How to Write an Advertisement

We see them every day, especially on TV.  After eight minutes of show, two dramatic lines, and four witty one-liners, you have four minutes of commercials.  Each one wants to sell you something you didn’t know about, and you probably won’t get up and buy anything because of the advertisement anyway.  Regardless of their effectiveness, knowing how to write commercials is as valuable as a giant squid in a bakery.  To write a commercial, you need to know their form.  After that, it’s easy.

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Hahahahahaha!  …What?

The easiest and most entertaining commercials to write and watch, of course, are jokes.  They are structured exactly the same, so there’s not much to tell; you have your set-up, taking up the majority of the commercial, followed by the punch line and the final display of the producer’s name and where everyone can find you.  Such commercials are good for making impressions– they’re funny, and statistics show that people like funny things.

So I wondered, why don’t I have an automated bee-swatter?

This style of commercial is all about telling a story.  At the beginning, you set up a problem– either a hypothesis about the patheticness of your audience, or a character with a problem.  Through the commercial, you show them trying to deal with their problem without your product, but nothing will work.  At the halfway point of the commercial (15 seconds for 30-second commercials, or 7.5 seconds for 15-second commercials), they find your product.  Suddenly, everything is better!  You have presented a problem and then solved it.  Again, the last few moments of the commercial will be dedicated to your name and your phone number.

Also in this classification is the questioning commercial, which always begins with questions.  At the halfway point, as per the Hollywood Formula for stories, things go from asking questions to answering them– with your product!

So in conclusion, be stupid.

You know the form for a persuasive essay, right?  As with the story model, you can adapt that form to fit your commercial.  Simply introduce your product at the beginning, back it up with three clear, well-exemplified points, and then end with a fitting conclusion, which ends with your contact information.  It can’t fail, unless your points really aren’t that well thought out.

It can do this, this, this, this, this, this, this… Whoa, forgot about that.

Sometimes, all you can do is boast.  That’s where this form comes in handy.  All you do for the entire commercial is show what it can do– supposedly.  Sometimes you might exaggerate a little and show something it can’t do, but that’s marketing, isn’t it?  Lying attractively.

BOOM!  POW!  WALLOP!  SMOOCH!  In theaters tomorrow.

Movie trailers are their own breed of commercial.  You are selling a product, but you can’t talk through it.  If you use the story form, you’ll give away the ending.  Persuasive essays don’t work for stories.  Jokes don’t either– you run the risk of making fun of yourself.  (Though you can add jokes in there with the explosions.)  You can’t show what a movie can do.  So what do you do?  You highlight the most attractive parts.  (See Trailers and Pitches.)

That’s right, drool.

Food commercials are separate as well.  You don’t follow a rational train of thought.  (“Are you getting hungry?  Is your fridge sadly inadequate?  Hunger no more!  Come down to enjoy a FattyMeal today!”)  You just show food, food, and more food.  By the end, people will flock to your door.  By all means, show the great deals to be had, show the great food to buy, and show the “better” ingredients you claim to use– but show more food.  Statistics have shown that people need food to live.

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No matter what the product, one of these formulas will fit your advertising scheme.  Never underestimate how much persuasive power fits into fifteen seconds.  But don’t think this is all there is to writing an advertisement– never miss an opportunity to add propaganda into the mix.  (Here’s a list of Propaganda techniques.)  Just remember, if people aren’t flooding through your door to hand you money, you’re doing it wrong.

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