A Failure to Communicate



“What the bleepin’ bleep was that?”


For everyone who has ever watched TV, the above words undoubtedly have been uttered – in your own head or out loud – after viewing a commercial that made little or no sense. And while the advertisement could simply be speaking to a very particular          (not you) audience, it’s all too often a case of communication failure

In the last few years, I’ve sadly seen a noticeable uptick in ads with misguided messaging. The ad may completely forget to tell us what a product does. Or on the flipside, it might hurl a kitchen sink of messages at us. Or the script may sound like 5 different people with 5 different opinions pieced it together. You know, CrowdWriting.

The culprit of this unfortunate trend is hard to nail down. Technology? Unlikely. In-house marketing? Maybe. Big Data? Not sure about that, but it’s always fun to blame Big Data.

No matter the cause, it’s important to remember the value that powerful writing brings to your advertising. Your message is vital – for both your brand story and your quest to drive sales. Don’t take your words lightly.

Here are FIVE things to watch out for when creating a television or any other video advertisement.

1. The One Man Band. If the same person that films your ad is also strategizing, writing and art directing your ad, you might end up with an ad that doesn’t fire on all cylinders. It may look great, yet be confusing. It may sound terrific, but lack eye-catching visuals. While we all should be able to cross disciplines to add value, we have our specialties for a reason. Partner with a group, not a solo artist.

2. The Content Trap. “We need content and loads of it!” There’s nothing wrong with wanting an abundant supply of content. Just make sure it’s the right content. Without a clear direction on how the visuals and the words will work together to convey your story, it’s wasteful. It’s like having a huge closet stocked with clothes that don’t match, fit properly or suit your personality.

3. Internal Speak. If you fill a meeting with folks intimately close to your brand and industry, everything spoken will make total sense. Heads will nod. “Yeses” will echo harmoniously across the room. And you will feel confident in your message. However, bring your consumer into the discussion. Will they hear it the same way? Will it all add up? Will they care about the same talking points? My Magic 8Ball says, “Don’t count on it.”

What feels important in the room may not be important to consumers. For example, your unique advantage over the competition might have no benefit to the everyday person. Your revolutionary manufacturing process may be awesome, but it also may have zero influence on why I’d want to buy your product. Consider the mindset and knowledge base of your consumer when speaking to them.

4. Playing Connect the Dots. A great script begins with a great idea. It is then fleshed out with fresh, engaging and impactful words. One element that often gets lost is the flow of the information. How do you move from one talking point to the next? If viewers have to work to connect your messages, it’s trouble. The simplest way to gauge the flow is by asking, “Does this naturally feel like the next thing someone would say?” Each message point should seamlessly build upon each other – all adding up to one powerful story.

5. The Name Game. This Watch Out applies specifically to digital video. And it has to do with a common “best practice” that tells advertisers to get their brand or product name up as early as possible in the spot. Now, if awareness is the ONLY objective you have, this approach is fine. If response (clicks, site visits, sales) is your goal, this tactic could backfire.

People engage with content and messages they relate to, deem important or find interesting. Your brand name typically doesn’t fall into that category. To attract the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of viewers, lead with what matters to them. This should lead to better results in the end.

All in all, advertising is about serving up the right message at the right time to the right person. These days, we hear a lot about the dynamic, data-driven ways to reach your audience. And without question, there are some terrific innovations happening there. Just don't forget that reaching your audience is only a part of the equation. A well-crafted message can really make your media investment work a lot harder.