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Exactly how will you create great ads? Well,as I said at the beginning ofthis chap-

ter,you must accept that you are intruding on someone’s viewing,so you have to

make it worth their while to stick around and listen to what you have to say.Don’t

give them a reason to channel surf,pop some corn,or go to the bathroom.You

must also never forget that ifyou do manage to get their attention,you will only

have it for 30 seconds.That is a very,very short amount oftime.Under no cir-

cumstances must you fall into the trap so many advertisers do oftrying to fill every

one ofthose seconds with stuffyou consider as vital to the sale.Because believe me,

it won’t be.Those few,precious 30 seconds will allow you to say just one thing.Not

two and certainly not six.Just one.

Let me give you an example.In my opinion,one ofthe best TV commercials

ever made was—no,not the Apple Macintosh,1984 Super Bowl commercial.It was

indeed a great spot,and is probably the most famous television commercial ever

134

CHAPTER7: Creating TV ads: welcome to the wonderful world of showbiz, excitement, glamour, and acid reflux

I

The ultimate TV commercial character would

have to be Mr. Whipple, played by the same

actor, Dick Wilson, for over 34 years. To my

embarrassment, I admit having written a few

in my first job in the United States as a writer

at Benton & Bowles, New York.

made in terms ofthe publicity it continues to receive to this day,twenty two years

after it first ran.(See Figure 7.1.) And although it was at that time the most expen-

sive commercial ever made,it only ran once.Providing one more example ofthe

marketing genius ofSteve Jobs and how he has made Apple into one ofthe great

global brand names.But,for me,a truly great TV spot is one that puts over the

products USP in a memorable fashion and leaves you wanting to know more.

Which is why in my opinion,the best commercial ever made ran back in the 1960s

and was a black-and-white spot for Volkswagen.Here’s a briefdescription as it’s

almost impossible to get any frame clips from the spot.It opens as a car is climb-

ing a steep hill in the middle ofa snow storm.Most ofthe action is shot through

the windshield ofthe car as the wipers try to keep the glass clear ofthe accumu-

lating snow.The car reaches the summit and pulls in behind a very large barn.The

front door ofthe barn opens,and we hear the roar ofa large and powerful engine.

Headlights beam out through the door,and then we see an enormous snowplow

pull out and proceed to go offdown the hill.The sound ofthe engine recedes and

a VW logo pops up against the dark ofthe open door.Then an announcer voice

over says,

Did you ever wonder how the guy who drives the snowplow,

gets to the snowplow?

CHAPTER7: Creating TV ads: welcome to the wonderful world of showbiz, excitement, glamour, and acid reflux

135

I

FIGURE7.1: More than any
other TV commercial,the
Apple 1984 spot that
launched the Mac,turned the
Super Bowl into an advertis-
ing extravaganza where view-
ers tune in for the ads as
much as for the football,and
companies spend tens ofmil-
lions to buy air time.

Think about it.Why would you want to say anything more? You have captured

the viewer’s attention with the drama ofthe opening.What is going on? There is a

hint ofimplied danger and mystery.Where is this car going in this kind ofweather?

The pause between the car arriving and the reveal ofthe snowplow serves to

heighten the tension and sense ofdrama.The announcer’s resolution ofthe mys-

tery is perfect.It doesn’t embellish the situation.There is no need,as most other

car commercials would,to go on about the turbo traction nonslip transmission

that makes driving in snow storms easy.To wax eloquent about the car’s all-

weather heating and ventilation system that provides blissful comfort in all condi-

tions.Or,the luxurious interior that takes the stress and tedium out oflengthy

journeys.Apart from the fact that the VW ofthe 1960s didn’t have any ofthese

wonderful things,they would actually have gotten in the way ofthe message and

diluted its impact.But trying to convince most car manufacturers ofthis,both

then and now,would have been impossible.

One other thing worth noting,the spot was actually a 60-second one,so for the

first 30 seconds,all you saw was the view through the windshield ofthe snowy

road.This only served to increase the tension and reinforce the resolution provided

by the announcer’s tag line at the end.You could make that spot today,even as a

30-second one,and it would still be far more powerful and effective than many of

those you’ve seen for four-wheel drive vehicles sloshing through mud,ice,snow,

rivers,etc.as they end up on top ofMount Whitney or an ice floe in the middle of

the Arctic Ocean or various other places you wouldn’t dream oftaking a car.This

is why so many car commercials are totally unbelievable and often ineffective.I

don’t want to climb the Himalayas in my car;I want to get to Aunt Maud’s for

Thanksgiving dinner when it’s snowing.

For some reason when people create and pro-

duce TV commercials,they seem to acquire the

delusion that they are now in show business,forget-

ting the primary function ofthe spot is to sell some-

thing—not boringly,or tediously,or repetitiously

but hopefully,with humor,intelligence,and style.

But unquestionably,it should sell.

136

CHAPTER7: Creating TV ads: welcome to the wonderful world of showbiz, excitement, glamour, and acid reflux

I

Great TV is simple TV. The simpler the con-

cept and execution the easier the message

will be understood. It will also be less expen-

sive to produce.

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