Watch Commercials and Become a Better MarketerOne of the struggles of working in communications is finding effective new ways to reach and connect with your audience–like commercials do.

If you’re not innovative, then you need to find a way to refresh or recreate an original idea.

And I think it’s safe to say this is the reason some of us comms pros spend time watching commercials.

It’s funny because as a kid, commercials were something I hated.

But today, they’re critical tools I use to check the pulse of the industry and draw inspiration.

So, I’d like to walk through why you should be watching advertisements. And why you should pay close attention to what they’re saying and doing. I’ll even point out takeaways from some of today’s best ad creative.

Become a Better Marketer

For most of the population, watching regular TV just isn’t in the cards these days.

This is painfully obvious judging by the decline in popular daytime TV, like long-running soap operas.

With easier access to content and more choices than ever, it’s no wonder regular broadcasting is crumbling.

Of course, commercials contribute to why people switch to other platforms.

While few ads on regular TV are memorable, it’s fair to say the Super Bowl is probably the only time of the year when commercials really shine (or at least, we hope so).

Watching regular TV may never be your thing. And that’s okay.

However, communications pros should focus on online video for business purposes. And that means you need to watch commercials.

In the past few years, people have been transitioning to watching more video than ever before.

A majority of respondents reporting to Wyzowl said they watch an average of 1.5 hours of video a day. And 15 percent of those surveyed admitting to watching more than three hours of video content each day.

That’s not surprising. There’s a vast amount of content out there. And it’s incredibly accessible, thanks to a multitude of streaming services.

Commercials and advertisements, whether on TV, streaming services, or social media can teach you a few things.

Sell a Boring Product by Being Entertaining

For instance, take Flo from Progressive or the Geico Gecko.

Insurance isn’t all that fun. Yet, these characters capture your attention and present a simple call to action: go to our site or call this number and get a quote.

And really, that’s all an insurance prospect needs to hear.

Typically, insurance customers don’t think much about deductibles and other subtle nuances of policies until they need to.

For most insurance customers, it simply boils down to price. Everything else is an afterthought.

Tactics to Immediately Draw in the Viewer

Like everything else in marketing, you need to grab viewer attention quickly.

Otherwise, they’re not going to read your blog, your press release, or watch your video.

If you remember back in the 90s, Budweiser had a couple of very memorable ads.

There were the Budweiser frog commercial from 1995. Each frog annunciated one syllable of the brand.

These were followed by the “WASSUP!” commercials from 1999. Annoying, yes. But today, these exist as a memorable example of an incredibly catchy ad.

Tugging on Heartstrings

Last year, Airbnb launched an effective campaign using a narrative of diverse lifestyle acceptance, built around the #WeAccept hashtag on Instagram.

It’s unclear how much of Airbnb’s success can be directly attributed to that campaign. But soon thereafter, Airbnb was said to have more listings than all five of the top hotel chains worldwide combined . Plus, the company’s worth hit $31 billion.

They clearly know how to send a powerful brand message.

The Best of 2018

While past commercials are useful, current video ads are arguably more important for their relevance.

The following examples each have some utility to keep in mind when planning your next marketing strategy.

Cross-promote, When it Makes Sense

Snacks are a staple for all kinds of events, and the harmony of Mountain Dew and Doritos is perhaps the pinnacle of inexpensive sweet and savory combinations.

Sometimes, you’ll have a couple of clients who might work well together. Or perhaps you have a prospect who could do a tie-in with an existing account.

If you can pull two complimentary services or products together with an entertaining message, it’s a win for everyone.

Changing Perceptions About a Service or Brand

There are times when a business wants to break away from an old stereotype.

For example, LinkedIn. Many people believe the platform isn’t a fit for them because they don’t work in a white-collar role.

But, LinkedIn provides a great platform for people to build and maintain professional relationships and find jobs. And LinkedIn Pulse is a good platform for thought leaders to publish their content.

The ad above segues into a fairly well-received campaign, under the hashtag #InItTogether. And it has been modified to target certain markets, such as the professional market in India.

Appealing to  Viewer Emotions

There are plenty of movements happening around the globe to right wrongs or drive forward an effort rooted in sustainability.

This cardboard bike from Izhar Gafni aims to produce bicycles from recycled material.

Doing this not only reduces landfill waste but also provides a mode of transport to impoverished areas. And maybe one day, they’ll be able to produce other items like wheelchairs.

Pay special attention to detail in this video as it begins by emphasizing something which seems incredulous, followed by a genuine narrative about a sustainable future.

Commercials Can Spark an Idea

Different clients will require different tactics for their respective products or services.

But getting your clients to use video is important.

So get yourself better equipped to make recommendations by paying attention to commercials and ads you’d otherwise ignore.

Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

Richard Larson

Richard Larson is Brand Manager for He enjoys sharing marketing and PR tips.

View all posts by Richard Larson