Ever have a salesperson get you on the phone when you’re busy, only to infuriate you to a frazzle with “Isn’t it a beautiful day, Mr. Boldebook? I don’t want to take up a lot of your time, but I’m sure you would be interested in hearing about ways to save money on your maintenance supplies, wouldn’t you Mr. Boldebook?” Don’t you just want to scream “Get to the point, I’m busy!”
Lately I’ve been noticing more and more “Skip this ad in five seconds” on pre-roll online video ads. Essentially, it’s a device intended to keep the highly impatient viewer on track for the video subject matter with an option of blowing off the pre-roll commercial message in just five seconds, substantially lessening the placement value of the commercial message since most of it won’t be seen.
What amazes me is the disconnect between the placed ads in these “opt out” positions. In every instance, the first five seconds is under-compelling to say the least. No hook, no intrigue no “you better not click off this ad because something very cool is coming.” Really makes you wonder if the media buyer/creative team understands the medium.
Whether you are producing an “opt out in five seconds” ad for YouTube, a 30-second ad for television or a 28-minute infomercial format for any medium, you risk alienation, click-through, mute and “opt out” if you don’t hook your audience in the first few seconds. Think of it this way, the first five seconds should either sell your product/service, or act as tease for the remaining time to do so.
Not just video, audio as well. Give folks a reason to buy, or give them a reason to give you a little more time to do a decent sell job. This is about as basic a concept as you can get to in copywriting and production.
Can you imagine a video starting with a basic full screen “second by second” countdown: 5…4….3…2…1…How many people do you think would “skip this ad in five seconds” if you had such an opening? How about this opening for a Kia Rio ad: “Buy a Kia Rio from Smith Brothers and watch cable TV for free for the next five years!” How many video viewers would blow off the message to follow with a tease like that? In the next 25 seconds, you might explain how a gas sipping Rio could easily save you enough money to pay your cable bill.
Opening with a question is always a good tease to buy time. “Would you be interested in driving a new car if it actually costs less than the used car you’re driving now?” or “What if I told you that you could drive a brand new car and only pay on about half?” Would you be interested?
Over the past few years I’ve witnessed a new phenomenon in TV viewing known as “muting.” Watching TV with a group…either a movie or a sporting event, the designated “remote controller” holds the remote like a wand. When a commercial break erupts, the “controller” clicks the mute button. And unless some interesting video component piques the interest of the group, the TV stands “muted” until the program returns. As a student of psychology, I’m always watching the ‘watchers’ to see what visual element might promote a premature return to “sound.” Sometimes, something “goofy.” Sometimes, something seductive. Sometimes, something scary. But, I’ve noticed that familiarity breeds “mute” contempt. That is, if the “remote controller” knows the ad, there is less likelihood to “unmute.”
A few months ago in my article in the June 2012 issue of Dealer magazine, “Great Reads on Advertising and Branding,” I shared some of my favorite advertising/marketing “reads,” among those a book by Andy Maslen, “Write to Sell…The ultimate guide to great copywriting.” Some of Andy Maslen’s rules for writing:
Be brief! Abraham Lincoln got it. So did Winston Churchill. Less really is more when it comes to effective copy writing.
Ask questions. What do you think about that? What would you say if I told you…? How much you need for a downpayment? What is your present vehicle worth in trade? What if I told you that you could drive a brand new car for less than your present vehicle is costing you? Why do more people buy a brand new Chevy from our dealership than any other dealership in the state?
Build rapport. Throw in the phrase “as you know” or “as you’ve probably figured out by now” make the reader/listener feel good about themselves. Get the intended targets nodding affirmatively. If you only had five seconds to hold attention for a longer message, how does this work: “Do you know the money-saving secret that your friends and neighbors know about Phil Thomas Chevrolet?”
Employ creativity. With thousands of commercial messages bombarding people daily, what creative tools can you employ to make your ad stand out in a potential customer’s mind (in a positive way.) Test different ideas on friends, co-workers and associates.
Edit, then re-edit, then do it again. The more you edit, the better your writing becomes. Practice really does make perfect in copywriting. Each time you re-edit, try to cut out a few more words, shorten sentences.
Use tricks and tools and magic words. Teasers hold attention. End a paragraph with …“and here’s why” or “and now let me share a little secret of why we can do this.” Remember, the two most powerful words in the history of advertising are still “new” and “free.” Andy Maslen does a great job of pointing out “power words” like love, hate, cash, risk, best and win…and how/when to employ them as copy tools.
But, here is the best “trick” of all. Just get to the point as quickly as possible with a strong “what’s in it for me” benefit for the viewer/listener. Use every successive moment of the commercial to build on the benefit value and then tell them, quickly, clearly, concisely how they take advantage of the offer. Make it easy for your customer to do business with you. Have an easy to remember website URL. An easy to remember phone number.
Time is a precious commodity in all of our lives. Value it wisely. Get to the point.
If you’d like a free PDF condensed abstract of Andy Maslen’s book “Write to sell,” e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.