So, you want to make a TV commercial. Great idea! How exciting!
A lot. That’s what.
At Madison+Main, we love making TV spots. Over the years, we’ve helped dozens and dozens of our clients get their brand broadcast on television and we’ve gotten them some amazing results. However, while we make it as easy as possible and take care of all the details, many of our clients — especially if they’ve never produced a TV commercial before — are sometimes baffled by the process, and that’s OK.
Many folks take TV for granted. Sure, you probably own one or two, you watch it regularly, you have your favorite shows, but many folks don’t realize the enormity of all of the steps, details, time, planning, meetings, vendors, and negotiations it takes to actually get something on television.
For advertising agency people, it’s second nature and we can’t wait to help you make your TV spot a reality. However, if you are thinking about getting a TV commercial made for your business, here are the top 5 things you should know about how successful TV commercials are created:
1. You get what you pay for
Sure, you could save a ton of money and shoot your commercial on your iPhone and hire a graphic designer on Craigslist to put it together on their “free” video editing software. But you will probably get something that resembles the Zapruder film. The results will likely be just as sad.
Here’s a fact — professional TV commercials are not cheap. For a high-quality 30-second spot, at a minimum, you are looking at a budget in the ballpark of $8,000-10,000. And that is just for the production of the commercial. We haven’t even started talking about media buys – the cost of getting it on TV.
While you may have received some great deals from your local TV station or a cold-call proposition that promised a fully produced commercial for not a lot of money, you will get exactly what you paid for — not a lot.
Think about the worst quality TV ad you’ve ever seen. Think about the local TV spots you see after midnight — you know, the ones that are too loud and really annoying. These ads are typically created as a template and are put together as fast as possible with as little effort as possible (so the station can turn a profit). A really bad spot can actually hurt your brand image.
2. It takes an army of professionals — and a box truck of expensive equipment — to make a great TV commercial
Making an effective television ad requires a team of video production professionals. On the day(s) of a shoot, many clients are amazed by the sheer amount of people and equipment that arrive on location.
Here’s why: Your brand and your product may be awesome on their own, but to make them look equally amazing on TV requires precision sound equipment, specific lighting, expensive HD cameras, staging equipment, and miles of wires and cords — as well hair and makeup professionals, script supervisors, photography directors, lighting directors, sound editors, camera operators, and on-camera talent.
At first glance, it may sound and look like overkill. However, without all of it, your TV commercial will sound and look like roadkill. Trust us.
3. Think deeply about your internal talent pool – then hire professional actors
Ok, this is negotiable, and we can see both sides of the coin. Some businesses have successfully pulled off using their own employees and customers as on-screen or voiceover talent for their TV commercials. And there is something to be said about the value of being genuine and transparent. I mean, Dave Thomas, former CEO of Wendy’s did this, right?
However, there is a risk. Over the years, we have had a few experiences where we produced a TV spot featuring a client’s in-house talent (at their insistence, usually). Then, shortly after we negotiate the media buy and start running the commercial, without fail, someone featured in the commercial leaves the client’s company (or as a worst-case scenario, one of the customers featured in the spot unexpectedly passes away). Then the client wants to immediately pull — or reshoot — the spot.
On the other hand, there are a ton of advantages to hiring professional acting or voiceover talent for your TV commercial. For starters, pros look and sound great on TV. Acting is their passion and they are typically 1. Happy for the job; 2. Great at delivering a script; 3. Very good at playing whatever role you need them to; and 4. Fairly affordable (unless you want to hire Jon Hamm.)
The biggest advantage: professional actors for local TV commercials are plentiful, and generally available to shoot version two or three a few months down the road. By hiring talent, you remove a lot of the internal risk and strife of a potentially negative situation involving your own workforce or customer base. Plus, your commercial may become an overnight YouTube sensation when the unknown actor you hired hits the big time!
4. With the right strategy, a great TV commercial can be used in many different ways
While you are investing in a TV commercial, your advertising agency should be thinking well beyond the small screen — and you should too.
Your 30-second TV commercial is great, but think of all the other applications where that valuable video content can be used. Depending on what you shoot and with a little additional strategy and creative editing, you could scale up and also use the footage for recruitment campaigns, social media content, website content, promotional materials, a repeating background video for a trade show, B-roll for PR purposes, etc.
A TV commercial doesn’t just have to be used for TV. You made an investment in content. By planning ahead of time, you can stretch your TV production budget and strengthen your brand presence and messaging consistency simultaneously.
5. Say one thing and say it well
The next time you watch TV, pay equal attention to the commercials. In those 2-3 minutes between programming segments, what does it sound like? What does it look like? As a whole, you’ll notice that TV commercials (especially local commercials) can be a very loud, very hectic playing field for your attention.
Whether it’s 15, 30, or 60 seconds, you don’t have a lot of time to get your message out there. There is also a tendency for clients to want to pack that commercial with as much information as possible to get the maximum bang for their buck. You could follow that strategy, but it will likely end you up in Crazy Eddie territory.
When planning what you want to say in your TV spot, you should also focus on what your potential customers want (and need) to hear about your brand. To cut through the clutter and the noise, we suggest keeping your message and your call-to-action fairly straightforward, collected, and memorable.
Ready to get your brand on TV? Contact Madison+Main today to get the creative ball rolling by calling us at (877) 623-6246! #BoldBrandsWin