Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who creates Advertisements?

(All of the information in today's posting is from "The New Icons?: The Art of Television Advertising", which is available for $.01!)

Sometimes we watch advertisements that are either so bad or so good, that we wonder how they were created. There are actually a lot of people that come together to create ads. You probably know, or think you know, them if you've ever seen an episode of "Mad Men". Beyond the creative team and the corporate team, often the ads are screened for small test audiences, re-shot, screened again and then shown to the company for final approval. In all there are usually at least 10 creative people, 10 corporate/marketing people and 100 audience members who see ads before they are aired. This probably makes you wonder how ads making flippant suicide references about laid-off workers get on the air. But, they do:

So who are the driving forces behind an ad? Here are the most important three people:

Creative Director

This is Jon Hamm's Don Draper character, as seen above. The creative director is the primary figure working on an advertisement. He or she is in charge of the final quality of a work. The creative director works with the company who wants the ad made in order to understand what it is the company wants, in terms of strategy and branding. The creative director initiates and stimulates creative ideas, and oversees the following the art director and copywriter. Often it is the creative director who has the "big idea" for the ad, which the art director and copywriter put into practice.

Art Director and Copywriter
An art director often works in tandem with a copywriter, and together with the creative director they make up the "creative" department of an advertising agency. Sometimes this is the job of only one person. The copywriter does all of the writing for ads. This usually means writing dialogue and slogans. The art director is in charge of all visual aspects of the ad.

Often an advertising agency will then contract out the work of actually producing the ad. The producer oversees all of these elements. So this includes hiring directors to shoot the ad, finding studio space, hiring the actors/director etc. The producer then sees the ad through until its finished, while the "creative" side has already moved on to the agency's next project.

One of the most famous and brilliant ads of all time is Macintosh's "1984" ad, which was shown during the Super Bowl in 1984. The ad showed the coming of the Macintosh as a way to save humanity from "Big Brother" in a spoof of George Orwell's novel "1984". The ad agency who created the ad was Chiat/Day. The creative director was Lee Clow. Brent Hayden was the art director and the copywriter was Steve Hayden. They then used the production company "Fairbanks Films" as their producer, who then brought in acclaimed Director Ridley Scott to actually shoot the advertisement. So you can see how many people already are involved in the ad, before screening, casting, board approval etc. Together they all created this:

The ad has won many awards, including being named by TV Guide in 1999 as the best television advertisement of all-time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Purpose of Ads

Why do company's create advertisements? People seem to believe that the purpose is to make the public aware of a service, product etc, with the presumed intention of selling that product. I'm basing on the comments I've received on this blog. That is absolutely true. However, if that was the only purpose ads would simply consist of a company's name, a product name and maybe some other info against a blank screen. As you may recall from my first post, this actually was all the first television advertisement was. So why have they evolved to what they are today?

Ehow.com has a good list of the "purposes". So other than inducing someone to purchase a product, what other intentions do the creators of ads have in mind? I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say that we live in a cynical society. Most people who see an ad are well-aware that they are trying to be influenced to buy something. Personally, this awareness alone makes me defensive when watching an ad (almost as if I actively won't buy something that I see an advertisement for). Thus, since I am not watching ads to be told what to buy, the main thing I am looking for in ads is how the ad effects the brand. As I have stated previously, negative brand association is too-often the outcome of an advertisement. Brand association is closely related to "Adding Value" on ehow's list.

With an eye to that list, what do you think the most important purpose of an ad is?

(Sorry there was no chastising of poor ads today).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Advertising Can't Save You From Poor Branding

Have you ever seen an ad on television that you were sure was the beginning of a Saturday Night Live skit? (Warning: link NSFW). Then you realize it is actually an advertisement, and you are left sort of dumbfounded. This situation struck me recently when I saw the following advertisement

These are delicious.
I cannot think of a cookie with a less appetizing name than "Praeventia". Cookies are suppose to have yummy names, like Chips Ahoy and Dad's . Why they chose to name it after the Greek goddess of contraception is beyond me. What I do know is that the name does not awake my appetite.

The ad itself though is fine. In fact, if they never mentioned the brand name, it would be a very good ad. I'm made aware its a family-oriented cookie bar, which is healthier than most cookies. The "poor mommy" part is a bit corny, but overall a well-done ad.

The point here then is that advertising is not enough on its own. This is especially the case since traditional advertisements' effectiveness diminish each year. The best advertising in the world is not going to make someone want to eat a Praeventia cookie. 

The best advertisements are those which work off of a brand's image, which includes its name. They are a combination of marketing research, brand trustworthiness and creative advertising.

So let me throw it to the readers: does anybody want to eat a Praeventia cookie? Does the name not matter at all? Is the decent advertisement and product enough?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Poltical Attack Ads and Polls, and a Guest Blogger

The Globe & Mail recently released an article titled "Tory attack ads pack a punch that leaves Liberals reeling". The article describes recent polls which show the Conservatives making gains and Liberals dropping, ostensibly due to recent attack ads aimed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Here is one of the ads in question, which I'm sure most have seen.

First off, this is not a political blog. So I am going to allow my friend Nathan Nagy from "Tacking into the Blue" summarize the current political climate (full post here):

Canadians would appear to be in a pessimistic mood as of late. Perhaps the mood of the nation can be attributed to the economy, gas prices or the never-ending winter. Whatever the case may be, the current Tory attack ads seem to be working. Canadians, unlike our Americans neighbours, have historically reacted negatively to political attack ads, however the Tories have properly sensed the pulse of the nation. I would [also] mention that political polls are almost never correct. There are so many variables to consider that skew the final data. The time of day, age category, and region of those asked, all play into the final results of political polling.

So why are these particular ads seemingly succeeding where historically they have failed here in Canada? The Globe makes an astute point that they are the only political ads on TV right now since we are not in election season (yet). Thus, it is more like an infomercial than a political debate. What I think (hope?) Canadians object to, historically, is the devolution of the discourse when every party joins in on attack ads. I hope that as the next generation matures, and ideally starts voting more, they will continue to reject attack ads and politicians will react to this.

As for these particular ads themselves, I believe they miss their mark. First off, the quality is amateurish which is odd (unless the Tories are making a point of not spending money, I suppose). Even the complaints themselves do not really resonate (oh no, not a Harvard education!). The Conservatives have put out some standard political ads, and hopefully come election season these are the only kinds we'll see, but I won't hold my breath. Even these ads themselves have higher production values. As with corporate ads, you want "positive" associations with your brand, rather than negative ones.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tim Hortons and Corporate Advertisements

By my quick and unofficial count last night, three in five television ads can be considered "bad", one "good" and one "indifferent". Why this is the case I have never understood. I trust that corporations, which have the majority of ads shown, genuinely are trying to make good advertisements. So why is it so difficult to create effective or interesting advertisements?

The particular ad which sparked my interest was this effort from Tim Hortons, announcing their new "Caramel" theme. (Sorry for the poor quality of the video, and ad).

The most egregious part of this ad is that I know that the one actor is a brilliant professional. Her name is Jenny Young and I saw her give a wonderful performance in "The Women" at the Shaw Festival this summer. This refuted my initial reaction that the actor yelling "so much caramel" just didn't have the chops to handle such depth. So if the acting in TV ads isn't (always) to blame, what is? I can't say that Tim Hortons just doesn't care or try with their TV ads because here is an example of a fantastic and effective ad from them. (Note: this will make you cry).

All of the things Tim Hortons is trying to accomplish in this ad are realized. Getting back to the first ad, the only thing it seems to be trying to accomplish is the annoyance of TV viewers, which I suppose it does realize.

Tim Hortons spent $190 million on advertising in 2009. Now, only a portion of that is going to be spent on TV ads (numbers based on Tim Hortons 2009 Annual Report page 119, found here). But still, that is $190 million!(!!). Certainly Tim Hortons has one of the higher ad budgets among corporations, but you can get an idea of how much is being spent yearly on TV ads. So why aren't we seeing better efforts more consistently? I don't have the answer just yet, but hopefully in the coming weeks and months we can sort it out in this blog.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Super Bowl is the "Super Bowl" of Television Advertising

I have alluded earlier to the prominence of television advertising at the Super Bowl. Suffice to say, these ads have their own Wikipedia page, which says more than anything I could write. So with the Big Game occurring this past weekend, I'd like to take this opportunity to review.

My favourite ad was the Chrysler spot for their new luxury vehicle, the 200. The ad featured Eminem, briefly, and was two minutes long. The thing I liked most about it was that it wasn't like most car commercials, which are always unnervingly lame because they inevitably feature people drawing lines in the sand, smiling far too broadly and the music of Beyonce. This is part of the reason the ad works, its originality. I feel this ad will do a lot of good things for the Chrysler Brand, and is an example of how great and effective TV ads can be. Here's the ad:

Other ads that have received positive reviews are Volkswagen's "Little Vader" ad and Bud Light's "Intelligent Dogs" ad. Anheuser-Busch, who own the Bud Light brand, has been acclaimed for its Super Bowl ads for well over a decade now, winning the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter a record 11 times.

The worst ad in my opinion was easily the one which featured Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne. Not really much else to say. You should know it was terrible just from those two names. I guess if I had to say something, it'd be this. Boo Justin Bieber, boo.

Ok fine, I'll post the video of the Biebbourne ad, even though its disrespectful to my blog.  

Other ads which "missed" in my opinion were Coke's confusing "Fighting Dragons" ad and godaddy.com's "Joan Rivers". I know that godaddy.com exists, and that they are always featured at the Super Bowl. Yet I have no idea what they actually do, so their TV ads in general get an F.

What ads did other people like/dislike?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Television Ads, 70 Years Later

The first-ever legal TV ad ran in 1941. It was a 20 second spot for the Bulova Watch Company. The ad consisted of the image below with a voice-over reading the company's slogan, "America runs on Bulova time!". This piece cost nine dollars at the time, which is worth somewhere between $100 and $1,000 today. 

The following decades saw TV ads became an expected, and unavoidable, aspect of television. As became the primary means by which networks supported themselves. Viewers accepted this as a necessary trade-off to watch their favourite programs or specials. TV ads grew to be considered the most-effective form of mass media advertising ; so much so that a 30-second Super Bowl spot cost US$2.7 million in 2008 (Joseph Bulova is rolling over in his grave). Some ads became famous, or infamous, for their humour, effectiveness, style or for the controversy they created.

However, with the advent of DVRs and television shows online there is a growing feeling that TV ads are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Some, like myself, rejoice at this possibility due to the often infuriating nature of TV ads. Though the future is uncertain, it is true that companies who do pay top-dollar for their ads need to ensure that they are getting the most of this medium while they still can. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. This blog seeks to review which ads are working, and which are not. Along the way we'll also examine the past and future of TV ads.