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How a TV Spot Comes into Being

How a TV Spot Comes into Being
A Creative Cow Business Procedures Overview


by Nick Griffin
Griffin Communications, Maryland USA

©2001 Nick Griffin. All Rights Reserved. Used at CreativeCow.net by kind permission of the author.


Nick Griffin
Article Focus:
Creative Cow's Nick Griffin, a genuine fount of business knowledge and wisdom, explores some of the basics that precede the spots we see on television. Nick is the founder of our Business Practices forum and has been the driving force behind its high level of respect and success. Today, he has built a great team and members are highly encouraged to visit. This article began its life as a post that he made on the forum, we have done little to it other than format it as an article. He throws out nuggets like these regularly in the Business Practices forum here at the Cow. Join him and his team as they explore issues and ideas like these.



How a TV Spot Comes into Being
(Or at least how it's SUPPOSED to work)

Long before a TV spot goes into production a number of steps occur. Since others here are far more qualified than I am to discuss the particulars of production, I'll deal with the steps which precede the making of a TV spot.


ONE: The Game Begins

The marketing division of the client (or in smaller companies, the individual(s) with responsibility for marketing) identifies one or more specific opportunities to sell potential purchasers, usually people defined as a specific or "target" market. For example, in the case of a ficticious automobile manufacturer, an opportunity would be defined along lines such as:

  • "12.5 million automobiles in the Northeastern US are six years or older."
  • "Further, our research shows that incomes in this region are at their highest levels ever."
  • "Our new all-weather traction design is said to work well in snow and ice."
  • "Recent events have renewed the interest in domestically produced, versus foreign automobiles."
  • "The company has determined that it is cheaper to absorb the cost of financing a large percentage of these cars than it is to have lower than forecasted sales."


TWO: The Team Takes the Field

The marketing function then translates this into specific points for communication to this market segment. For example,

  • "Don't go into winter with a car which is old and unreliable when getting a new (blank) has never been easier and less expensive."
  • "As an incentive to act now, we're offering free financing for 36 months."
  • and "Be patriotic: support America by supporting the American automobile industry."


THREE: The Pitcher Takes the Mound

These points, usually along with dozens more, are distilled into a "creative brief." In the best scenario the writing of this brief is a joint effort between the company's marketing people and the account management people of the advertising agency. (In many cases though, it is done just by the agency account management people.)

The brief also specifies which forms of media will be used to reach the target market. This is the point when, in the case of this automotive example, the need to reach a predominately male audience between the ages of 25 to 54, would dictate TV spots with some form of supporting media. The plan would probably be to use 30 and 10 second TV spots, full page newspaper ads and possibly 60 second radio spots. (Versus say, purchasing billboard space opposite from or adjoining retirement communities.)


FOUR: The Wind-Up

This "creative brief" is the basis on which advertising concepts are developed by the writers, art directors and creative directors at the ad agency. Concepts which answer all or many of the points in the brief should be considered successful. Those which don't should not. Just because an idea is creative or funny does not make it good advertising. It has to convey the message(s) for which it was intended.


FIVE: The Pitch

The best two, three, four, five, (or more, depending on the insecurity of the agency presenting) TV concepts are storyboarded and presented to the marketing (and in some cases senior management) people at the client company. When the process works, one idea is chosen and approved for production.

Then the real fun begins. And as stated at the outset, I'll let others address that part.

Editor's Note: And you can add your own points, ask questions or otherwise take part in the discussions by visiting this thread in the Business Practices forum here at the Cow.

Granted the foregoing is a simplistic explanation of the decisions which go into making of "big ticket" TV spots. But the same principles are still applicable in smaller markets and with smaller budgets. It is my humble opinion that the production of TV spots should be dictated by first determining that TV is the best way to get the message across, that the information which needs to be communicated is clearly defined and that the execution of the idea does, in fact communicate that information. Today this is done with enormous success by agencies like Weiden & Kennedy, Fallon McElligott, TBWA/Chiat/Day, The Martin Agency and countless others.

-- Nick Griffin





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