Cookies, cutters and voiceover

My friend Blaine Parker writes a weekly screed called Hot Points. From time to time his hits on a subject so germane to voiceover that I have to re-publish his article. This is one of those times. I’ll offer a couple of thoughts after I present:

HOT POINTS for The Week of January 31, 2011

YES, YOU MIGHT BE DOING IT WITH STYLE–BUT ARE YOU DOING IT ALL WRONG?

There’s a whole world of dark and dangerous advertising out there. It exists purely to entice people who are distracted by shiny objects. Often, expensive shiny objects. The world were talking about is the exciting and invigorating template advertisement.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “template advertising,” you certainly know it by its characteristics.

Often, it appears as a radio commercial. (They exist in other media as well.) Some production company has assembled a very clever and well-produced scenario–most likely humorous–and they’ve left a donut hole for the advertiser to put in his name and contact information.

So, let’s say it’s a 10-second, amusing comedy sketch about the problem with needing glasses, 10 seconds about why you should really have Lasik, and 10 more empty seconds where the advertiser says his name and utters his phone number a couple of times.

Let’s go back to Advertising 101, friends.The key word here is “empty.”

THIS IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE BUSINESS
 
It’s an advertisement for the generic idea of what the business sells. In this case, we have a 10-second comedy about the problem with glasses. It’s followed by a 10-second sales pitch for the idea of Lasik. Then, it’s followed by 10 seconds of, “Call Dr. Joe’s Lasik Emporium at 123-555-1212. That’s 123-555-1212. Dr. Joe’s Lasik Emporium: For all your Lasik needs.”

It tells me nothing about Dr. Joe’s Lasik Emporium and why I should care. To borrow from the legendary Dick Orkin, it’s a Post-It Note that says, “We do Lasik, too.”

There is nothing representing Dr. Joe’s brand. There is nothing about how Dr. Joe solves the prospect’s problem better than anyone else. There is no emotional hook for Dr. Joe that makes me say, “I’d be crazy to go anywhere else to have my eyes done.”

We have a little “Ha ha ha!” happening with regard to the generic problem, a mention of the generic solution, and a name and phone number–which, by association, is generic.

You remember generics, right?

GENERICS ARE THE WHITE PACKAGES WITH THE BLACK LETTERS THAT SAY THINGS LIKE, “MACARONI & CHEESE” OR “COLA”

Generics are designed for people who care nothing about quality. They are designed purely for people who want to buy a commodity product at the lowest possible price. They are often risky purchases, offering subpar and even inedible versions of the branded food products they wish to imitate.

Generics are bad news. So, why would you want your brand to be generic?

“But it’s a funny commercial! It made me laugh because the guy has glasses!”

We hear this kind of response about bad ads all the time. We always reply, “But did it make you want the product?” They always look at us like we’re crazy–like the whole concept of an advertisement making you want the product is unfathomable.

Think this points to a problem with advertising in general?

TEMPLATES ARE OFTEN DESIGNED BY PEOPLE WHO DON’T GET IT FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW ANYTHING

I hate to say that, because many of the people creating these template ads are otherwise talented. It’s just clearly evident that they don’t know anything about effective advertising, brand or (gasp) USP. Or, worse, they do know and they just don’t care. That’s utter hack cynicism. They know that so many advertisers are either handed crap advertising for their businesses, or are unwilling to pay for good ads, that they can dangle these bright and shiny geegaws out there and get a bite.

It’s like a brook trout on a Mepps lure. The trout has no idea the lure is metallic and fish-free, he just knows it looks good. So he bites. And he’s hooked. He’s been fooled.

Sorry, Charlie.

A TEMPLATE CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE

Yes, I said it. This screed is not a generic swipe at the world of templates. At Slow Burn Marketing, we use template websites for small clients on tight budgets. The difference is that we’re using a skilled art director and a skilled copywriter to fill a template framework with information that matters to the prospect.

We’re not letting someone sell us a generic website already filled with copy, then slapping a client’s name on it.

We’re doing our job, which is building a brand, then building unique, message-driven advertising, and using a template framework to continue spreading the unique message.

Conversely, I’ve seen people say, “Yeah, but we can use the template ad to drive traffic and THEN sell them the uniqueness!” It doesn’t work that way. To drive traffic, you must first make the prospect care. You can’t just jingle a set of keys and expect someone to go, “Wow! Whatcha selling!?”

They need to come away from the ad knowing exactly what you’re selling and why it’s better than what Dr. Joe is selling. If the prospect doesn’t know, if the message isn’t conveyed convincingly, the ad is a failure and will convince no one.

COOKIE CUTTERS ARE NOT MADE FOR MARKETING

When a prospect sees or hears an advertisement, the desired reaction should be, “Wow, he’s talking to me. He understands my problem, and has the answer that’s so much better than those other guys! Give me the phone!” But with an advertising cookie cutter, the only reaction is likely to be, “So what?” And as we’ve all seen before, if the message doesn’t pass the So What Test, it isn’t yet a message.

Build your brand. Craft your message. Make it pointed. And then, break the mold.

There is no template for greatness–only guts and glory.

As always,

Blaine Parker
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Park City

www.slowburnmarketing.com
www.spotsbeforeyoureyes.net
Follow on Twitter @blaineparker

Now, why do I think Blaine is writing about voiceover this week? Because I see a lot of people working the generic angle (if it can be called that) in their voiceover business. The thing that you have to sell, the only thing you have to sell, is you. Yes, your voice; but more than that, the whole package. Or are you just another nice voice?

Build your brand. Craft your message. Make is pointed and specific. Remember, there is no template for greatness nor for excellence.

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