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"How Low Budget TV Spots Create Branding"

Updated on July 12, 2013

A Low Budget Doesn't Need To Be Low Impact

Most Americans rate watching TV, where the Plain Jane or the Diamonds and Bling TV spots play between incessant, mostly boring television programming, as number 1 on a short leisure list.

One typical low end TV spot I've seen lately was produced by a local used car auto dealership. To avoid legal troubles I'll name this dealership 'Blank Auto'.

The spot features a local radio personality and the owner of Blank Auto standing on either side of a used pickup... they spew their 27 second lines and the spot ends with a close-up shot of the Blank Auto sign.

This sign is NOT pretty, folks.

In fact, the medium close-up reveals numerous shotgun pellet holes, paint chips fly off as an ice-covered leaf sprints to the ground on a late winter's day and no flamboyant logo greets your eyes.. Why would I write about this particular Plain Jane TV spot?


If I were in the market for a used car, Blank Auto would be the FIRST name that comes to mind. Blank Auto may not be the first place I go to shop, but that name is now branded with me - and branding is the goal of all TV spot advertising.

The Bling and Diamonds TV Spots

In my lifetime, I've watched 100's of TV spots that cost over a million dollars to produce.

These TV spots are incredibly conceived, filmed, and masterfully edited... flawless and flashy in every way. What is their branding success? Can you mentally picture the spot and recall the company name?

Each and every TV spot that ran in the 2012 Super Bowl cost well over a million dollars to run and some cost 10 times that amount to produce. Do you remember 3 of the more than 50 spots that aired that day?

I'm going to go out on a limb, and say your answer is a big n-o, NO!

The Perfect Example

So How Did You Score?

  • I remembered the amazing effects.
  • I remembered the skating babies.
  • I remembered the music.


Here's another 2012 Super Bowl TV Spot

Test Spot #2

I think this TV spot is one of the best I have ever seen in my life... but,

  • I don't remember it ran in the 2012 Super Bowl.
  • If I have seen this spot since the Super Bowl, I do not recall the viewing.
  • Fact is, I don't remember ANYTHING about this commercial.

How much mileage did Nike get from this spot? Only Nike has the answer to that one.

Personally, I believe Nike is in a position to risk 10 million here and there, because they are #1 in their business arena, but I would venture an educated guess this spot did nothing for their branding.

Are High End TV Spots a Total Waste?

Fortune 500 companies don't waste money on anything - especially advertising and marketing.

The reason these mega companies produce such incredible TV spots is to ingrain a much more sophisticated form of branding:

  • The flawless production values
  • The custom sound track recorded in flagship recording studios
  • The celebrities
  • The perfection... all come together to say when you purchase our product you are buying from success. And, as the old saying goes, 'nothing breeds success like success.'

These gigantic companies may appear to be wasteful and even ignorant when they spend 20% of their operations budget on first class advertising, but it pays huge dividends through the years.

I subconsciously see these Diamonds and Bling TV spots as an intangible part of a very important company and that perception breeds trust, loyalty, brand awareness and above all . . .These astonishing commercials magically whisper, "We're here for the long haul."

Why Most Plain Jane TV Spots Fail

1. MOST low budget TV spots reveal a poor attempt at mimicking the mega-million dollar commercials. Local video producers don't have the million dollar budget necessary for the $250,000 cameras, expert lighting crews (If one is financing a commercial, good lighting is the most important number in the successful branding equation.)

2. Despite the fact local production companies know they can't produce a Diamonds and Bling spot, they still attempt at a poor rendition that always falls flat on it's face.

So why did the Blank Auto TV spot stay with me?

  • I believe it's because the producers KNOW they will NEVER look like the big boys, so they refused to try.
  • I also think most of the TV spot was ad- libbed and their message was placed ahead of the spot's appearance.
  • Finally, showing the sign with the pellet holes revealed many things about their dealership; some good, some questionable. Whatever the reason, that local commercial was successful in branding their company.

That's a Wrap

Wrapping up, if you are a marketing manager, or advertising director working for a small business owner, realize your envisioned, beautiful TV spot will NEVER look like the latest Coca-Cola commercial.

Please believe that absolute, eternal law.

Concentrate instead on the message you want to convey.

Make sure you use the best audio and lighting crews your budget allows - these 2 areas must excel because they are the only aspects you can probably afford to hire. (Aside from the rented camera crew of 1, maybe 2 people.)

To Mr. Fortune 500: Although I can't associate your particular company name with the incredible, mesmerizing, riveting commercial I just saw - I'm blown away with your production acumen; and I feel fairly positive that polished TV spot will eventually draw me to your brick and mortar store or to your equally impressive website.



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