TV Commercials – What You (And Only You) Can Do

“”Advertising in the final analysis should be news. If it is not news it is worthless.”” – Adolph S. Ochs

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to TV or video advertising is to rely on the “experts” to figure out how to market your product.

If you have been selling your product successfully for years, you know best why and how people purchase your product. Don’t abandon this critical knowledge simply because you are testing a new advertising medium.

Elisabeth D’Orazio, president of Intelivision (, says that many neophyte television advertisers are intimidated by all the technical mumbo jumbo that comes out of the mouths of TV/video producers – and so turn over creative control to them much too readily.

“A good (television/video) producer/copywriter can add tremendous value and input to a product,” she admits, “but leaving the big decisions in his hands is a big mistake.”

Before you talk to the experts, D’Orazio recommends asking yourself these questions:

Is yours a pitch product? Does it already have a story that’s working? How could you translate that into television?

Is your product to be launched in a category that already exists – a category that has successes or failures that you can learn from? Within that category, what is unique, better, easier, and/or faster about your product?

Now write down 10 good reasons for buying your product. Rank them in order and cross off the bottom five. Using the top five, write no more than two simple sentences about the benefits of your product. (For example: “Lose weight fast without being hungry. It’s safe, effective, and clinically proven, and it can work for you.”) This is what you’re going to focus on during the development of your TV ad.

D’Orazio says she has seen “too many shows that don’t work because they did not reinforce the most primary reasons for buying. A consistent message will pay off.”

I have sold a few things on television and on video. My experience supports D’Orazio’s claim. TV/video producers and copywriters understand the specific tricks of this unique trade, but they don’t necessarily understand how to sell your product. The best experience I had – selling $4 million worth of a publication in six months – came from a commercial that was modeled very closely after our direct-mail promotions that had worked for years.

Once you have figured out your primary selling strategy and your main product benefits, it’s time to outline the ad itself. You need to break it into segments and get some important selling work done in each segment. This can be done by you alone or in conjunction with your copywriter.

D’Orazio recommends organizing our video ad/commercial into 30-second increments. For each increment, you determine exactly what you want to convey to your audience. For example:

0-30 seconds: Full-screen disclaimer. Identify and introduce product.

30-60 seconds: Make a big promise. Tease them.

60-90 seconds: Introduce the product. Explain how it works. Sell its advantages.

It is critical, D’Orazio says, to get this done before the copy is actually written. Outlining the objective or message for each segment gives the copywriter a clear understanding of exactly what he must do.

Your outline should be used to measure each step of the production process, from development to editing. Refer to it to determine whether a segment of the show has accomplished your sales objectives. Did it convey the point you wanted to make?

Of course, as the script develops, your outline may change. If so, make updates. With so many people working on the commercial, someone has to be in charge of the essential selling message. And nobody is better suited for that job than you.