TV Commercials and a Changing Market: How To Ensure You Are Creating Meaningful Content

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As much as people engage with marketing options like social media and digital ads, TV commercials still are a highly effective way to reach consumers. Even today, TV is the most trusted form of advertising and, in the United States, provides the highest ROI of all media for every dollar spent ($14.34). But it has the same Achilles’ heel that other channels do. If the content is lacking, people won’t pay attention. Thus, the question becomes how to create meaningful TV content that both captivates and inspires.

watching tv at home

© Syda Productions/
watching tv at home

Targeted, authentic ads that repeat over time can create memories that push viewers to additional engagement.


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A Narrowed Scope With a Deeper Purpose

One common mistake marketers make in TV and other platforms is to take a throw-it-at-the-wall approach, trying to reach everyone, everywhere. The rationale behind this strategy is that if you can get more eyes on the content, you’ll get more conversions and build a following over time.

But what often happens with this type of generalized TV content is that people don’t feel the companies have them in mind as unique individuals. Because the messaging isn’t specific enough, people dismiss it. For this reason, narrow messaging can be better.

That’s why it’s advised to be specific about the audience you’re trying to reach. Who are they? What do they do? Where do they live? How old are they? What are their goals?

However, the most important question is what problem they are trying to solve with your product. Ideally, connect the product to a deeper purpose: If you have a commercial promoting ready-made meals, for example, the practicality of getting food on the table is a superficial problem. The deeper purpose or issue might be to bring families together over dinner or give people better control over their health.

Emotions Count, but Realness Is the Priority

Recent years have seen a massive uptick in the social and professional emphasis on emotional intelligence. At the same time, marketers have tapped into scientific research about the brain that shows people think emotionally first and rationally second. With these two elements working together, it’s easy to assume that the “best” type of marketing would be emotional — even sentimental.

But effective content doesn’t have to be overly emotional. It only has to be real, creating a sense of inclusion or understanding in the viewer.

Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Coming out of a global pandemic, how can you alleviate their stress? How can you convince them that your product will help them? As a full range of social issues unrelated to the pandemic continues to contribute to weariness and anxiety, those are questions that will likely stay relevant well into the future.

How to Create a Winning TV Campaign

If you need to create a TV campaign for your business, the current marketing emphasis should be on attention, memorability and repetition. The support for this idea comes mainly from a Comcast study which showed that, compared to other digital environments like mobile phones, “big screen” or traditional television marketing is more engaging and easier to remember. TV ads garner more visual attention (71% versus 30%), are rated better in terms of creative message and have a 3.4 times better recall on first exposure.

My team always stresses that we want our target audience to see something 14 times so they’ll recognize it — in other words, we double the common marketing wisdom of the “rule of seven.” We keep our TV commercials at 15 or 30 seconds because we consider ads just the first step in the customer journey. We want them to have several brief exposures so that when we hit them with a digital ad, it becomes a continuation of the story they already know — and it continues to engage them.

Consider television ads content within the bigger construct of your marketing platform. My team knows that 15 or 30 seconds isn’t enough time to communicate the information necessary to inspire big shifts in someone’s behavior. But TV ads help people remember us. People can then visit our website or do a search for us and get the additional information they need to make a decision.

We can tell if a particular TV campaign is successful by looking at the way our website is subsequently performing or how often people search for the terms utilized in the ad. A few years ago, we stopped all TV ads for a month, and our SERP (search engine result page) ranking fell off a cliff. This was evidence that the TV ads were making a difference in our visibility and subsequent sales.

Finally, marketing on any platform is a two-way conversation between you and your audience. Everything you deliver should be based on feedback they give you. Tools like Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner let you do this with little hassle. See what people are searching for or what is in the news for your industry. Then, take those popular topics and create content that is highly relevant for your audience. You will also be able to analyze trends between platforms so you can format the content and put it exactly where you know the audience is.

Lay Down Meaning First, and Sales Will Follow

TV has been a marketing juggernaut for decades. More effective than other alternatives for creating memories, it continues to hold its own even as other players like social media come into the game. But it thrives only when the TV ads produced have sufficient meaning. If you lay your foundation with that, you can produce content that sells even as you adapt yourself to fickle markets.

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