Once upon a time, I worked for a broadcasting company that launched the world’s first local-television website. No other TV station had one. The Internet was still fairly new and most people weren't online yet, so we really had to explain it. At the end of every promo, the poor Announcer Guy had to spell out H-T-T-P-forward slash-forward slash-W-W-W-colon… You get the picture. All this took about ten seconds, or one-third of the entire spot. At the time, though, educating people about the Internet was an important part of the message. In 2013? Not so much. Too many local advertisers make the seemingly harmless mistake of saying “Visit us on the web at www…” No big deal? Ten percent of your commercial just disappeared. Tick, tick, tick. Today, that’s like telling viewers to “visit our building on a road at an address.” It’s completely generic and unnecessary. People know about the Internet. Even the “www” is now superfluous. A simple “.com” will give customers all the cue they need to find you on the net, and leave you more time to sell your product. (3 seconds saved.) So what are some other common TV-copy time wasters?
Address: Many advertisers make the mistake of including their full street address, including the zip code. But when was the last time you memorized the street number and zip code of an advertiser? If you really need to say where you are, landmarks are best. No landmarks? Just the road will suffice. (3 seconds saved.)
Phone Number: A full number is ten digits, which equals ten words out of the 60 to 70 words you have for a 30-second commercial (tick, tick, tick). Truth is, hearing a phone number won’t make customers remember it any more effectively than pausing their DVR and writing it down. A strong vanity number repeated at least three times throughout the commercial would be a notable exception. (2.5 seconds saved.)
Social Media: You don’t need to say you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. It’s great information to have, but a small Facebook or Twitter logo at the end of your commercial will be instantly recognizable to anyone who uses those sites. An “@” or a “#” lets people know you’re tweeting. (2 seconds saved.)
ATTENTION: How many television commercials have you seen with an announcer yelling “ATTENTION HOMEOWNERS” at the beginning? Guess what? Potential customers are watching TV. You already have their attention. Make it count. (1 second saved.)Please and Thank You: Good manners are wonderful. But they are better saved for inside your store or dealership when your employees are dealing with your customers face to face. (1.5 seconds saved.)
Formal Language: Do not. Cannot. Will not. Don’t! Can’t! Won’t! Contractions are your friends. Sentence fragments are OK on TV. Even the occasional grammatical error (on purpose) is acceptable. Speak to your customers in a conversational tone. Talk to them the way people actually talk. It will sound more natural and save time. (2 seconds saved.)
Serving the Tri-State area since 1999: Unless you’re having an Anniversary Sale that’s going to save them some money, customers probably don’t care about this information. Put it on the sign out front, and use your TV time to give them a real reason to visit your business. (3 seconds saved.)
Baseline Qualities: These are traits that should be considered the very least your business can do for your clientele. Customers expect you to have a knowledgeable staff. And you better have friendly customer service or they won’t be back. They also expect your competitors to offer them these exact same things. Your time is best served showing them how you’re actually different from the rest. (3 seconds saved.) Of course, rules are made to be broken. From time to time there might be a good reason to go against any one of these suggestions (except maybe the ATTENTION thing). But hopefully your last TV spot didn’t make all the errors listed above. If it did, you’ve come to the right place. You just got 21 seconds of your commercial back for telling customers why they should choose you over the competition. That’s more than 66% of your valuable time. What will you do with it? ~Christian McIlwain