Writer Jay Huling - Jacksonville, FL - Copywriting Services - TV Spots
Have You Ever Honestly Asked Yourself
Why Your TV Commercials
Suck So Bad?

Jay Huling

Why aren't they making you money like you want them to?

There's an illness common to directors, videographers -- and yes -- even those who produce the true riches -- scriptwriters.

It's called creative-itis.

And it's a peculiar condition that causes these folks to forget that a television commercial is a means to an end.

Creative-itis is the ego disorder of wanting people to notice a great TV ad, not a great product or service.

It usually strikes people who grew up wanting to be artists, movie stars, or Pulitzer Prize winners. Of course, when that didn't work out, they "had to settle for advertising."

And waste their client's money so they can be creative.

An advertising budget isn't there to support a bunch of starving artists. It's supposed to support business.

You want a powerful sales tool that will generate inquiries, generate sales, generate store traffic -- generate something.

Most TV ads fail because they fail to deliver a selling message. They're just money in some account executive's pocket.

Frankly, selling on TV isn't easy. 

But, c'mon, how can anybody expect to accomplish anything in only 30 seconds? It takes longer than that to say good morning.

Let's ask some questions about your TV ads. Your answers will help you create great television that works.

But first . . .


Who cares? It's a myth, an excuse; that's all.

For some reason there is this thinking that "before MTV, before Pay-Per-View, before 500-channel cable, before DirectTV people had incredibly long attention spans. But now it's different. Now we have to put on a show. We're all victims of remote control zapping. Therefore, it is imperative that we dazzle and bamboozle."


Let me tell you something: People have ALWAYS had incredibly SHORT attention spans. Nothing has changed.

Besides, what do people zap to? Why, something they're interested in, of course.

And if they zap the commercial before yours, you don't have a chance anyway.

So forget it. Hollywood hopefuls want to produce their own commercials for their own selfish benefit. But professionals are looking out for the client's interests. Everything you do should be to sell your product or service.


You can't bore people into being interested in you.

But it's okay if people are bored and zap your commercial -- just as long as they are non-prospects. Don't spend your entire budget trying to entertain people who are not serious buyers. 

Sow the good seed on the good ground. Go after just anybody and a lot of money will be spent on a commercial that will fail.

Remember, you're interrupting your viewers. They were watching something else and you butted in.

Your prospect is not a boob. Respect their intelligence. They know you are trying to sell them something. 

You want the right people watching for the right reason. The right reason is they are the people who have the interest and power to buy what you are selling.

Here are three good ways to get the right people to pay attention:

  • You can show your target viewers that you have information you know they are looking for

  • You can show them you have a solution to a problem you know they face

  • You can make them an offer you know they will find irresistible

Your viewer must find something worth watching in the first few seconds of the ad.

If not, you're gone.


You're looking for big ideas, not gimmicks. Make sure nothing is done to endanger your sales pitch.

If someone says the commercial must be entertaining to sell, watch out . . . or better yet, run!

Ask them why. If the answer has anything to do with the MTV zappers, remind them of the goal: The goal is not to get people to watch but to get people to buy.

Emphasize your biggest, strongest, most emotional buying point. Focus on the viewer's wants and needs -- not on your own.

Always keep in mind the viewer's self-interest.

Viewers don't care about you; they only want to know what's in it for them.

Concentrate on a specific benefit and hammer it home. You can back this up with secondary benefits to help sweeten the deal. But remember:  If everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized.

You can't be all things to all people. If you try, you'll end up being nothing to everyone.


It should be obvious. There are only four people in the world who really care about your commercial:  You, the client, the guy who wrote it, and the guy who wrote its mother.

No one is watching television to see your ad. You have to attract viewers. The best way to do that is to make it clear that you have something they want.

Just make sure the "something" is relevant to what you are selling.

Do you have an important announcement for men with thinning hair? Make that announcement. Do you have news for expectant mothers? Tell them your news. Have something to offer singles? 

Married couples? Young adults or retirees? High, low, or middle income families

You're wanting a specific group of people to take a specific action. But if your message is not clear, no one will do anything.


Are they going to remember the commercial but forget you?

It's okay to say the same thing repeatedly. If you stick to a single selling message, you'll make it easy to remember.

Repeat your product name as often as you can without being obvious or obnoxious. Get it in there at least once in the first ten seconds. Preferably twice.


Yes, television is a visual medium, but that's only half true. Don't forget the sound. It's equally important.

People don't always "watch" television. Do you? No, sometimes you're doing other things; the TV is just "on." It's very common for television to be used like a radio, something to listen to. Don't undersell yourself or your client by underestimating the power of the audio.

Sell with pictures. Sell with words. Sell with sounds. Sell, sell, sell.


You've hit the right audience with the right message. Good. Now, make it pay. Let them know your phone number, locations, nearest dealers, and any other information that is appropriate.

Being part of the production of a commercial is fun and glamorous. But watch out for the Spielberg, Neil Simon, and Elvis wannabes with their eyes on Hollywood.

Professionals won't let little visions of fame blind them into forgetting the fundamentals of good advertising. Attract the right viewers, show them the advantages you offer, make these advantages clear, show proof of what you say, and persuade them that now is the time to act.

You should -- by all means -- recommend and encourage trends toward TV ads that emphasize sensational entertainment over sensible selling.

Yes -- yes! -- you should recommend it to your competitors.

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