Posted by : Amanda Stein Thursday, January 16, 2014

Terrible commercials abound. If you've spent even ten minutes watching television outside the primetime lineup on a major network, you've been subjected to some terrible advertisements. You may not have drawn any conclusions about whether or not you're going to give that company your business, but odds are it isn't making you anymore likely to spend money with them.

Some larger companies can get away with relatively-little quality control. Modern advertising is largely about impressions. As long as they put themselves out there, all they need to do is get their brand name noticed and get it in the minds of the people who will later need one of the products they sell. It isn't about compelling people to get up and make a purchase. It's about getting people to associate brand and product so they'll pluck it off the shelf at the store without thinking about it.

This means that to a certain extent, a larger business can get away with terrible commercials: all a big company needs to do is be seen. They'll make their sales one way or another. It's different if you aren't a titan of industry. If you aren't working on a huge scale, it matters that people notice. A bad commercial can actually hurt you.

What makes a commercial bad isn't entirely subjective. There are a few factors that are never, ever good.

First Things First: Don't try to be Hip.

It's common practice for advertisers to try to keep up with the new hotness. There's no way to make this work without it seeming totally canned. Don't spoof a celebrity gaffe. Don't do a parody of the top-rated television shows.

Always go With Original Material.

Leave the parody to people who don't need to sell something. This will let you establish yourself on your own terms instead of relying on the sensibilities of the current pop-culture climate.

A Word about Acting

Something that can spoil even a well-written commercial is bad, wooden acting. This is a staple of late-night infomercials, and many flock to watch them for their "so bad it's good value," but those people aren't calling to make their four easy payments, either. Phoned-in acting will wreck even a well-written project.

If you can't have your commercial acted well, don't utilize acting. Endorse your product or company earnestly instead in the same way you'd pitch it to a potential business partner.

It’s Catchy, but that Doesn’t Always Mean It’s Good

A commercial isn't good just because it's catchy. You can probably remember some commercials that have been stuck in your head all day. They aren't good, are they? Having a nice jingle is fine, but it isn't everything. There's a fine line between a catchy commercial that gets your audience humming and one that leaves them with an itch in their brain.

It's better to go with something that does its work while it holds their attention. Focus on engagement instead of catchiness. Get your message across and let them go. If you have good things to say, this will go a lot farther.

Remember that you aren't advertising to kids. Excessive enthusiasm, bright colors and loud music aren't just ways to get attention. They're also used in the design of fast food establishments to keep customers from loitering: they're abrasive and distracting.

It's better to communicate a clear point with a sedate tone. You may not catch the attention of anyone that isn't already interested in the product or service you're offering, but those are already your best prospects.

Some people mistake bad commercials for a viable marketing tactic. Unfortunately, the market doesn't have a sense of irony the way some people would like to think. While bad commercials can entertain a living room, they can't make sales, and statistics are starting to bear this out. Don't fall into the same traps; there's no excuse for a lackluster commercial in the 21st century.

Hailey Harper is a marketing strategist from Tucson, Arizona. Her interests include management, leadership, and video production.

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