More money is wasted on advertising than any other business function. Small and mid-sized businesses in particular throw money at advertising in a vain attempt to establish themselves in the marketplace. However, there is hope that the democratizing nature of the Web environment can even the playing field and allow smaller companies to deliver their marketing messages effectively. But before that can happen, the potential advertiser must understand what the big boys have spent a considerable amount of time and effort to find out: how to create an advertising campaign that motivates and persuades customers to do business with you.
Chuck Young, founder and CEO of Ameritest, an advertising and brand research firm and John Kastenholz, Vice President of Consumer and Market Insight at Unilever have done extensive research into how story telling, emotions, and ideas are linked in creating effective commercial advertising. Since their research was based on television advertising it holds immediate relevance to any company that intends on using the Web as a significant presentation tool for delivering their marketing message. The cost of producing and airing broadcast television commercials is exorbitant, and that cost necessitates the kind of research done by Young and Kastenholz. Web-based marketers can benefit from the psychological insights provided from these studies and implement the findings in cost effective Web-video and audio presentations on websites, Google Video, Google Video Ads, YouTube, MySpace, and the countless other video presentation vehicles popping up on the Web daily. In Chuck Young's article, "A Film Director's Guide To Ad Effectiveness" he states that audiences don't just watch a commercial, video, or film, but rather they actively participate emotionally in them. By paying attention to an audience's emotional response to short-form storytelling (commercials) the advertiser can turn mere information into a memorable experience. There are two ways to persuade an audience: tap into their existing belief system or change their existing belief system, a much harder challenge, but not impossible if you understand what makes people believe what they believe. We can communicate to an audience on three levels: the objective, the subjective, and the conceptual.
Many advertisements fail because they present a rational objective argument in their presentation. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your point-of-view, most purchases are based on emotion not objective rational decision-making. People may justify a purchase on some rational fabrication but if truth-be-told the decision was founded on a far more emotional subjective level. Purchasing decisions based on a rational model really only work for companies who are the dominant low price leader in a commodity based marketplace - not a place most businesses want to be as margins are low and volume must be extremely high in order to make any money.
By tapping into the subjective level of an audience's common experiences, experiences that form the basis of an emotional response, advertisers can present a far more powerful case than one based on mere features and specifications. Commercials or Web-based video presentations that reach an audience on this subjective level can be extremely effective in aligning a product, service or brand with an audience's pre-existing set of beliefs - they will be comfortable in buying your wares because they see how it fits their vision of themselves. The Conceptual In order to actually change people's minds rather than just convince them that you fit their pre-existing set of values and beliefs, you must reach them on a conceptual level. To achieve this level of persuasion the experience presented must not only be memorable and comprehensible; it must also be enlightening or perspective altering. This epiphany or 'seeing-the light' will then be incorporated into the audience's values and belief system and used as a cognitive decision-making reference.
In their article, 'Emotions In TV Ads,' Young and Kastenholz identified four visual storytelling constructs for creating video commercials that appeal to an audience on an emotional level.
The Emotional Pivot storytelling construct presents the product, service or brand as hero, solving the problem presented in the video and abruptly turning a negative situation into a positive one. A recent Nicoderm television commercial showing an ill-tempered flight attendant berating passengers for a variety of common passenger behaviors due to her attempt to stop smoking is a good example of this format. The nerve-rattled, flight attendant is abruptly converted into a pleasant customer-oriented person because she starts using Nicoderm. This commercial story line illustrates how an initial negative behavior is changed into a positive one with the introduction of the product or service being advertised. The moment of change, called the 'emotional pivot,' is when the product is introduced as hero.
The Positive Transition story starts with a low level of positive behavior that abruptly turns into a higher level of positive behavior with the brand acting as the co-star, leaving the starring role for the audience. This technique often uses misdirection to hide the brand until it is suddenly revealed as the catalyst for increased positive change. Sports car ads where the target audience is hero and the car is catalyst for getting the girl or the new job is an example of this type of commercial storytelling.
The Build story technique presents a smooth flow of positive energy to the audience culminating with a strong visual payoff at the emotional climax of the commercial. In this storytelling scenario the brand is often held back and only revealed at the very end of the presentation. The brand is the director or unseen guiding hand responsible for the positive experience promised to the audience. Cosmetic commercials where admiring males are attracted to a beautiful woman who ultimately reveals her secret as the brand, is a variation of this type of commercial storytelling.
The Sustained Emotion commercial is your typical 'feel good' advertisement that maintains a strong positive emotional presentation throughout the production. This type of commercial often uses a montage of images or video clips with an emotional or stimulating musical score. In this case the brand is acting as the producer presenting the exciting experience you could be enjoying if only you bought into the brand. The Royal Caribbean 'Get Out There' series of commercials is a good example of this kind of commercial. Conclusion The Web is evolving into the go-to vehicle for presenting video commercial presentations at a cost that is sustainable by any serious business. As more and more companies begin to use the Web venue as a multimedia presentation platform, those that learn how to use the medium properly by constructing compelling, memorable story-based messages that appeal to their audiences on an emotional level will benefit the most. About The Author Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design firm that specializes in Web-audio and Web-video. Visit www.mrpwebmedia.com/ads, www.136words.com and www.sonicpersonality.com. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (905) 764-1246.