What’s It For? The Magic Number To Get Remembered

Write a quick script for a 30-second (:30) commercial. Radio or TV, it’s your choice. You just need about 100 words. Don’t spend more than five minutes on this. Done? Now set it aside, we’ll come back to it.
I know you’ve seen the commercials. The ones with the little kids and the guy in the suit sitting with them in little kid chairs around a table in a classroom. The man is discussing things like quantity, speed, and time, asking the children to explain what’s better and why: more or less, slower or faster, and sooner or later.
They describe things like making their grandmother faster by putting a cheetah on her back. They blow his mind with the concept of multiplying infinity times infinity. Recently, one little girl said you have to hurry up and eat your raisins or they’ll turn into grapes.
The ads have a great storyline and we can’t wait for the next one. They are one of the few campaigns my husband will refrain from fast-forwarding to get to the recorded show.
Over cocktails with my girlfriends we have shared the storylines from this campaign. With parents while accompanying our children trick-or-treating, I have enjoyed hearing others’ favorites.
Each time I ask, “What’s that ad for?”
No one ever knows. The only time that someone has known was my youngest daughter at the dinner table. But she doesn’t count—she has extraordinary recall on all things visual, especially TV. We call her a Television Savant, but that’s another story. She knew that it was for AT&T Mobile. A selection she has absolutely no say about, but she knew exactly what the ads were for.
In my advertising design class at Cal State University, Fullerton in 1980-something this ad would have gotten an F. There was one rule that Dr. Zandpour taught us and kept it as a true measuring stick of a good, effective ad. That one rule is that the copy has to contain the name of the product five to nine times. Yes FIVE TO NINE TIMES! Yes, IN ONE 30-SECOND SPOT!
As cute and endearing as that campaign is, when a random poll of twenty is taken and only one 11-year old can recall what it’s for, and that 11-year-old has a strange affinity for anything on a screen, then it’s not a great ad. The purpose of the ad should not be to entertain and delight an audience. This surely does that. The purpose is to sell the product and this one, unfortunately, fails to get us to remember what it’s for.

Now look at that ad you wrote. Did you use the name of your company or product five to nine times? If not, did you use pronouns in place of the name? Substitute your name in for those pronouns and see how you stand. If you can’t just drop your name in, then examine what it is you did talk about in the ad and think about why.

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