Television advertising has existed for almost 80 years, and although the presentation has changed, its goal remains the same: sell sell sell. However, over that time, viewers have become increasingly aware of — and resistant to — the idea that they are being sold to at all, which is why TV advertising is often as focused on entertainment as the programming it is shown between.
According to the animation studio Frantic, commercial production takes between six and eight weeks to complete “from brief to airing, which involves devising a script, casting the actors, shooting and editing the footage, then purchasing the airtime.” This demonstrates just how agile advertising can be on television, allowing brands to quickly respond to demand and adapt to changing consumer needs. It also helps companies to change how they are promoting their products if an early draft of a campaign falls flat with viewers.
However, most brands are by now well-versed in knowing how to push consumers’ buttons with their advertising efforts, and they most often achieve this by using any combination of the following techniques.
A strong message
As we mentioned earlier, the message of every advertisement is “sell sell sell”, whether it’s for TV, print or online. But the best TV advertising goes beyond this, finding other ways to appeal to viewers in a clear and engaging way. You should craft this with your target audience in mind, determining exactly what you wish to convey to them about your product and your brand in general.
Particularly after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, advertising was able to quickly adapt its wider messaging to speak directly to the current global situation. They also often used scaled-back production values, with its stars addressing the camera to make a direct appeal to viewers via a sensitively-written script.
One of the key aims of any advertisement is to provide a concise explanation about what a product does, or what a brand represents, in a short amount of time. After all, companies only have an average of 30 seconds to get their point across, so there’s no point packing as much information into that time as possible if it won’t register.
The best TV advertising should resonate with consumers’ needs, quickly breaking down the key ways that the product in question can meet them, then ending with a call to action which lets viewers know how best to find the product or engage with the brand. This often takes the form of a website address, social media handle, or phone number to call. There are obviously many ways to play with this simple formula, but almost all TV advertising — including those which rely on narrative and character to get their message across — really is as straightforward as that.
The other most critical thing your TV advertising should do is stick in viewers’ heads, not only in terms of how they can best find your product, but in and of itself. The most common way of doing this is through storytelling, which can provide an easy hook for them to grasp onto. Most commonly, this is achieved by using humour, emotion, or a combination of the two. Established brands can often use their reputation to foster nostalgia or trigger memories that viewers may have of their products, and this allows them to get especially creative with their advertising efforts.
For smaller or newer brands, however, TV advertising is a great way to simply introduce themselves to the public at large. The pandemic has caused many major companies to cut their advertising budgets dramatically, leading broadcasters to offer incentives for newcomers to take to our screens for the first time. As The Great British Porridge Co.’s marketing manager Bethany Heddle noted to the Guardian, “Companies that are seen on TV are viewed by the public in a very different light than those that aren’t. It shows you are taking the next step of growth. TV has that brand-building ability.” Even if this doesn’t lead to TV becoming a long-term part of your marketing strategy, you should do everything you can to help your first advertisement — and, by proxy, your brand itself — stick in viewers‘ heads.