Recently, there have been two things that have occupied my brain waves:
(1) Television commercials and
(2) How I tend to view them.
I often read articles discussing the social engagement aspect of television shows. This summer Bravo TV will unleash a dating show with the premise of it being entirely “social”. I guess the audience will get to weigh-in on decisions made during the courtship process. I might see how this plays out…
Truth be told, I have run out of books to read (don’t worry Amazon says I have 5 en route), so I was skimming Keller and Fay’s The Face-to-Face Book. In it, the two authors discuss how television ads help to drive word-of-mouth conversations during big events. In a sense, advertisements act as social currency when consumed around “weak social ties”. According to the authors, studies like THIS showed that “group viewing” wasn’t a detriment to the brand (as once thought), but “promoted engagement”. I had all but discarded television advertising as an effective medium, but this made me pause a bit.
What are the ingredients that generate word-of-mouth and that make a television commercial worth its massive buy? We have arrived at point number 2.
I know how obvious this will sound, but my viewing habits have changed– my guess is that most of our habits have. As a singular viewer I rarely watch commercials. If you add my wife to the equation, we are more likely watching live television, thus we see commercials. The third mode is group party situations. We live in the south, SEC football is next to religion. Thus, we watch a lot of television in groups, football is the main reason for these gatherings. My personal pie chart of viewing habits would be split into equal thirds. As I have observed how commercials are viewed in group settings, I would have to agree with Keller and Fay’s assessment. In these large social gatherings, people are so starved to find commonalities that commercials often act as a great bridge between conversations. While often it is humor that helps, to truly be effective there must be a product (or brand) association. So, while television is supposed to have this grand social component to it, I wonder if commercials shouldn’t seek the same “social”, but IRL. I think the answer lies in what MillwardBrown called Creative Effectiveness. It is the creative that gets people talking (Betty White getting tackled in Snickers commercial) and it is the execution of the “commonality” is what keeps the conversation going. Sure, Betty White had a funny part, but no one talked about Snickers.
Creativity often drives conversations in the short-term, however commercials that build a stronger association perform better over time. Here are two commercials that begin to bring to life to my observations.
First, we have the Fruit Loops commercial. I watched this commercial with my wife and a few others. If you could see a picture of this group, it would be painfully obvious that we all represent the target here: young, married, newborn/young child. The entire group can sympathize with those brief moments of silent and we are just old enough to remember how awesome Nintendo was. This was a popular commercial with the group and did start a conversation. The problem is that there was little talk of Fruit Loops. The conversation became about Nintendo.
My second example would be this Hyundai commercial. This commercial was watched within a larger group. Once again, we nailed the target audience. While the humor in the everyday life of a parent made this discussion worthy, Hyundai was the focus of the residual conversation. Anyone drive a Hyundai? Does it compare? Can you fit a car seat?
Much different outcome.
I do realize that these commercials air all the time, and are certainly viewed alone, but I am just exploring a hunch. Similarly, I am not saying that this should be the new model. I am merely providing my take, and some research, to create a bit of structure to my observations.