Making Memorable Commercials

photo of Tara Onthank
The author, Tara Onthank, on set while filming a commercial for Rising Sun Pools & Spas.

Have you ever watched a local commercial that was so wild, loud and irritating that you felt more inclined to avoid the business rather than patronize it? That was my reaction to a competitor’s commercial a few years ago. And as I started the process of shooting a TV ad for my own company, Rising Sun Pools & Spas, I vowed to avoid their mistake.

Think about it a little. Outlandish visuals and catchy slogans often overpower viewers, leading them to completely forget the company the ad was intended to promote. Worst case scenario, they can leave a bad impression. After all, when you see a commercial with someone yelling at you about their great deals, do you really think, “Wow, I hope they’ll be shouting out discounts like that for me when I visit”?

An effective TV commercial draws your attention and makes you interested in what a person is selling. These advertisements work because you know what you want to convey and how to relate that information to your target audience most effectively.

I use a couple of simple guidelines to promote my pool and spa business on TV that can be easily replicated. By following the guidelines below, you will greatly enhance your chances of having a positive reaction from your commercial that will lead to increased activity as a result.

Convey Your Message Honestly

In order for your ad to really resonate with your customers, think carefully about the information you need to express as part of your preliminary work. Exactly what is it you want your customers to know about your business, and how do you want to say it?

Answer those questions and then discuss them with your company leaders or your advertising agency. Agree on what angles would best distinguish your operations from competitors.

For example, I determined that the best attributes of my business included my family’s longtime connection with and service to my community, the trust people have built in us over four decades and the ways that we meet the desire of an overwhelming number of our clients by having their pools serve as an extension of their house. These conclusions gave me direction on what must be included in our script to make a compelling commercial.

Be Your Own Star Attraction

When it comes time to deliver your information on camera, consider presenting it yourself on camera instead of a professional host or announcer. The latter likely will be associated with other companies and thus blur identification with yours. Also, as you want to develop a relationship with customers, being on camera and telling your story will allow viewers to connect your face and voice with your business when they see you in person, creating a strong initial bond.

Work With Professionals If Possible

While you want to come across as a real personality for your company, at the same time you do not want your commercial to appear like it was written, shot and edited by amateurs. Face it – many commercials for local businesses have a “homegrown” look to them that is less polished than ones for national, statewide or even regional companies. They fail to motivate people precisely for such reasons.

To compensate, some feature gimmicky promotional sales or employ humor — or both. None of these approaches are wise. Having someone laugh with you is fine, but not if they laugh at you, and too often, that is the case.

Once you develop your basic concept, you should meet with production companies experienced in producing quality commercials. These groups can guide you with advice about wording your pitch and picking the best locations to film — and they’ll make you look and sound great as well. Some producers may be part of the advertising department at the TV station you’re targeting for air time, which can be convenient in striking a good deal.

Plan Properly

One you have determined who will create your commercial, establish reasonable deadlines. You are not the only client they have, and even if by some chance you are, planning, filming, editing and then airing a quality commercial within a week is not realistic.

Based on personal experience, I recommend planning two weeks of pre-production to finalize the script and secure the shooting sites (for example, you may want to show off a client’s pool you recently installed, which will require getting permission as well as schedule coordination). Filming typically will take a couple of hours to shoot with setups in one day. Reserve another week after that for post-production, during which time you will get to review and approve the final edit.

Producing and buying airtime for commercials can be pricy, so plan messaging that is timeless and will last you for a season. Doing so will keep your budget in line and draw attention to your promotional activities at the same time.

Enjoy the Feedback

These suggested approaches will create a memorable commercial that will have first-time and returning customers saying, “I saw your commercial. You guys are amazing!” Better yet, they may say, “Hey, you’re the one I’ve seen in the commercial. I want to talk to you about a pool.”

If you have the knowledge, the capability and the disposition to run a top pool business, then you have the same ability to showcase it in a commercial. The best commercials reflect who you are and what you do accurately, and living up to them in person can create customers for a lifetime.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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