Take risks with your commercials


Jeffrey HedquistEvery day you can see and hear commercials that were created by committee: politically correct, watered-down, automatically written ads that offend no one…and motivate no one.  Commercials that sound like…well, like commercials.  They make you want to change the station, or at best, ignore the message.

If you want your spots to make it all the way from the senses to the brain, you’ll need to take a few risks: that your idea won’t work, that you’ll offend someone, that it might not get immediate results, that people will think you’re crazy.  You’ll also need to risk having phenomenal success, that you’ll be thought of as a visionary, that your clients will bow down at your feet (well, maybe I’m dreaming).

Surprise your audience.  Present the unexpected.  Turn the rules upside down.  Try writing a 300 word :60, or one with only 14 words.  Montage hundreds of images or a static shot of only one with a busy soundtrack. Mix two cuts of music together.  Use 26 voices in a :30 spot.  Create a spot backwards.  Use operatic music for a dance club.  Have a spot for retirees narrated by a child.  Cast an ancient voice for a young hip audience.

Go in the opposite direction.  If your competition has a jingle, use straight talk without music.  If they’re listing lots of features (they probably are), do a spot featuring only one: the way the lettuce is chosen at a restaurant, the way a car is washed at a dealership, the 14 steps a plumber takes to make sure he leaves your house spotless after a service call…but make sure you sell the benefits.

Create a continuing story and make each spot an episode that picks up where the last one left off.  Design a quiz that listeners have to call in, log on or come in to complete.

Remember, even with a risk-taking approach, the goal is to sell, so get the listener’s or viewer’s attention and keep it while motivating her to respond.  Go ahead, take some risks.  Safe commercials are dull commercials, and are only useful as sleeping aids.

–Jeffrey Hedquist, President/Creative Director, Hedquist Productions, Inc.

Hedquist is known as “Advertising’s Storyteller.” He’s a commercial creator who’s won more than 700 advertising awards for clients in 45 states.

He’s a consultant for broadcasters, advertising agencies and clients worldwide delivering results by improving commercials. You’ve heard his voice on national commercials for Goodyear, Ford, American Heart Association, Sunbeam, Delta Airlines, Time-Life, Dutch Boy Paint, Boston Market and NAPA.

He is a member of the RAB’s Creative Council, the advisory board of the National Audio Theatre Festival and the Radio Mercury Awards as well as being one of its judges.

He’s the author of “60-Second Copywriter,” “Top Ten Radio Writers Block Busters,” “How To Sell More On the Radio Using Stories” and is a major contributor to Valerie Geller’s book “Beyond Powerful Radio.”


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