As consumers, we see so many TV commercials that it's easy to take for granted the time, effort, and money that go into making them. Creating and producing commercials that break through the clutter on TV and communicate effectively is a detailed, expensive process. On a cost-per-minute basis, commercials are the most expensive productions seen on television.
TV is a unique and powerful advertising medium because it contains the elements of sight, sound, and motion, which can be combined to create a variety of advertising appeals and executions. Unlike print, the viewer does not control the rate at which the message is presented, so there is no opportunity to review points of interest or reread things that are not communicated clearly. As with any form of advertising, one of the first goals in creating TV commercials is to get the viewers' attention and then maintain it. This can be particularly challenging because of the clutter and because people often view TV commercials while doing other things (reading a book or magazine, talking).
Like print ads, TV commercials have several components. The video and audio must work together to create the right impact and communicate the advertiser's message.
Video The video elements of a commercial are what is seen on the TV screen. The visual portion generally dominates the commercial, so it must attract viewers' attention and communicate an idea, message, and/or image. A number of visual elements may have to be coordinated to produce a successful ad. Decisions have to be made regarding the product, the presenter, action sequences, demonstrations, and the like, as well as the setting(s), the talent or characters who will appear in the commercial, and such other factors as lighting, graphics, color, and identifying symbols.
Audio The audio portion of a commercial includes voices, music, and sound effects. Voices are used in different ways in commercials. They may be heard through the direct presentation of a spokesperson or as a conversation among various people appearing in the commercial. A common method for presenting the audio portion of a commercial is through a voice-over, where the message is delivered or action on the screen is narrated or described by an announcer who is not visible. A trend among major advertisers is to have celebrities with distinctive voices do the voiceovers for their commercials.28 Actor Richard Dreyfuss does the voiceovers in some Honda commercials, Jeff Goldblum does Apple Computers, and mega-stars such as Ben Affleck, Renee Zelwegger, and Ashley Judd have done Diet Coke commercials.
Music is also an important part of many TV commercials and can play a variety of roles.29 In many commercials, the music provides a pleasant background or helps create the appropriate mood. Advertisers often use needledrop, which Linda Scott describes as follows:
Needledrop is an occupational term common to advertising agencies and the music industry. It refers to music that is prefabricated, multipurpose, and highly conventional. It is, in that sense, the musical equivalent of stock photos, clip art, or canned copy. Needledrop is an inexpensive substitute for original music; paid for on a one-time basis, it is dropped into a commercial or film when a particular normative effect is desired.30
In some commercials, music is much more central to the advertising message. It can be used to get attention, break through the advertising clutter, communicate a key selling point, help establish an image or position, or add feeling.31 For example, music can work through a classical conditioning process to create positive emotions that become associated with the advertised product or service. Music can also create a positive mood that makes the consumer more receptive toward the advertising message.32 Because music can play such an important role in the creative strategy, many companies have paid large sums for the rights to use popular songs in their commercials. There are two kinds of works to which companies negotiate rights when licensing music for use in commercials. The musical composition includes the music notes and the words, while the master recording includes the voice(s) of the original artist.33 The latter is usually much more expensive to buy, so advertisers will often negotiate for the rights to use the music and have it performed by someone with a similar voice. Rights to music can be held by various parties, such as the original artist, the artist's estate, or a music publishing company. For example, the rights to songs done by the late reggae star Bob Marley are held by his estate, while the rights to songs by the Beatles are controlled by a music publishing company. Nortel Networks licensed the composition rights to use the classic Beatles song "Come Together" (which it had performed by a different artist) and used the music as the central theme in the global advertising campaign the company ran recently.34 While it is less expensive to rerecord the music, some advertisers are willing to pay millions of dollars to use the voices of the original artists in their commercials. IMC Perspective 9-3 discusses how companies such as Cadillac, Chevrolet Trucks, Microsoft, and Mitsubishi have made songs an important part of their commercials in recent years.
Another important musical element in both TV and radio commercials is jingles, catchy songs about a product or service that usually carry the advertising theme and a simple message. For example, Doublemint gum has used the well-known "Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint, Doublemint gum" for years. The jingle is very memorable and serves as a good reminder of the product's minty flavor. Oscar Mayer has used the popular jingles for some of its products, such as the bologna song ("My bologna has a first name/ It's O-S-C-A-R") and the Oscar Mayer wiener song ("I'd love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener"), as the basis of integrated marketing programs. The company's fleet of wienermobiles travel the country as part of the Oscar Mayer Talent Search, where local auditions are held in search of children who
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