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Response Rewards Quality Production

Mar 29, 2009  •  Post A Comment

For regional and local business owners who use television as their lead medium, now may be a good time to discuss the actual look of television creative. The creative issue often gets by business owners, who seem to spend more time concerned with cost per points and audience delivery.
In a recession, when expenses are slashed and all soft costs are eliminated, most CEOs are looking to cut advertising expense. But cutting waste is one thing; downgrading your look is another.
If you want yours to be perceived as a quality company, then you should deliver a quality image in your advertising—especially in television advertising.
Proper editing and pacing is essential to good quality. A recent campaign employed an editing technique so elaborate that I could not follow the ad even though I gave it 100% of my attention. I can only imagine the over-caffeinated editor cutting that ad at 3 a.m. in the back room of some remote production house. I’m sure that ad looked great to him. But I could not understand it at all.
Simple works.
Adult consumers prefer simple and easy-to-follow creative based on one visual image on the screen at a time. Younger viewers seem to gravitate more to “high-stimulation” video-game-style editing. It’s no wonder. Adults over the age of 50 grew up watching talking-head news anchors, while younger Americans grew up watching MTV.
So when designing a television campaign today, we need to think about not just what programs and networks we choose, but also the tone of the ad itself.
The airwaves are full of television commercials that consumers tell me are hard to follow. I take that to mean they simply can’t keep up with the flash edits and hyper tone of the ads. Apple Computer’s successful TV campaign put just two characters on screen for 30 seconds against a pure white background. It let the writing carry the message, and the dynamic between the two actors carry the story. Even Apple’s iPhone commercials are visually dumbed down so you are left with a feeling that the phone is simple to use as well.
Clearly the tone and editing of your commercial affects consumer response to your ad.
That brings us to high definition.
HDTV sets are so inexpensive today that some are priced as low as $149.
Many local advertisers are sticking to the traditional video format when shooting their commercials, often with the excuse that shooting in HD costs too much to be worth it.
You Get What You Pay For
The problem with this thinking is that when their ads run on the wider high-definition screens, their commercials appear shrunken because they are produced in the old 6:9 aspect ratio. This, plus the fact that the lower resolution makes everything appear fuzzier, including phone numbers, Web addresses and any other relevant display type intended to help the consumer buy. In effect, a high-def screen cheats a traditional TV ad of impact. So is saving a few bucks in production really any savings at all?
The CEO of a large chain store we consult for recently asked us if the $15,000 fee to shoot his ad in HD was worth it. We responded that his ads needed to “look national” if he wanted to pull in his fair share of the 30% market share a competitor recently left behind. Viewers judge your company based on their perception of value. If your ad looks cheap and local, then that will be the consumer’s interpretation as well.
Back in the day, all clients wanted to shoot in film for a quality look. Today, HD video often looks better than film, and once you shoot your stock shots in HD, you can use them for a very long time, and in many formats.
Sometimes we spend so much time perfecting a media plan that we ignore the fact that all the consumers ever see is your ad. They don’t see your genius at placing and negotiating TV time and Web space. They just see an ad. So importance commensurate with that crucial exposure needs to be given the look and feel of your creative message.
Remember these simple things:
Make the logo prominent, the Web address easy to remember, the voice-over concise and clear, the music understated and not distracting, the lighting high quality, the talent convincing, the graphics legible.
Spot-check a few of your recent commercials to be sure you are delivering on all of these points.
How can you afford to shoot your ads in HD without breaking the bank, or blowing the media plan budget on production? Locate an independent HD producer in your city. I’ve never had a problem finding talented producers looking for immediate paid work.
Negotiate a fair rate to shoot only stock shots—the simple exteriors, employee-customer interaction, zoom-in and zoom-out shots for use at the beginning and end of the ad, close-up reaction shots. In many cases the tab for a day of HD shooting will be less then $15,000 and the footage can be used for five years or more.
Once you have the shots, you can re-edit them so your ads stay fresh for a very long time. When you amortize these production costs over a number of years, the HD expense suddenly seems nominal.
With HD footage you will enjoy the following benefits:
Your TV ads look clear.
Your TV ads have a high-grade look in terms of color and tonal quality.
Your TV ads compare in quality to those of the national advertisers.
You achieve the image of professionalism.
Moving local and regional businesses into higher-grade production can be a challenge when clients want to cut back budgets in the first place. But the cost of not upgrading can be a dull-looking campaign right when the consumer demands more.
For your next campaign, go HD and bring your client the impact and results they want.
Adam Armbruster is a senior partner with Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.

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