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3 Ways to Supercharge a TV Ad

The 2019 Super Bowl was not the most exciting event ever aired. Many critics are placing it in the top five most boring games ever played, and others actually rank it as the number one worst of all time.

Luckily, the Super Bowl has something else to offer—a storied tradition as a venue where the year’s best TV commercials can obtain peak public exposure. Predictably, major brands race in to drop huge amounts of money for the opportunity, and as a result the ads often outshine the game itself. Every year, companies spend millions—just 30 seconds cost $5 million in 2019—to entertain us and sell products. Some brands do it well, while others might have been better served throwing their money into the fireplace. This year, we saw dogs shopping, knights jousting, and even Andy Warhol eating a cheeseburger. All of it standard fair, but maybe not as good as we expected this time around.

This gives rise to an essential question for marketers—why do some ads work and some don’t? There are several factors that drive ad success, but here are three questions you should be asking yourself before you go live with your TV spot.

1. Does it make the customer the hero?

Consumers are mainly interested in what they get out of a brand or product—i.e., “What’s in it for me?” Remember that people are only interested in what the company actually does if it serves their needs. So much of the advertising we see focuses solely on attributes of the company without connecting these to customer value. An ad is good if makes the customer the hero by connecting him or her directly to the product and making it clear why they need it.

2. Does it stir emotion?

I’ve found that the ads that seem to resonate with consumers most are the ones that elicit some form of emotional response. Whether it’s anger, frustration, fear, happiness, or otherwise, feeling something is tremendously important. That said, ads that make consumers feel helpless, hopeless, or isolated may be memorable but are not likely to be effective. To have a truly effective TV spot, you want to stir the right emotion for the right product, not just make consumers feel any emotion at all.

3. Does it sell product?

As former Coca Cola CMO Sergio Zyman used to say: “Marketing is about selling more stuff, to more people, for more money, more often.” Oddly enough, this is what many marketers forget when developing Super Bowl TV ads. They want their ads to be provocative, entertaining, or controversial in order to make an impression. And all of that can be effective if it actually sells the product. However, if consumers are left with a recollection of the ad but cannot recall the brand name, then what was the point? If a consumer is not motivated to buy the product then the ad wasn’t effective. It’s that simple.

So let’s look at the one best and one worst ad from USA Today‘s Admeter and apply these success drivers to see if they ring true.

The Best: The NFL

A 120-second promotion for the 100th anniversary of the NFL.  The ad shows former and current NFL players at a formal event that quickly devolves into a game of keep-away.

Does it make the customer the hero?

Yes.  For a minute and a half, customers get to see their favorite athletes from across generations do what they are famous for doing in a fun-loving way.

Does it evoke an emotion?

Yes. It makes you laugh, makes you feel nostalgic, and leaves you wanting to see more.

Does it sell product?

Time will tell, but advertising the NFL at the Super Bowl was a no brainer, and being connected to the history of the game in a fun way has stimulated anticipation for another season

The Worst: Burger King

This 30-second ad uses footage from a film of Andy Warhol eating a Burger King burger that was shot in 1982 by Swedish director Jorgen Leth.

Does it make the customer the hero?

I’m not sure what the story is. I suppose the message is that Andy Warhol ate here, and you should too. I was left scratching my head.

Does it evoke emotion?

I suspect for true fans of Warhol it did, but there is no emotion in the film, no humor, no insight—just a famous dead guy eating a burger.

Does it sell product?

To me there was nothing in that ad that made me want to eat at Burger King. What is the logic here, that Andy ate Burger King so we should too? I’m not sure that works. I think Burger King tried to be provocative, and maybe they were successful with that. But if they were focused on selling more burgers, they missed by a mile.

The Takeaway

Altogether, these three important principles have to do with brand story—how you craft it and what you make it say to your customers. The craft of brand storytelling is possibly important above all else, as it is at the core of what marketing is and how it works. If you have no story, you have nothing at all. Always remember that. Putting in the time to hone a simple, clear, and aligned brand story will put you miles ahead of the competition, whatever your marketing channel happens to be.

And constructing brand story with the above three principles in mind will make the difference between a good and a great ad. To learn more about how transformational marketing can show you how to create the best story for your brand, download TopRight’s free 3S Playbook here or order a copy of Dave Sutton’s new book Marketing, Interrupted. Come back this Monday for another take on retail and modern marketing, or subscribe to our blog here.

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