Why No-one Cares About Your TV Commercial…

It’s no secret that more people are watching TV than ever before. They’re just not watching commercial breaks. Shock. Horror. Disbelief. So for those of you who are slow to realise why this is (and brand-managers I’m looking especially at you), let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first: no-one watches a TV ad break. It’s the “get up and go get a beer” time, the “long put off toilet break” time, the “check what’s on other channels” time.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that your TV commercial (TVC) is an unwelcome interruption to their viewing. That’s right. The very people you want to impress are the same people you’re annoying with your ad. Way to spend that budget effectively.

The other reason is that the little chunks of 30-second long boredom that fill up an ad-break are the creations of a formula: scene, scene, scene, logo, payoff line.  Sure, there are variations on the theme (some may be longer, some may be shorter, whatever) but by and large, they’re all simply products of the formula.

Of course, not all TVCs that follow the formula are boring. Take a look at this commercial by Volkswagen that was run during the 2011 Superbowl:

At  the time of writing, that clip had 39 million views on YouTube. But wait. It’s a standard TVC: scene, scene, scene, logo, payoff line.

Except that it’s not.

It’s compelling. It’s engaging. It has drama. It has tension. It has humour. It tells a story. And that’s what”s needed.  Everyone blathers on about “the story” but no-one really tells stories. They read to you from the product manual or the back of the box. And then they wonder why their TVC doesn’t work.

In fact, why don’t we throw out the rulebook for TVC’s altogether? Why don’t we shoot mini content spots instead? There’s an idea. Forget the time limits and shoot mini-movies.

In other words: make commercials that don’t look like commercials.

If you want to see what a mini-content spot is or how powerful it can be, check out YouTube. YouTube is filled with really great mini movies, some of them commercial, some of them not…like this one:

Worth every one of those 4 million views. Another point about YouTube is its amazing ability to temperature check your audience. If it doesn’t fly on YouTube, it won’t fly on TV.

No way.

No how.

Seriously, if no-one passes your your commercial around online (YouTube or Facebook) what makes you think they’re gonna tell their friends to look out for it when it interrupts their viewing?

In fact, YouTube has been known to boost the popularity of a formulaic TVC. Sound crazy? It is. So crazy in fact, that Heineken’s already making use of it. Their latest campaign was launched on the web first and made its way onto TV in about 30 countries three months later. Here’s one of the commercials called “The Entrance,”  that will have been watched more than 3.5 million times on the Heineken channel on YouTube by the time you read this. It is also available on the Heineken fan page on Facebook.

Yeah, the TVC needs to grow up fast. In a world of Hulu, AppleTV, Netflix, DVR, TiVO, and iAds, we’re so used to killing TVC’s, it’s an event if we see one at all…let alone one we like.  So why not make your TVC an interactive event? Link it to the web-page, drop a QR code in the corner, post the Facebook link at the end, show half the ad on TV and the rest on YouTube…

Or just spend your budget on creating an ad just for YouTube. A YTC if you will. Think about it: instant global publicity, infinite air-time at zero cost and you can do anything. Really…anything*. No censors. No broadcast watchdogs. Just your audience deciding whether or not you’ve done enough to earn their money.

Or does that sound too scary? See you on the web.

A little something extra: If you want to see how big your YTC could be, have a look at what Desperados did over here: click this to open in a new window.

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