23 Guides To An Effective Small Business TV Advertising Idea

Think your small business TV advertising can’t compete as an idea with million-dollar network commercials? It doesn’t have to. There’s a better way.

Besides, 2005 research shows those creative extravaganzas generally are failing to entice customers.

A low-budget straight TV advertising announcement still takes the honors for most cost-effective format . . . and that’s right down your financial alley in small business. This “straight announcement” format features an announcer delivering the sales message in one of two ways . . .

  • Straight into the camera while perhaps holding or demonstrating the product.

  • Off-screen with a “voice over.” With voice over, the camera focuses on the product while the unseen announcer talks about it.

How do we know this? Proctor & Gamble, one of the most successful companies in the nation and one of the biggest TV users, still employs “talking head” (announcer on screen) straight commercials. They also use the ubiquitous “slices of life” like Mr. Whipple/Charmin tissue more than any other types.

More about “slice of life” in a moment . . .

Local gurus may disagree

  1. Prepare yourself for their elitist attitude. Your person supervising ad production and the writers will probably suggest some more “creative” way of doing it. TV production people nearly always head the list of critics who rate straight ads as boring.

    Yet, P&G’s tests confirm them as hardest selling. And when you invest billions of dollars in advertising like this market leader does, what’s important – to satisfy your critics or get sales results? (Of course, we don’t want the money. That’s so crass).
    Wouldn’t you rather have the ad rep’s blessing? 🙂

    Cost versus effectiveness
    is the key

  2. You can use P&G’s alternate favorite – the “slice of life” format, but this method employs actors and a little mini-play. Actors and scenes increase costs dramatically. That’s okay if results return their costs by several times. But, when sub-par acting destroys your believability, the ad seldom pays.

    Generally, high cost effectively eliminates the “slice of life” format as a small business advertising idea.

    Production people also yearn to use special effects, but they can get expensive. Many TV producers like to use effects such as animation and kaleidoscopic scenes to get attention and create memorability . . . so they think. However, when used indiscriminately, they distract viewers from your message.

    Shoot for your best bet

  3. Develop your own Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – then reinforce it both verbally with the announcer . . . and visually when you put the primary words on the screen.

    What is a USP? David Ogilvy explained it best and most concisely. A USP tells people what your business or product is and what it does for people.

    Can you explain what your business or product is and what it does for people in one sentence? Think about it and write your answer.

    It’s not a slogan. But USP does make a very important point and says specifically what we do for people – how they benefit from doing business with us. Some examples.

    a. Size: “The largest (category of company) in this area – so we offer a selection of more than XXXX items.” Make it specific.

    b. Guarantee: “Your meal within 15 minutes or you get it free.”

    c. Capability: “Every member professionally trained so you get an A-1 job – or your money back.”

    Notice each USP has “teeth in it.” It states an important fact, then tells people what that fact will do for them. This fact-benefit should relate the overall major benefit of your business to customers.

    Do not twist your straightforward USP line into a cute little slogan or try to make it rhyme. Simply tell people the major thing you’re going to do for them – short, complete, and to-the-point.

    Let’s review major points in
    assembling a TV commercial.

  4. Make every ad believable and credible. That means actors must ring true, if you use them. Situations must appear authentic. Since it’s usually difficult to find good actors locally and they increase cost substantially, you’re usually better off to use a one-person straight announcement.

  5. A TV ad is still a selling message like any in radio or print, except it can use moving, visual scenes to help sell.

    That means it still needs a “selling order.” Maverick teaches . . .

    a. Benefit
    b. Offer
    c. Proof
    d. Benefit Restate
    e. Action Request

  6. We also recommend an alternate selling order: a) Show a problem, b) Present a solution to the problem with the Offer of your product, c) Prove it, d) Restate the solution to the problem, and make an e) Action request.

    You can learn hundreds of pointers and guides for all phases of advertising when you click here for Advertising Technique.

  7. Write your copy first, and then use visuals to reinforce your selling words. The verbal selling message always takes precedence even though you’re using a visual medium.

    Many TV producers will disagree and try to convince you to focus on the pictures first. Being smitten with the visual, they want their pictures to dominate. Wrong! (Oops . . . did I just commit heresy?)

    Let me share a secret. Simply test it. Run a TV ad and turn off the sound. View the visual alone. Then run the same ad with no visual and listen to the verbal track alone.

    Most ads come across unintelligibly with only the visual track. Yet, surprisingly, the verbal sound track almost always conveys a selling message. (By the way, if your ad does not convey a selling message in the verbal track, plan on a re-write. Your success odds head south without it.)

    TV’s devastating weapon

    TV packs terrific punch when you use it to demonstrate. Demonstration, as you already know, upgrades so-so personal selling into high rates of close. The same method works in TV too.

  8. Wherever possible, when you demonstrate your product show the result of using it.

    The Salesman of the CenturyMany of us speak a wee derisively of him, but do you remember Ron Popeil demonstrating his Veg-O-Matic on TV? Doesn’t everybody?

    Experts call Ron the “salesman of the century” . . . in fact, that’s the title of his book. (Click on the icon to see it.) His demonstrations entertained people so much he passed into legend. More to the point, those demonstrations earned Ron a very large fortune. They still work today.

  9. Showing the product as you might in newspaper is okay. But demonstrating as Ron does, causes prospects’ juices to flow.

    Don’t simply show a chair . . .

    a. Demonstrate its ability to recline close to the wall.

    b. Demonstrate your product’s fireproof material (if that’s the feature) with showmanship by playing a blowtorch on the fabric, etc.

    c. Show “before” and “after” if applicable.

    d. Never show the product just sitting there by itself. Demonstrate it with people using and benefiting.

    More pointers

  10. Focus on one main idea; sell one product – one idea – never several. An ad is nothing more than another form of sales presentation. How far do you think you would get if, in a personal sales presentation, you tried to sell several things at once? Zip.

  11. Emphasize your main selling point – your strongest idea. People do not grasp an ad well when it sells more than one idea.

    Once you establish your main idea, then wheel up as many sellng points as possible to prove and reinforce that idea.

    For instance, you’re promoting a “fantasy gadget.” Its main benefit: the gadget gets you to your destination quickly. Then you prove your point with several features and benefits. Arrange them in order of importance.

    • Feature: It travels at 50 miles per hour . . . Benefit: so you move quickly.
    • Feature: It has eight wheels . . . Benefit: so it’s very stable and won’t overturn.
    • Feature: It has a heavy-duty 8-cylinder engine that gets up to speed in 8.8 seconds . . . Benefit: so you get off the starting line quickly.
    • Feature: It features a special suspension system that allows it to move fast over rocky terrain . . . Benefit: which means you get there quickly even in uneven terrain. And so on.

    In the case of a sale event, the event itself serves as your product. That’s a different animal altogether. In a sale event, you employ the several different types of merchandise as the features in the event. Then you present their savings as the benefits of each featured item. Example:

    Save hundreds of dollars at this sale event on such items as . . .

    Feature: A Queen Ann chair . . . Benefit: to add grace to your decor . . . and Benefit: on sale for just $295.

    Feature: Contemporary Sofa . . . Benefit: that fits beautifully into your mid-America decor . . . Benefit: Save $295 . . . this $995 sofa now just $700.

    Include as many products, features & their benefits as time allows.

    Keep in mind TV’s limitations

  12. Use lots of close-up shots of your product and/or people in your ad.

  13. Keep full shots of a whole scene to a minimum. TV does not lend itself well to wide shots and extravaganzas. Usually, you use a full shot only to orient your viewer to your location or context of the ad.

    You can see only so much on that small 28”-32” – or even 56” screen. If we ever reach TV heaven where every family has a screen covering a whole wall (just like in the movie theatre), then we can consider full camera shots.

  14. Reinforce your voice track. Employ “supers” (a superimposition of phrases or words) on the screen at the bottom of the scene to reinforce your voice soundtrack. Make sure your supers stand out and do not blend with the scene. That makes them hard to read. The message is the message. The picture only supports the messaage.

  15. Your verbal and visual message should present a simple sequence of ideas. Present those ideas in nouns and verbs.

    Forget about flowery adjectives; your viewer will recognize the puffery and tune you out. Make your message bounce with action verbs and concrete nouns. Make a habit of omitting every adjective possible.

  16. Keep it believable. Stick to the facts and benefits. Tell your prospect the features of your offer and their benefits – what they do for a customer.

  17. Make sure your announcer uses a conversational mode – never a loud “ad pitch”. You destroy believability unless your audience consciously understands (and can accept it) that you use this mode of presentation strictly for effect.

  18. One other format wields great power . . . the testimonial from a customer or an authority.

    a. If you use a testimonial format to prove your point, be certain it looks and sounds real. What’s more, make certain it is real.

    b. Here’s a big no-no. Never use scripted comments from your witnesses. Let them speak for themselves in their own words. If their comments come off realistically, but grammar skews a little, advantage goes to you. Use them. Without editing. You’re looking for “real,” which fosters all-important believability.

    c. Would you like testimonials that pack real power? Sign up for the Maverick Strategy Newsletter at the top of this page. In the latest newsletter, I outline step-by-step how to harness sizzling testimonials. You can get this article on testimonials only through the Newsletter.

    How long should you make your ad?

  19. Generally, 60-second ads get more effect than 30-seconds because you have more time to make a full sales presentation.

    This length also applies to radio. That full presentation often makes all the difference in results despite its extra cost.

    You may have noticed local businesses often use 30-second ads. That’s because they’re usually pitching sales and events. (When you’re only discounting prices, you sometimes need less selling time).

    However, give this special thought: When you need to sell both a product and “why” people should buy from your business rather than a competitor, generally a 60-second ad works best. Maverick recommends this as a prime small business advertising idea.

  20. Hold 60-second ads up to 160 words. Keep 30-second ads to about 100 words so your audience comprehends your message.

    If you’re like me, you get irritated when announcers rush through a message. We all tend to reject or disregard it.

    Planning saves you money

  21. Because of high production costs, plan a shoot to get camera footage for several ads at once. Have your camera crew shoot all basic footage for your business so you can save clips of it for later ads – front or store front, warehousing, people performing essential functions, etc. (They often call this “stock footage”).

    Then, go one step further. Plan to shoot footage of several different products you know you will advertise during a given period (usually a season).

    For instance, if yours is a furniture store, plan for ads to sell a specific set of bedding, a sofa, or a chair. Take close-up shots of demonstrations of each product that has special features. Show people using and enjoying the item.

    When you’re ready to advertise that specific product, your production crew can edit some of those previous shots into the new ad you build.

    This method takes time and planning ahead but it pays off in better ads and lower production costs.

  22. Work closely with your station ahead of time to develop scripts and storyboards.

    Make sure the director gets your scripts ahead of time so he/she can study and prepare for them. Have your production crew prepare clean, camera-ready logos, scripts and storyboards.

    Then work as co-producer for your ads. That means you prepare all scene areas and products in your business for the shooting session.

    a. Organize and clean each area of the business in which you’ll shoot scenes. Clean any windows, doorways, storefronts and front areas you plan to feature in your scenes.

    b. Prepare all props ready for use. “De-clutter” backgrounds in these areas so the camera does not pick up any unwanted material.

    c. Place all products and props for a scene within a “square” area just as it would show on a TV screen. When your camera crew arrives, use the camera monitor to view the results and make adjustments.

    d. Set any products you plan to demonstrate in a location where the camera can get in close from several angles to perform the demonstration.

    Testimonials ramp up your ad power

  23. To recap, the most cost-effective TV advertising idea for small business uses one presenter in a straight announcement or demonstrate your product. You can produce these most easily and at less cost than other formats.

If you’d like more know-how about all phases of advertising and small business advertising, click here to get a view of the comprehensive Maverick Executive Advertising Seminar. This production gears totally to help you develop your small business advertising idea.

Warm regards,

Rod Rademacher
Maverick Strategy
785-783-7756 or
E-mail us here

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