Why Production Quality Matters

I once had a sales rep at a start up say to me, “Why can’t we do ads like the UPS guys? They just have a guy and a whiteboard – how expensive could that be?”

I responded with a gaping mouth and mumbling something about paying Union dues and getting permits, but I’m sure it fell on deaf ears. Folks not in advertising have no idea how much good production and media buys cost. But that is not their fault.

We have all been tortured by local ads that look like they were filmed with Uncle Howie’s camcorder. And don’t even get me started on the acting. but you know what? Sometimes, those ads are just what that particular business needs and they do get attention. It all depends on your marketing goals. If you’re a local business with a unique service (like cleaning up after fire and smoke damage, let’s say) and only care about getting your name out there associated with your service, then locally produced, regional ad buys can and should be a part of your plan IF 1) your target audience watches TV and b) your target audience watches the show or channel on which you are advertising. This second part is one of the most important parts of media buying. Advertising sports apparel to 75 year olds watching Matlock reruns may not get you to your revenue goals.

But I’m talking about a more subtle branding element called production quality. Did any of you see the Obama ad last night? Everyone commented on how good the production quality was – which is consistent with Obama’s brand image and all his materials to date. Production quality means it looks like it was professionally filmed, lighted, miked, etc. and does not look like they filmed it at my house.

You are actually able to get fairly good production quality with today’s HD video cameras. I once was in a short film shot on HD (with some lighting and mike elements, granted) and it looked like film quality. It’s amazing what technology can do. Then it can be edited on computer software from a laptop and look like you spent hours in an expensive editing bay.

So think about your brand before you embark on any video or ad production. There is a local proposition for parks on the ballot in Seattle this year and their ads look very cool compared to other local initiative ads – and probably not really that much more expensive. If you are practical, down and dirty , you can get away with local-looking stuff – but not if you are trying to be hip, fresh, sleek or current. It’s important to know what your brand really is so you can decide which approach to take. Consistency, after all, is the key. As for the acting, no need to go Union but think twice before hiring your sister. That’s all I ask.

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