Better Characters Make Better Commercials

Ever have one of those "aha!" moments?   Mine usually come at 3:08 am.   No kidding – there is about a 7 minute window but it’s almost always between 3:05 and 3:12 am.  Must be something going on with my biorhythm.

What was my "aha" moment?  I’ve seen this commercial about a dozen times – the diamond anniversary pendant commercial.  You know the one – the guy gets up in the middle of the night and puts a beautiful 3 diamond pendant necklace on his sleeping wife.

I really like the guy in that commercial, but I couldn’t figure out exactly why – until 3:08 this morning.   Was it the beautiful diamonds he gave to his wife?  Was it the cute way he put the necklace around her neck?  Was it his amazing sense of romance?   No – it was because he shut the window. 

Right after he gets out of bed, he shuts the window.  It was obviously cold outside, and had probably gotten cold in the room – and he didn’t want his wife to be cold.    That’s what sold me on this guy.   It was extremely subliminal – but it worked.  (probably because it was so subtle)

What happened at 3:08 am this morning is – my synapses fired and I connected the commercial with an article Bryan Eisenberg sent me about character development.   That article is a must read for any marketer who wants to truly connect with their audience.

Here’s why it’s so powerful…

The article talks about a technique in film where – when you present a character, you must do something quickly, and subtly – to let the viewer know who this character is and what he or she is all about so you can then get on with the movie.

If the audience meets your main character and understands in 15 seconds that this guy is a guy who’s afraid of commitment (or whatever his problem is) the quicker they get what the film is about and you can get started telling the story instead of wasting time in a complicated set-up to tell the audience who they are. Anytime you can get through set-up in a movie quickly you’re on the right track.

The audience should get it on a more subconscious level than a conscious one. If they see what you are doing then the trick doesn’t work. So it’s better to not be too heavy-handed with this stuff.

With one subtle, simple act – closing a window – the commercial conveys that this guy is thoughtful – he doesn’t want his wife (and or family) to get too cold.  He is concerned.  He is reliable.   He cares.    

I know – you may think I"m taking this too far, but I’m telling you, at least for me personally – that one action spoke volumes about this character.   I don’t know if the commercial director put it in there on purpose – but really – why include that?   You could just have easily shot the commercial without that one shot.   but it wouldn’t have had the same effect.

You only have :30 in a TV spot (sometimes less) to get across the essence of your characters.  Read this article and create stronger characters and stronger messages.

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3 Responses to Better Characters Make Better Commercials

  1. David Leal says:

    Thank you for the link, Holly–a very worthy read. I’ve added that blog to my feeds. With such a name as “Temple of the Seven Golden Camels” it can’t help but be great.
    Cheers.

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