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:
Let’s imagine that you are currently accepting proposals from various video production companies on two different video projects. Each video is to last ninety seconds. Let’s suppose that Video #1 is a promotional video for a yearly two-day conference and seminar that your company sponsors. And let’s suppose that Video #2 is a promotional video for a specific product or service that your company offers. Sounds pretty straight-forward. Each video will last only ninety seconds. Each video will highlight your company. Each video will be used on your website.
So why is it that the budget estimate for Video #2 is five times greater than the budget estimate for Video #1? Since each video lasts the same amount of time, they should cost the same amount of money, right? Actually, the final running time of a video has very little impact on the budget.* To find out why Video #2 will cost more to produce than Video #1, you have to look at what’s involved in each project. Let’s suppose that in the case of Video #1 (the promotional video for the two-day annual conference) you already have all of the footage from last year’s conference. You simply want to re-purpose that footage into a video that promotes next year’s conference. So, all you need from the video production company is post-production services. You will even provide a script from which to structure the video.
In the case of Video #2, let’s assume that everything will have to be created from scratch. You need the video producer and/or director to come in, meet with you and your team, see the product or service, develop a concept, write a script, and provide all production and post-production services, which includes a two-day shoot on location with a full camera crew.
In these brief descriptions of each project, it’s apparent that Video #2 is a much more involved project than Video #1. Therefore, the budgets for each will be different, although the final running time for each video is the same. Think of it this way: most television commercials last thirty seconds. But, would you say that the commercial for your local furniture store cost the same amount of money as the commercial for Coca-Cola that aired during the Super Bowl? Each spot may last thirty seconds, but each one will have vastly different budgets.
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.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a case study on the new CommuteSmart TV commercials we produced last month. I embedded one of the commercials in that particular post. The entire project consisted of three commercials – two thirty-second spots and one ten-second spot. Here is the other thirty-second commercial that focuses on carpooling.
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.