Advertising

Successful Ads Require Talent

It’s so silly, it almost doesn’t feel like it needs to be said – but to make an ad that works, one must have talent.

Over the last few years, marketers have gone insane trying to figure out how to make a video, “viral.” They look wistfully at the Old Spice ads, and say, “See? We need to do something like that!” Then they proceed to turn out commercials that look like commercials, which no one wanted to see in the first place.

Here’s a great example of the good and the bad: The first is the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that was in wide rotation last year:

This ad gets the product information across but in a stale way. It smacks of laziness. “We got the job done, now let us get back to figuring out our ad buy schedule so we can ruin people’s evenings by forcing them to watch it.” The only time I remember people talking about it was to express how bad those 5-Hour Energy ads were.

Here’s the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that is running now.

Can you spot the difference? Sure, the production value on the newer one is slightly better – if only because there were more edits, meaning more shooting days, and they took pictures of the actor jumping out of a plane.

That’s not it, of course. The difference is the new commercial is FUNNY. The one before that is NOT.

In fact, the first commercial looks exactly like how a commercial is supposed to look: Lame.

"Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit right up and listen to what he's saying," said no one ever.

“Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit up and listen to what he’s saying,” said no one in the history of ever.

Like I said, the first commercial does what it is supposed to do: Inform you of the product, tell you what it does, and tell you why you need it. It also makes you hit the mute on your remote or go get a snack while you wait for “Big Bang Theory” to come back on, because you didn’t DVR it and so cannot get around this ridiculous commercial.

The newer one gets the same job done – but makes you want to watch it because it is funny. It might even make you share the commercial with your friends, increasing its audience.

Making a campaign or commercial viral isn’t something you get by reading enough blog posts (like this one) about it, or books by people who have declared themselves industry experts.

It is done by being talented – by knowing how to write something that is funny, or shoot something that is engaging. Selling the product isn’t forgotten, but it isn’t the most important aspect of the piece. Since no one wants to believe they aren’t talented, they write what they’ve always written – shrieking, intrusive ad copy – and hope for the best.

This can’t be that difficult of a concept to understand, can it? If you want to have content that sings, that makes people remember you, that gets shared far and wide, you need to hire writers and production staff with talent. Talented people can create something fun that still has the key message development and call to action required in a successful ad. This is true of all forms of advertising, mind you. Paid search ads, landing pages, radio spots, print ads… the level of impact is always increased dramatically when someone decides to significantly up their game.

The key is thinking of your content as something that should be entertaining. Otherwise you’re getting the work done of creating content, but you aren’t getting the job done.

By the way, that image I used above? I found that on Google. It had the title, “I want to punch the 5-hour energy guy in the throat.”

Yeah – I’m sure THAT’S the reaction the company was hoping for.

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The Real Problem with Facebook Ads isn’t the Ads, it’s the Advertisers

When GM pulled their Facebook ads last month, it caused a lot of talk about the lack of confidence people have in their platform. When you plunk down $10,000 a month, you expect to make back at least $10,000.

What advertisers STILL don’t seem to understand, after all these years of exposure to social networks, is that nobody goes on them to buy things. If anything, people go to Facebook and Twitter for “me time.” Few people are going to leave their “me time” to click on a link to Verizon just because the link is there.

It’s like if television never had commercials, but instead all commercials happened on their own channel. How many people would ever leave the show they were watching just to tune into the 24 Hour Commercial Channel? My guess is about as many people who click on ads on Facebook.

Since this is the case, trying to use the same conversion point on a Facebook ad as, say, a paid search ad, is ludicrous. People who perform a search are looking for something specific, some problem to be solved, and if the paid ad is relevant and brings people to a product or service that helps them, they will “convert” – that is, buy something.

Facebook Ad Revenues Worldwide, 2011-2014

People don’t go to Facebook with a need or problem, though. Ads trying to sell goods must count not only on reaching people who are their target market, but happen to catch them at just that moment the ad will appeal to them. For example, someone might be the right fit for buying a car this year, but for the ad to turn into a sale, it needs to be seen by that person during those few days they are actually looking at cars and car financing. Facebook still can’t target ads that well.

So really, the definition of what makes a successful social network ad needs to be changed. On Facebook, it is much easier to convince someone to Like your Fan Page than to get them to immediately part with their money. Using ads to increase fan count would be a much saner way to grade Facebook Advertising: How many new eyeballs does your content get as a result of your ads?

Then it’s up to your Fan Page to land the sales, or at least get traffic to your site. If your content is compelling enough, people will click through to see more. In that way, the Fan Page becomes what Facebook always intended it to be: A company landing page, on Facebook.

Paid seach ads work (or don’t) based on a number of factors: If the keywords for the campaign are relevant to the product, if the ad copy is compelling enough to get a click, if the landing page entices people to click on the “buy now” button, and if the user experience of the site’s store encourages people to complete a sale.

The rules for Facebook are very different, but people keep trying to apply the same rules: Impressions, clicks, conversions, sales. What’s different here aren’t the tools, it’s the audience.

Viral Video isn’t about Advertising – it’s about Entertainment

I watched “Celebrity Apprentice” tonight – it’s a guilty pleasure.

The only reason I’m writing about it is the challenge: They were asked to make a “viral video” promoting an O’Cedar’s spray mop. If you’ve ever had to do this for your job, it had to have pissed you off too.

It seems everyone thinks the way to make a viral video is to make a commerical like you see on TV, then put it up on YouTube. From that, possibly through magic or devine intervention, people will share it around.

Ironically, I found this image for "Viral Marketing" - and outside of me calling it out for stupidity, there is nothing viral about it.

“Sheila! I just watched this commercial for a floor mop on YouTube! You have to see this!”

Only Penn Jillette seemed to understand how viral content works: You make something people WANT to share. You don’t make something you want people to share.

How many of the things you shared, “educated you on the product?” Probably none. Because that’s boring. What you likely did share were people inuring themselves, pets doing weird things, dirty jokes… things that made you laugh.

That’s not where they went on Celebrity Apprentice, though. Both groups pushed on making what were the same kinds of ads you push past with the fast forward button, thankful that you have a DVR.

I dont’ blame them entirely, though – and not just because it’s reality TV, and you can’t trust anything you see or hear on reality TV. I blame the executives of the company for not have a clear idea of what they were asking for. I’ve had those meetings with clients who said, “there’s this video that’s very popular, and I WANT THAT.” Great! Yeay!

And then, “It should tell people all about our product, and showcase all of its features, it shouldn’t  be the butt of the joke, and it should tell them why they must give us their money… but otherwise, go crazy!”

It doesn’t work that way. A viral video that promotes only carries the name of the company or the product – and  then you go crazy. What makes something viral isn’t the sell, it’s the fun.

How much milage do you think the Nintendo Wii got out of the video below?

The answer is Nintendo got a LOT of exposure out of this. I can also guarantee you the executives of Nintendo would have never approved of that video if they paid an agency to make something viral, and this is what they were presented with. That disconnect exemplifies why a company cannot make it’s own viral content if they insist on taking themselves seriously.

I remember the executive of one company explaining everything they wanted in their viral program with the exact same language about showcasing a project.

“Then I’m afraid it won’t go viral,” I told him.

“Well then what can we do to MAKE it go viral?” he asked.

“There’s only one option,” I said. “We go door-to-door with shotguns and MAKE people watch it.”

Seriously – just spending some time coming up with something people will actually want to watch takes much less work.

Now THAT is how you do a commercial on YouTube!

As commercials uploaded to YouTube go, this is perfect.

No ad copy, no “take aways” – just something that gets your attention, and keeps you watching. At the end you get the company’s information, AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Look at the number of views this thing has gotten! It’s got 2,485 likes on YouTube… and as of this posting it’s two days old! You REALLY think your slick, in-house commercial with nothing but talk about your product is going to beat that!?!

MSNBC Commercials – A Smart Response to Right Wing Media

I am loving these commercials for MSNBC.

They have the obvious appeal of showing what are normally talking heads giving their real opinions of today’s stories. More importantly, they combat the very popular Fox News onslaught, which has gone unanswered for so long.

It shows MSNBC has teeth, particularly if you didn’t already know it. You may know Rachael Maddow has a point of view every bit as vitriolic as Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, but with the thought process behind that opinion.

Of course, if you have different political opinions, you won’t like these at all. But even if I wasn’t a raving pinko liberal, I’d appreciate the strategy of fighting the Right’s fire with their own fire.

Great YouTube Ad from Samsung

Here’s a great ad for the Samsung Galaxy S II. It’s great because it gets a lot of things done, quickly.

First, they manage to be offensive. That’s a good thing, because invariably you’ll get people who are easily offended to talk about it, and probably share it around. The end result of hysterical people is usually increased awareness – I’m sure Eminem sold a LOT more albums after all those Christians tried boycotting him in the early 00s.

Think the agency that created this isn’t aware of that? They have a paid placement for this video on YouTube, showing the frame with Jesus on a unicycle. It’s brilliant idiot baiting. Because this isn’t an American product yet – they are pushing it in the American market to let us know it’s coming. What better way to get some easy word-of-mouth than to get bunched up Americans bemoaning their ad?

More importantly, the offensiveness has a place in the ad. It isn’t just shocking for the sake of shocking, but works to show the clarity of their screen (even if it does look a little simulated) and at times creates a metaphor for what they want to say, like the Russian dancer “kicking ass.” We’ve had shock for the sake of shock so long, it’s no longer shocking. People actually demand a good reason for the shock given, or else they write it off as what it usually is – cynical pandering.

That isn’t what was done here, and I appreciate it. This moves fast, has a concept, and doesn’t trip over itself trying to be funny at the expense of their core message: “Our mobile product does a lot of stuff well, and looks neat.”