I’ve always enjoyed commercials produced by ESPN over the years. The “This Is SportsCenter” series are full of classic, memorable spots. Viewers can appreciate the commercials, even if they aren’t sports fans; even if they aren’t familiar with the particular athlete or team being represented. In recent years, promos for ESPN’s College Game Day have become just as memorable. But what is it about these commercials that are so effective?
Personality. The people on screen are charismatic. They’re captivating. Forget for a moment that the news anchors, athletes, and coaches are celebrities. Think about how they present themselves on camera. They’re relaxed. They’re having fun. They’re natural. They seem friendly. Whatever video project you’re working on, make sure that the people on camera have personality. Your talent needs to connect personally with your audience.
Juxtaposition. The “This is SportsCenter” campaign is a lesson in contrast, and that’s part of the appeal. They take athletes, coaches, and mascots, pull them out of context, and place them within the confines of an ordinary, corporate office environment. Visually, it doesn’t match up, which lends itself to some great comedic moments. At the same time, it perfectly captures what ESPN is all about – they live sports. How can you communicate the core identity of your business or service by meshing two seemingly contradictory ideas or visuals?
Performance. The ESPN commercials are not centered on complex animation, bold graphics, intense music, or a stylized look. They are based on a solid idea, with strong copy, and excellent performances from the on-camera talent. A good video isn’t built on a lot of sizzle and special effects. Those things can certainly enhance a video, but without a creative idea at its core, your message won’t be communicated effectively. Start with the idea. Lean on a video production company to help you develop it into something unique. And rely on the performance(s) of talented individuals to give the video life and personality.
Here is one of the latest ESPN College GameDay commercials:
On April 20 I had an opportunity to give a guest lecture at Samford University to a group of public relations students. The professor invited me to speak because his class was learning about the video production process. He had already covered the topic of producing VNR’s (Video News Releases), and asked me to teach on the subject of commercials and marketing videos. During the class, I covered a general overview of video production. We discussed current marketing and advertising trends, the process of formulating and scripting ideas, common mistakes to avoid, how to work with and respond to clients, and the process of shooting and editing video. The slides from my presentation are embedded below.
I had the opportunity this past Thursday night to attend the 53rd Annual Birmingham Ad Federation ADDY Awards. For those unfamiliar, the ADDYs celebrate the best advertising in all forms of media (print, interactive, TV, radio, video, etc.). They also recognize the content creators behind the ads. It’s an opportunity to see the caliber of creative talent right here in Birmingham and the quality work they produce each year. For me, this year’s event was an improvement over previous ADDY Awards and I really think the local AAF (American Advertising Federation) chapter is starting to hit its stride when it comes to the annual awards show.
First, it was decided that a new trophy be designed – one that would remain unchanged from year to year. In the past, the ADDY trophy would take on different forms, depending on the particular theme for the year. As a result, the award itself had no real continuity because it always looked different. I applaud the choice to keep the trophy consistent. Over time it will create instant recognition for those familiar with the ADDYs.
I also really enjoyed this year’s choice of venues – the Alabama Theatre. The winning entries (including the TV spots and sales videos) were projected on the large screen as they were announced. The seating was ample and comfortable. It really felt like an award show and not just an after-work social event. However, networking is an important part of the ADDY experience and I only wish the Alabama Theatre had a little more lobby space to accommodate the attendees and the food. Navigating through the crowd was difficult. I was also disappointed that the entries were not on display for everyone to see. In previous years, tables had been set up so that people had the chance to see the entries.
In all, this year’s ADDY Awards show was a great experience. Even if you don’t work in the creative industry, attending the event will expose you to some great creative work happening right here in Birmingham.
Last year we worked with CommuteSmart to produce two TV commercials for their “I’m Ready” campaign. CommuteSmart is an initiative of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham and seeks to alleviate traffic congestion and improve air quality by offering incentives to walk, bike, or take mass transit to work. Back in December, CommuteSmart hired us to produce three new public service announcements. This time, the client wanted to take a different approach. They wanted each commercial to consist solely of graphics and titles to go along with a new marketing campaign. We storyboarded and produced each commercial based on the scripts written by CommuteSmart. Here is the :30 spot for vanpooling.
Video is an artistic medium, meaning that the final product is always influenced by a certain interpretation and aesthetic approach. Give four directors the same subject and tell them to create a promotional video on that subject, and invariably you will receive four very different videos.
This means that a budget for any one video can run from one extreme to the other. The final cost always depends on several factors. That’s why it’s very difficult to nail down an accurate bid, simply based on the question, “How much do you charge for a commercial?” Video production is something different from an item you find on the grocery store shelf. Every commercial or promotional video can’t always be packaged and priced with a nice, neat little label. Businesses are different. People are different. Therefore, directors that strive to give clients unique content that speaks directly to their audience will want to sit down with you for a creative consultation.
I always try to meet with a potential client face to face to gather information for a particular video project. In that initial consultation, I like to find out the following:
Basic information on the company; history, products, services
Main selling points that make this company different from their competitors
Values the company holds
Perceptions about the company (both internally and externally)
Marketing goals that the company has for themselves (more specifically, what do they want this video to achieve?)
Information on current customers (why do they buy from this company?)
Their target market
Problems that this marketing effort will help solve
The reasons why they contacted me
The role they want me to play in this project
Ideas they have for a video (both in terms of content and aesthetics)
These items are incredibly important to me as I move into any video production, because it helps in developing a concept and a script that will be most effective to the client. I want the client to know that what interests me most is helping them gain greater public exposure and increased profitability.