky” in an old-age home, one of “Ben Hur” in a grade school and a performance of “The Dirty Dozen” on ice) and a tagline (“When every great movie is a classic, it’s bound to have an effect”) that tells younger demos they should tune in because classic films affect their culture.
“Almost every new product/service success story of the last 50 years has been a success of television advertising,” Ms. Maas said, also pointing out the one recent exception to that rule: the Altoid mints campaign that is based almost solely on outdoor-billboard advertising. “Increasingly today your TV viewer is sitting home judging [the advertising],” she added.
Her rules for successful TV spots:
* Let the pictures tell the story. Ms. Maas thinks the best ads can be understood with the sound turned down, and that storyboards that are employed for mock-ups are best viewed without the accompanying text.
* Be single-minded. Fifteen-second spots, which are the rage in Britain, for example, offer opportunity to state only the product’s name and perhaps a single product benefit to the prospective consumer.
* Can it be summed up in one or two “key visuals”? Merrill Lynch’s famous “Bullish on America” spots from Ogilvy & Mather originally had only a few key frames in which a distant dot grew into a herd of stampeding bulls charging the camera.
* Is the core idea the most important/most memorable element in the spot?
* Make sure it’s intrusive, but beware of “vampire video.” “Vampire video” in Ms. Maas’ lexicon refers to the “blonde draped over the car” in the auto commercial or any other “totally extraneous” element simply included to get the viewer’s attention. Viewers often resent commercials with vampire video, she said.
* Is it memorable? “Don’t leave home without it” is a tagline that American Express hasn’t used in its advertising in years, Ms. Maas said. Nonetheless, it’s still remembered as the brand’s signature.
* Is the brand name registering, not just being muttered?
* Can your brand “own” this advertising? Ten or so hotels in Manhattan face Central Park, but only one, the St. Moritz, advertises that “Central Park is our front yard,” thereby “pre-empting” the value of the choice location.
The “Dirty Details” course was sparsely attended, with about 15 summiteers, representing AT&T Broadband, Charter Communications, Cox Cable, C-SPAN, Hallmark Channel, Tech TV, Turner Classic Movies, The WB and The Weather Channel as well as ad agencies.