Who would have thought that TV commercials could be this valuable?
At a dinner party in an ever-so-exclusive restaurant a week or so ago, a clearly very well educated, dignified and stunningly attractive woman ran her perfectly manicured fingers seductively along my arm and whispered; “Why the f&*# are there so many crap ads on TV?”
I responded by knocking over my wine glass and choking on some rather excellent gazpacho that only seconds before had been lazing about gently in a shallow bath of olive oil mixed with some finely ground herbs and spices.
It was not the myrrh that put me off, it was simply that I have a natural aversion to anything that ‘rests on a bed’ of something else or ‘been drizzled upon’.
It is the way foodie people apply the ‘bullshit-baffles-brains’ principle.
Anyway, after having cleaned up the spilt wine and being subjected to three minutes of the Heimlich Manoeuvre by a doctor at the next table with a laugh like a horse and spur marks on her face, I was able to turn my attention to the question that had been so delicately posed by the delectable apparition with the foul mouth.
“Basically,” I said, sitting back and adopting the pose of someone who looks like he knows everything about advertising but in reality, after many decades, still remains totally mystified by the majority of minds that dream up the stuff, “... its all actually quite simple”.
It starts with someone called a brand manager, who calls in his advertising agency and says; “I need to flog more of my widgets and I haven’t got any money left in my budget.”
The advertising agency responds by impressing on the young fellow how important it is that whatever he does should be visible by not only his boss, but more importantly, the wife and or girlfriend or PA of the chairman.
For a television commercial this is essential because wives of chairmen and bosses watch a lot of TV while their spouses are at late night meetings—briefing or de-briefing their girlfriends or PA’s.
Now, the important thing about TV commercials is that they should win a lot of awards because that really impresses bosses who can slink home in the early hours of the morning after one of their de-briefing sessions and distract suspicious wives, who are on the point of asking them about the lipstick marks on their collars: “Did you know, my dear, that our TV commercial has just won a Golden Lion?”
By the time she has managed to drag out of him an explanation as to what on earth Golden Lions have to do with advertising, he will have washed the lipstick off his face.
Of course, in order to achieve all of its major objectives, a TV commercial should not dwell too much on the actual product because this tends to be extremely boring and forces people to go and make tea.
It has also been scientifically proven that showing too much product in a TV commercial causes weak-bladder syndrome forcing viewers to drag themselves away from commercial breaks to have a pee.
Equally, the TV commercial should not look like a TV commercial, but preferably look like a movie — it can be comedy, farce, tragedy, drama, romance or just complete and utter crap. The latter appears to be the current genre of choice.
This way, when people watch it, they are not under the impression that they are being sold something. Until right at the end, with almost subliminal slight of hand, the product is quickly flashed onto the screen.
A great TV commercial is one in which consumers get conned into thinking that they are being entertained by a movie trailer or something, only to slap their palms against their foreheads at the end and say: “Oh my goodness, its an ad!”. And then, preferably, not remember what it was selling.
The fingers started gently running up my arm again and, putting her pretty botoxed lips to my ear, my delectable dinner companion whispered; ”What good is that? How does an ad like that sell any freaking thing for goodness sake?”
“My dear,” I said, trying to look professorial and profound but failing hopelessly, because I had only just realised that I was reacting to the finger on my arm by trying to force asparagus tops nonchalantly up my nostrils; “My dear, ” I continued, “whatever gives you the idea that TV commercials are supposed to sell products?”
Without another word she turned and started an animated conversation with a little guy on her left, whom I later found out was the chairman of a big company that had recently won a major advertising award for an epic, three minute TV commercial that was absolutely crap.