“What in the world was that commercial all about?”
How to make sure that’s NOT the viewer reaction to your nice, new, expensive TV commercial.
Advertising is a-changin’. Radio is shaped to audiences like a glove, internet channels exist for left-handed stamp collectors, and, of course, Programmatic TV is growing like a weightlifter on steroids.
It’s sheer anomaly that, at a time when we can pinpoint the audience better than ever before, we can lose focus creatively. How many times have you sat through a commercial – maybe even enjoyed it – but been baffled at the end, not even able to discern what the advertiser was trying to communicate? (If you have trouble coming up with a specific recall right after the commercial, you can bet big money that your 24-hour recall will be a mess.)
So, how can you beat the rap of inadequate or absent communication?
Here’s how, in one easy, elementary, most reasonable exercise with your agency, you can be sure the right people will get the right message out of your commercials.
This little bit of magic is called a Communication Objective. A Communication Objective is a distillation – a tincture, if you will – of your advertising strategy or creative brief.
(If you can’t find, or have mislaid, your advertising strategy, skip right to the part where we tell you who to call to prepare your resume for moving on.)
Of course, you have an advertising strategy. It delineates, at its very minimum, who should be interested in your product and what benefit they’ll derive from using it, and why your product alone can offer that benefit. It may also include some other stuff such as mood or mandatories, but the first three factors are the guts of any advertising strategy.
That’s also the essence of the Communication Objective. When your agency presents a storyboard, ask “What do we want the viewer to remember from this commercial?” Generally, communication objectives should not describe the look of the commercial or the way the characters are to be depicted.
While executional factors are important (and you’ll spend a considerable amount of time profitably wrestling with them in your pre-production meeting), they are not the key elements of the commercial that you want remembered. If you have a Communication Objective that wants the viewer to remember how much fun it is to drink a particular beer, you decidedly don’t want people playing back, “It was a dreamy, fleeting moment, music probably by Vangelis.”
Communication Objectives should be few in number – fewer than five, even four pretty crowded. If you have more, consider: you’re trying to get a single, focused playback expressing a single cognitive bit from a single viewer. Chances of harvesting five cogent and memorable communications out of a :30 spot are very slim.
How Close Are Communication Objectives to Scene Objectives?
In that both are techniques for organizing your advertising objectives and clarifying communication, they are closely related. However, the Communication Objective is a simple, “whole cloth” sort of exercise, to be applied at your commercial’s earliest presentation stages. In fact, it is a really good idea to ask an agency’s creative group either before or after they show you the advertising, “What playback would you be happy to get from our target viewer of this commercial?”
If you’ve got an ad for a superior-performing cleaning product, for example, you’d be delighted if viewers played back that your product gets out the tough stains – and does it better than competition.
Scene objectives, on the other hand, come in handy when clarifying the net take-away of a specific scene in the commercial: here’s where we establish our mom in an upscale kitchen; here’s where we introduce our product; etc.
If you have multiple Communication Objectives, go through the storyboard and identify the particular parts of the commercial that are supporting each of the objectives. If you’re having trouble finding a match between storyboard and objectives – well, probably the viewer will, too.
Communication Objectives are useful at the production bidding stage, too. Smart agency producers will include them in the material given to prospective directors. This will help the directors to focus their energy in the right direction as they determine what their “treatment” or approach to the production will be, and to help insure that the bid allows for these objectives to be given sufficient emphasis.
Communication objectives should be reviewed again during the pre-production meeting to serve as a benchmark by which all decisions can be measured.
Building from last week’s “Cliffs Notes” on production transparency, this week we take a look at case studies and examples of how this very topic can directly impact your budget.
Whether it’s internal or external, having a resource for production expertise can lead to real savings for advertisers.
Below are a few real-world examples of how a lack of transparency can lead to increased costs:
Here in the United States, bids for TVC/video production shooting and post production are often on the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) and Association of Independent Creative Editors (AICE) forms. However, the scope of work for digital, photography and experiential projects are often in different formats with varying levels of detail and specifications. This makes it extremely difficult to compare across bids submitted. A best practice is for the advertiser to utilize a standardized template with all the required specs and appropriate level of detail (similar to what is in practice for TV and video). This allows for a smooth pre-bid meeting and the ability to make smart business decisions regarding costs.
Related Party Transactions with Bidding:
The ANA Production Transparency Study noted cases where related party transactions were not disclosed leading to various competitive bidding issues. In a recent project, a freelance producer who also owned a production company wanted that company to submit a bid for the project. In this instance, since an external production consultant was involved, the relationship was disclosed and bids from all production companies were received and evaluated by a 3rd party resource. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if the production consultant hadn’t required proper disclosures before bidding began?
During a recent bid review, a line listed “equipment” with an associated dollar figure. When asked for clarification, the specific items (grip, lighting, back drop, gels, etc.) with prices were provided and the total “equipment” amount came down several thousand dollars.
A brand director on a commercial shoot was asked by the agency to approve an overage on set due to some overtime requirements. The brand director “signed off” not really paying attention to the amount, authorizing the over time required in the amount of $60,000. When the production consultant analyzed the charges the next day and looked at the detail requirements for the two hours, the overage amount should have been $16,000. Having someone with production knowledge understanding the details and digging in really paid off in this situation!
Why use your precious budget on things you shouldn’t be paying for? In today’s world of high turnover, short-staffed teams, and people who are stretched so thin, there’s a higher risk for error — which can impact your bottom line. Invoicing transparency issues aren’t necessarily intentional or malicious, but it’s critically important review all billing prior to payment to ensure you don’t fall victim to common issues, which include:
- Number of individuals above guideline limits traveling to the shoot
- Inappropriate class of airfare, upgrades, airline clubs, monthly fees, subscriptions, etc.
- Miscellaneous non-billable expenses (items you can’t imagine!)
- Non-transparent talent charges related to miscellaneous payments, member violations, fees, wardrobe, overtime, etc.
- Charges to incorrect brands or projects (and yes, even incorrect clients)
- Duplicate charges
- Past due balances on invoices
- Taxes charged on non-taxable items
NOTE: MRA has an entire team of people who review agency invoices and back-up documentation to ensure billing is 100% accurate. To learn more, click here to download an overview of our LineWatch® Invoice Monitoring process.
Purchase Order & Budget Management
When advertisers don’t have solid pre-bid and bid review processes in place, project estimates become inaccurate and one risk is having the purchase order open for a larger amount than needed. If the advertiser doesn’t have an individual or team closely managing open purchase orders and budgets (vs. actual expenses), significant amounts may be left on open purchase orders and when final billing is settled, there isn’t always enough time to utilize the available funds. Imagine if YOU were the client that found out too late an entire additional spot could have been produced for your campaign!
Join us next week as we provide steps for how to get started and make improvements to your production management practices.
Written in collaboration with Angela Saferite.