All posts by Chris Blair

Run your TV ads until you’re sick of seeing them!

By Chris Blair

We buy and place a lot of media. One trend I see (and don’t agree with) is to produce an ad, run it in heavy rotation for 3 or 4 days, then assess it’s effectiveness based on sales figures during that period. Sorry to be harsh but that is lunacy!

There’s no way you can run your ad campaigns and promotions for just 3 or 4 days and expect them to consistently deliver results. Of course there are times when a particular event or sale could potentially benefit from this type of buy, but I’m talking about companies using this technique week in and week out for ALL of their television ad buys.

The scenario usually goes like this. A company spends a few days producing a commercial then they buy ad time on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The spot gets placed and the client tracks sales several times a day at multiple store locations. If after the second day, sales aren’t up over last year, it’s decided the ad “isn’t working.” That means either pulling the ad and replacing it with something else (that previously did well), or revising the ad with a new “sell” message of one kind or the other. Continue reading

Integrity in Advertising and Strat-O-Matic Baseball

By Chris Blair

We often get calls from clients who think they need a particular type of promotional product or service, be it a new website, an instructional video, a print brochure, a television campaign, or a new logo. But many times after meeting and discussing their needs, it becomes clear the client needs something entirely different.

We’ve even occasionally recommended services that we don’t provide because they better serve the client’s advertising needs. After all, our job is to help clients communicate to their customers…not just take their money for something they think they need.

Unfortunately, not all advertising and marketing companies are that honest with their clients. I’ve seen it time and again during the 25 years I’ve worked in this business. Advertising agencies, TV and radio stations, newspapers and internet companies selling products and services that have little chance of helping their clients promote themselves.

I’ve never understood this mentality. It’s like convincing someone to buy an overpriced, overhyped product that doesn’t actually work as advertised. When the customer gets home and realizes they’ve bought a crappy product, they’re not only angry it doesn’t work right, they also feel like they were duped by the hype! This type of selling virtually guarantees clients won’t come back.  Continue reading

Building a brand doesn’t have to be complicated

By Chris Blair

The term branding is thrown around a lot in marketing and advertising, yet many companies struggle to consistently brand themselves.

One reason is that many advertising and marketing professionals make it so darn complicated. They use terms like: value propositions, brand equity, B2B, shelf shout, push marketing, ROI, and sonic branding. There are dozens more but you get the idea. I’ve worked in marketing for 26 years and I still get confused hearing jargon like that.

It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Branding on the most basic level is writing a concise story that defines an organization, company or product. That story should be the basis for all of a company’s marketing and should be relentlessly promoted to both employees and customers. It should be communicated across every point of contact, including all advertising, public relations, websites, blogs, even email signatures and telephone on-hold messages. The goal is a consistent, repeatable message that is unique and relevant to target audiences. Continue reading

The NRA’s Response to Newtown: A Lesson in How NOT to Stage a Press Conference

We’re not a public relations firm per se, but we do a fair amount of PR type work for clients, from writing press releases, to occasionally staging press conferences. The NRA’s recent press event in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was a classic lesson in how NOT to stage a media event.

From the tone of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s speech to the physical setup of the stage, they did almost nothing right from a public relations perspective. And no, this is NOT another attack on WHAT the NRA said. But more of a review about what WASN’T said, and the combative tenor of the event.

But first, I need to point out that I am not a gun owner and therefore (obviously) not an NRA member. In fact, I’ve never shot a weapon and only held a firearm once in my entire life. But I also have no real beef with the NRA, its members or how it does business. I grew up in a town filled with people that love hunting and almost every family I knew (except ours) owned multiple firearms and used them often, either at gun ranges or while hunting.

But back to the NRA’ press conference.  In my opinion, the most shocking thing about it wasn’t what was written and said, but it was how it was said. LaPierre looked and sounded like a General preparing to go into battle. His second sentence in the speech was:

Out of respect for those grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent.

Really? Is that why you were silent? Until more facts were known? Let’s face it, almost no new facts have emerged since the days immediately following the crime. They were silent because of the beating they were taking in the press. And speaking of the press, LaPierre said this:

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

That national media machine did what it’s supposed to do, cover a story that shocked a nation, if not the world. A story not unlike the horrific shootings in Norway in 2011, which also involved children. Never mind that the NRA could easily be considered an enabler of any type of copycat crime related to Newtown. This brings us to perhaps the NRA and Mr. LaPierre’s biggest PR mistake. Blaming the media for the event your press conference is addressing!

How did the NRA think that was going to go over in the press? Did they think anyone in the media was going to nod their head in agreement? Forget your opinion about either of the quotes noted above. Forget my interpretation of them. From a PR perspective, you don’t explain your unwillingness to comment on an event by claiming your opponents are being exploitive, especially when it comes to something involving young children. You likewise do NOT suggest complicity with the very people covering your event! It’s just going to piss the press (and just about everyone else) off.

This nation’s obsession with firearms and gun owner’s argument that gun control advocates are trying to take away their second amendment rights is widely seen as incomprehensible by people in almost every other part of the world. Doesn’t that say something to the NRA? What if we fervently held onto the literal interpretation of other parts of our constitution, like civil rights, or the right to vote? If we did, women wouldn’t be able to vote and there would still be slavery!

The NRA needs to remember that it’s called “public relations.” That means ALL of the public. Not just your members and surrogates.

 

 

The Value of Time and Experience in Advertising Design

In the last 25 years the growth of computer technology and the internet have both fundamentally changed how companies market themselves. The early to mid-nineties saw the birth of digital production. Then in the early part of this decade, digital television and the internet matured. And in the last three years, social media came of age.

Obviously this technology has had many positive effects when it comes to marketing and advertising, but in my opinion that same technology has had some negative effects as well. Most prominent is a tendency for people to think that digital workflows are inherently faster and more efficient.

When used properly, digital tools can certainly speed workflow and productivity.  But two things that are still key to selling people anything is developing great ideas and producing compelling stories. Getting these right STILL requires the two things the best digital tools can’t deliver — time and experience. Continue reading

Learning from Dick Ebersol’s Resignation

Dick Ebersol resigned as head of NBC’s sports division on May 19th and just a few days later Joe Posnanski wrote a piece on Ebersol in Sports Illustrated’s May 30th Point After column. What struck me about the article wasn’t anything about Ebersol’s vast list of credits, or any claim about his influence on modern sports or entertainment programming. It was what Ebersol told Posnanski about the most influential thing he ever learned:

“The most important thing to me, was to tell stories.”

Ebersol said it was a lesson he learned from his first boss, the legendary sports producer Roone Arledge. Ebersol told Posnanski that television seems to be turning away from storytelling, with everything  becoming fragmented and announcers making radio calls shouting about every play.

I had to chuckle and agree. I turned 50 this year, and while I can probably pass for 10 years younger (on a good hair day), I can’t help but feel a little old sometimes when discussing content for marketing and promotional projects with many clients. The idea of storytelling seems unimportant to most. Yet I still believe that a good story trumps style and glitzy design every-time. Great production values certainly never hurt a project, but a non-existent or poorly written story can kill one. Continue reading

A Guide to Advertising & Production Costs

How much will that cost? That’s a question I’m sure every business gets almost daily. With some products, like a television or computer, the answer is relatively easy. Go online, find the model you want, compare specs and prices, and choose your retailer.

But for most things, figuring out the cost is much more difficult. From buying a car to getting a fence installed, the price can vary wildly based on factors too numerous to even think about.

So what does advertising cost? How about getting a video produced? What about having a website designed…or an interactive kiosk created…or…well you get the idea. There are no quick and easy answers, but there are some guidelines you can use for many types of projects.

Let’s look at websites. If you’ve ever gotten estimates for having one designed, the differences in price can be cavernous. I’ve seen website estimates vary by tens of thousands of dollars based on the same specs. How can this be possible? Some of the disparity can be attributed to differences in turnaround time, differences in how the site is programmed and built, the experience level of the designer etc. But more often than not, if there’s a huge difference between the lowest bid and the highest bid, it’s a good bet you’re looking at one severely underbid estimate and another severely overbid one.

Certainly there are many types of websites with varying levels of complexity, not to mention the growing need to build separate mobile versions. But for most sites, you could use the following guidelines to figure a range of what it should cost. Continue reading

The Dan Gilbert and Lebron James debacle

By Chris Blair

Ok, you’re probably wondering, “what the heck does Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s crazy comments about Lebron James spurning the Cavs have to do with marketing and advertising?” Well, not that much on the surface, except for the fact the whole affair has brought more attention to the NBA during the second week of July than it’s ever had in an entire summer.

July typically brings us Major League Baseball, Wimbledon, the British Open, the Tour de France and this year the World Cup. But the Lebron James free agency circus changed all that. And oh what a circus it was! Leave it to ESPN, creator of the dubious sports award show “The Espys” to bring us a live TV special with Lebron announcing his decision. Of course we have to remember the “E” in ESPN does stand for “entertainment!” But I digress. The real fun didn’t start until after the show, when Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert published an “open letter” to Cleveland fans on the Cavaliers official website. If you haven’t read the letter, you can do so here:

(Editor’s note: the original letter was removed from the Cavs official website Tuesday morning July 13th, but you can read a transcript of it at the link below):

http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/07/gilberts_letter_to_fans_james.html

 

And here’s a screen capture of part of the original page…a MUST see I might add: http://videomi.com/blog/gilbertletter.htm

Continue reading

To storyboard, or not to storyboard?

By Chris Blair

If you’re not sure what a storyboard is, just look at a comic book. A storyboard is basically the same thing, using a sequence of still images to help visualize a story. In advertising, storyboards provide a visual snapshot of key scenes in a commercial, and can be used to help sell a concept or as a blueprint for staging, lighting and photographing a project.

But useful storyboards can take many forms, from elaborate, full color illustrations, to crude stick figures scrawled directly on a script. Whatever their quality, all storyboards serve the same function; they make you think in pictures.

But storyboarding is one of those things that a lot of people misunderstand. For starters, storyboards are not necessary for every type of project, especially if the project has a limited budget, doesn’t involve narrative elements or if continuity isn’t important. Storyboarding also requires an understanding of filmmaking techniques, including composition, continuity and shot coverage, so the most effective storyboards are usually created or supervised by a talented director. Continue reading

The importance of audio in videos

By Chris Blair

Bad audio can ruin an otherwise well produced video. Whether it’s poorly recorded voice tracks, mismatched ambient sound in scenes with dialogue, or poorly timed cuts in a testimonial interview, bad audio can disrupt the flow of individual scenes and sometimes the entire video.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest changes in video production over the last 20 years is that many people don’t budget for audio on projects. Whether it’s having a sound engineer on a shoot, producing custom music, or even spending time sweetening an audio mix, audio is often the first thing that gets cut when planning a shoot or edit. In fact, on most of our shoots, the camera crew ends up being responsible for audio. And while our shooters are adept at setting microphones and monitoring levels, it certainly isn’t the best way to guarantee quality audio on a shoot, especially when it calls for actor dialogue or extensive interviews.

Audio is just too important to be treated as an afterthought. It’s arguably half your product. It can drive the pacing of a project and can create the appropriate mood, add emphasis, and subliminally influence how images are perceived. People have gotten so used to the impact of sound that studies have shown that when test subjects are shown silent video of events or machines that make loud or distinct sounds, a huge percentage report hearing the sound while watching the video. Continue reading