Ever since the VHS tape made watching commercials optional, marketing executives have been challenged to make their commercials pause-worthy.
Some have been very successful. These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen the All-State Mayhem commercials, heard the FreeCreditReport.com song, or ogled Isaiah Mustafa in the Old Spice ads.
However, there are other companies whose commercials become legendary in a different way. They’re well-known, yes, and there’s the saying that no publicity is bad publicity. But for every epically awful but somehow wildly popular phenomenon, there are millions that are simply ignored.
Luckily, you can learn from these epic failures and the delightful commercial parodies they inspired.
1) Show how your product provides a real service to real people.
Most infomercials share the same structure: a klutz in black-and-white land is haphazardly trying to do a simple task and fumbles around in a destructive whirlwind like an elephant on Vicodin. But with the use of the incredible product being marketed, the task is a snap! The WTF Blanket – a dubbed over Snuggie commercial – exaggerates the silliness of it all.
As the proud owner of 3 Snuggies (1 name brand Snuggie, one Kmart knock-off, and 1 Brookstone Nap Comfy Ultra-Plush Blanket with Sleeves), I am clearly just the kind of moron this ad appeals to. I think I’m the exception rather than the rule on this one, though.
The parody here exaggerates two different things that a real customer might take away from the original: 1) the customer is an idiot who can’t do simple things and 2) the “problem” that needs to be “solved” is not really a problem at all.
Neither of these are a great way to start off with potential clients. Showing competent people up against a difficult obstacle and benefitting from your products and services is the ideal way to make your company relevant.
2) Use the word you mean, not the word that’s more exciting.
With precious seconds in a commercial or online video, the temptation to use flashy words or catchy phrases is constant. After all, you want those words to be remembered, right? The Iron Gym parody mocks the original by exaggerating the verbs describing the body’s reaction to exercise, including things such as “ransack your biceps” and “humiliate your chest.”
You’re probably laughing with me, but the original Iron Gym commercial includes gems like: “Start with shoulder-shredding, bicep-burning chin-ups and pull-ups.”
While using vivid imagery can be a successful way to describe a scene in longer prose, using flashy, shallow language that doesn’t add to the overall experience distracts from the substance of what you’re offering.
3) Hotties can get in the way.
On television shows, every doctor is gorgeous (and usually has a tortured past that bicurious experimentation alone cannot erase) and every police officer is smoking hot. And that’s okay, because everyone knows they’re only actors pretending.
While it is true that every promotional blog writer is a stone fox, doctors and other frequent TV spokespeople are not universally attractive. Having a pretty face may draw in initial interest but may also get your expert – real or not – dismissed as an actor or actress.
For example, where do you think Dr. Betty Bottoms got her degree?
The best part? This was a legitimate ad produced by an Indian advertising agency. I don’t know if it ever saw air (and frankly, I’m afraid to start Googling related keywords), but it certainly highlights the tendency of commercials to use attractive “experts.”
Although I do feel sorry for the poor hotties being discriminated against, it is an unfortunate truth that – whether based in jealousy or not – pretty people are often dismissed as less intelligent. If your brand has an attractive spokesperson who is also claiming to be (or really is) an expert, customers may second guess the person’s qualifications – and therefore YOUR brand’s research basis.
Do you break any of these rules in your advertisements? What are your favorite commercial parodies? What kind of commercials make you want to seek out a company’s products or services? Sound off in the comments below!
Until next time, keep expanding your brand!