What Should Your Commercial Say?

Ask a hundred advertising creatives this question, and you’ll probably get MORE than a hundred answers, which may include responses like:

“It should be funny. People remember funny. Funny sells!”

“The business name should be mentioned no fewer than three times.”

“The phone number should be in there – at least twice — so people know where to call.”

And so on. And while answers may vary, I think anyone can agree that a commercial’s job is to compel customers to do business with you. So the short answer to the above question would be, “Your commercial should say anything that gets you closer to achieving that end.” Sounds simple, but the increasingly more difficult trick is to have an ad campaign that cuts through the vast barrage of impressions consumers are exposed to every day. Back in the old days (which in many communities was as recent as the late 80s), there was a local newspaper, a few radio stations, and three or so TV channels. Getting exposure for your business was easy. There were only so many places you could be seen or heard. So, your ad didn’t have to work very hard to bring in business. Your ads didn’t have to be good. They just had to be there.

Obviously, times have changed. Choices for consumers of media have spanned beyond broadcast, beyond print, and beyond cable. And most businesses don’t have the budget to be everyplace, so your choices of where to run your ad remain limited. So you have to get maximum impact from the ads you do run.  So, how do you make your commercial stand out?

1) Your spot should clearly illustrate a unique need for your product or service. If someone doesn’t think they need you, how are you going to sell them? And if it’s not a unique need for your product, you risk losing customers to competing businesses. Your ad should clearly answer the question, “With all the choices out there, why your business?”

2) Your spot should tell your customers how their lives will be better if they do business with you. Talk about benefits, not features. A feature is what you have. A benefit is about what your customer gets. Make it about them, not you. (I’ll tackle this subject this in greater detail in an upcoming post.)

3) Your spot should be memorable, so viewers/listeners think of you first when they need your product or service. Memorability can be achieved in two ways: via repetition, or via a powerful message. A powerful message is emotional. It evokes feeling in those who see or hear it. A list of stuff you do (“We offer oil changes, tire rotations, alignment, brakes…”) doesn’t make anyone feel anything when they hear it. Result? You have to air that spot a lot more times to elicit a response from a customer. An ad with a strong enough message and a powerful emotional element can evoke customer action much sooner.

4) Your spot should tell them what the next step is toward fulfilling that need. This is Sales 101 stuff: You have to ask for the sale. When I speak with a client about his ad, one of my last questions is, “What do you want people to do when they see it? Stop by? Visit your website?” You’d be surprised how often this question catches people off guard, and it’s really the most important element. It’s the part where you ask for the business. So have a clear “next step” in all your ads.

There are ways to maximize the impact of these elements, and we’ll talk more about them in upcoming posts (and especially if you hire us). But it’s been my experience that the most effective ads use these components to at least some degree. The next time you watch TV or listen to the radio, look for the businesses that use these elements well in their ads.

Photo: l1mey

2 Responses to What Should Your Commercial Say?

  1. All are valid points. Sadly though, many commercials fail before they ever get to the script stage because the writer neglected to ask the client the only question that really matters: “What needs to happen?” Until you and your client mutually agree upon the definition of advertising success, you’ll never achieve it.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Wray… Absolutely right: define and/or quantify success. My colleagues and I ask of our clients often, “How do we know when the campaign has worked? How do we know when to throw the party?”