In terms of an advertising medium, television has to go down as ‘seriously effective’. It has the ability to appeal to a significant audience, it transcends geographic obstacles that other mediums find hard to reach and it can be placed in audience niches specific to target needs. In addition it delivers on two of the primary senses of vision and audio at the same time. As a medium it delivers more than almost all other mediums.
While watching TV commercials recently I have noticed an ever widening gap between well produced commercial productions and what I choose to call the ‘sausage set’ – a term which is probably totally defamatory to the humble sausage.
‘Sausage set’ commercials are those horrible little time wasters that pop up on our screen to often advertise products and services that have so little to offer that they resort to the heights of mundanity and with it, over exaggeration. In most cases they do more damage to the product/service than they do good. Sadly, they most usually belong to small businesses who employ the ‘Sausage makers’ to create these insults to the average person’s intelligence.
Here in Australia one regional metal company has resorted to a not unpleasant, but buxom looking young lady who wears hot pants and a tight t-shirt accompanied by a hard hat, manoeuvring and gyrating around the screen with various props including a wheel barrow. Blatantly sexist, the use of this sadly exploited young lady seems to suggest that people, especially men, are vulnerable beings who resort to buying their steel products because they have stirred their lions into some sexual frenzy by the thought of being involved with this picture of femininity – Please!
I realise that many small businesses are not experts in marketing. As I’ve said a thousand times before it’s a discipline that is made to look easy by skilful people. Making a television commercial takes more than a good cameraman and someone who knows the product. Television production starts deep in the brief and the majority of the work is done before the cameraman opens his lens.
It begins, like all television production, in the writer’s creative mind factory and it is tested by years of experience and technical understanding. “Does this have a left hook?” “Will this offend?” “Does this mislead?” “Is this legal?” “Can the camera deal with this?” etc. etc. etc.
I believe it is this process that is missing in the sausage productions and it’s the bit that brings most small business commercials undone. The moment they become nonsense, they lose credibility and after that, all your frequency and repeat messages become commercial noise. Great ads such as Hahns, ‘It’s in the water’ are more than clever and humorous, they are darned effective. It is of course absolute exaggeration and we know it, but the message is clear and best of all it at no time disrespects the brand.
My message to small businesses who wish to use television as a medium is this. Do not think that a cheap commercial is somehow the answer to your immediate problems. Yes, you’ll create awareness, but so will a 200 pound gorilla in a jock strap parading outside your premises. The question is what kind of awareness will you project? The power of awareness is tempered by how the projection is perceived. For instance, I’m aware of the Taliban but it doesn’t translate into my liking them or supporting them. So it’s vital that the concept of ‘any publicity is good publicity’ is dispelled here and now.
The content of the message is where the potency lies and sausage commercials just don’t have the substance or the delicacy to perform that task. I want to encourage every small business to have a single attitude toward their marketing. It is this: If you can’t afford to do it properly, don’t do it at all. Find a medium that can produce content, flavour and style that enhances your product or service.
Going to the palace ball in rags just to say you were there isn’t much comfort if they remember you as a shabby tramp. So either consult an expert or give up on the idea that you can be a Steven Spielberg with a camcorder.