“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.