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My first television commercial!

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Ryan Schultz
My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:19:14 am

Hi all,

I'm so excited because I just got my first job at making a series of commercials for local TV near my hometown in Endicott, NY. The first commercial is a 30 second spot for Nanticoke Gardens (nanticokegardens.com). I'm posting here to see if anyone could contribute some interesting ideas.

The first commercial needs to promote Nanticoke Gardens' products and that they're open for Mother's day. Their main goal is to lower the average age of people purchasing to middle-ages homeowners. I already have an idea in mind, but anybody have something outside of the box?

It would be greatly appreciated as I brainstorm!

Thanks,
Ryan

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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Mark Suszko
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:41:39 am

Follow a trail of "hints" mom has left around the house....maybe using large thumbprints in green, as narration talks about giving mom what she really wants for mother's day. The thumbprints are on EVERYTHING: cups of coffee, the morning paper, all over the bathroom mirror, the TV remote, etc.


Another take may be happy homeowners who nevertheless feel something is still missing from their home (green stuff).

Coffee klatch in dining room, husband is in the other room getting a snack in the kitchen but overhears some women gossiping about stuff, you hear pieces of it, phrases like "... they got potted so unbelievably fast...","....never saw two lips so beautiful...", and "...I always wear gloves when I do it..." Hubby is starting to worry what's going on, then spies the Naticoke Gardens catalog or flyer or whatever on the countertop, maybe with some items circled. Relieved, he shrugs and goes back to wherever with his coffee and snack. Narration something under the ending like "Women are hard to figure out sometimes... but easy to make happy. Springtime sale going on NOW, at Naticoke Gardens. She'll think you're a genius. (Even though it's her idea.)"


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Ryan Schultz
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:50:03 am

Hm, I kind of like the first idea. The idea I had is based on a more urgent approach.

The commercial would start with a middle aged man quickly waking up (like popping up in bed) with a surprised expression, as the narrator says "Forget about Mother's Day?" Then a series of quick cuts follow, seat belt buckling, key turning in the ignition, then a car pulling up to Nanticoke Gardens. Then the narrator would continue by speaking of all the wonderful things Nanticoke Gardens has to offer while video is playing of their merchandise and employees helping the man choose something. Then at the end, a door would open revealing the man's aged mother with a big smile on her face followed by a graphic with information about dates and times open, find us on facebook, etc.

How's that sound?

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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Mark Suszko
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:31:30 am

Guy wakes up in bed, seen from above, the bed is absolutely covered in tiny flowers (or sod).
Bathroom: reaching for his toothbrush, there are a bunch of flower stems in the stand.
Breakfast: looks down, the cereal bowl is full of.... mulch.
smash-cut to:
Mother's Day, (graphics popping) wife opening gift box of stuff clearly labeled as from the client's place.
Mom (faking total surprise):"Oh, it's PERFECT! How did you EVER know???"
Hubby (faking total confidence): "Men just have an instinct for these things, dear."

Cut to narrator tag and full screen logo and other info


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Walter Soyka
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:42:43 am

[Mark Suszko] "Follow a trail of "hints" mom has left around the house....maybe using large thumbprints in green, as narration talks about giving mom what she really wants for mother's day. The thumbprints are on EVERYTHING: cups of coffee, the morning paper, all over the bathroom mirror, the TV remote, etc."

The kernel of this idea -- someone applying a green thumb imprint -- is so wonderful and extensible it almost makes me weep. This is not just a concept for a Mothers' Day ad; this would be a perfect foundation for branding and campaigns for years to come.

It's so visual, it's a lot of fun, it makes gardening feel very accessible, it would be extremely distinctive, and you can tell so many stories with it. It works across web, print and video, and with a little effort, it could work on the radio, too. It's like the Easy Button of gardening.

Mark, if this is what you come up with off-the-cuff to share on a web forum, I am looking you up the next time I'm stuck on an idea.

Ryan, you could do a lot worse than to build your campaign around this, and your client could do a lot worse than to adopt this into the rest of their branding and in-store signage.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Ryan Schultz
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 1:59:49 am

I really like all these ideas. But wouldn't the idea of a husband finding like flower petals in his bed and a flower in the toothbrush holder, etc, be more visual and more easily understood than greene thumbprints? I'm trying to think how you could make large green thumbprints really stand out on all these objects when it could be as simple as a flower in a toothbrush holder or flower petals in bed?

Let me know, my brain is already storming with script ideas for both these concepts haha.

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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Doug Collins
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:34:53 pm

"I'm trying to think how you could make large green thumbprints really stand out on all these objects"

It's been done before but works, mute the color on everything else in the shot. Have the green thumb be the only thing that is full color. When you follow the thumbs through the house, have it end at a catalog for Nanticoke Gardens also be in full color.

Good luck,

Doug


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Mark Suszko
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 2:13:42 am

Thanks, Walter.. you mean it doesn't make you hungry for beef stew? The thumbprint is not entirely original, then again, so few things in advertising are.


I like spitballing ideas, I'm an idea machine. They might not all be great. But enough of them will be. My problem generally is, I don't get hooked up with people who can afford to implement my best ideas.


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Ryan Schultz
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 3:14:28 am

Well thank you for your help Walter, I appreciate you responses.

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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Ryan Schultz
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 3:22:21 am

Oops sorry I meant Mark. But Walter thank you also! Haha

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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Richard Herd
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 4:20:08 pm

WOW!

Ryan you owe Mark some compensation. Maybe some lawn furniture.


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Todd Terry
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:09:11 pm

I won't give you any concepts or ideas... you've got good ones here already.... I'll just give you a couple of things to think about.

I produce television commercials every day, and have for more years than I care to think about.

Some advertisers don't want a "high concept" ad, and would just rather show and tell about their stuff. This is what we try to avoid. We try, when possible, to tell a story. That's what the concepts already mentioned in this thread do, which is a very good thing. Those can be hard sells for a client, but if you can make them see your vision it is worth it.

One of the hard things is keeping clients "reigned in," and with a client like yours be prepared for this as well. The client's natural inclination is to give you a list of "Be sure you put this in..." and "Don't foget about such-and-such..." and "Oh and we must include so-and-so" and they wind up with a list as long as your arm of things that "must" be included. I've seen plenty of commercials that have as many as a dozen or more messages shoehorned into that thirty seconds. Bad, bad, bad. There are very few ways to make a commercial less effective than that.

Just do two things... first, define your audience. Who is the commercial targeting? Zero in on those people, and don't worry about the rest of the audience. Secondly, what is the ONE thing you are trying to say? Yes, what is the ONE message? If you have a store or a business, you can say that they sell this, and they sell that, and that they've been around for 30 years, and that they are home owned, and that they have the best prices, and the best selection, and that their location is convenient, and they have Saturday hours, and here's the phone number.... and a score of other things. But every single additional message that you add after the first message just dilutes all of them.... until you get to the point where the audience gets none of them.

I remind clients of the "Bigger! Bigger!" commercial campaign for Little Caesar's Pizza from quite a few years ago now. The campaign won lots of awards and was very effective advertising for the company and did boatloads of business for them. All it said was that the pizza was bigger. Period. That's it. Not that it's better, hotter, faster, cheaper, or anything else. Just that it's bigger. That did a great job of boiling down the concept to exactly ONE message, and nothing else. Now, in practically, it's often hard to limit yourself to just one message...but the closer you get to one, the better.

Clients sometimes have to be educated that a television spot is only there to get the phone to ring or to get a customer to walk in the door. It shouldn't be the end-all-and-be-all of information and shouldn't tell you anything and everything someone might want to know about a business. That's what websites, printed collateral material, and all kinds of other marketing is for. TV should just get them in the door.

Good luck, and please post the results for everyone to enjoy....

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:30:29 pm

To add to Todd's good information, when I face that kind of problem with clients, I explain that the message is like an arrow, and the more ancillary requirements you add to that arrow, the blunter and blunter the tip of it gets, so that finally, it can't penetrate the consciousness of the viewer at all, it just bounces off the target. I have experienced or witnessed the horror show examples Todd mentions. They have three different ideas, each of which will make a splendid spot by itself, but they can only afford one, and can't decide which, so they ask you to cram all three points into one spot... even when they are contradictory. The temptation to "do it all" in one generic spot creates a spot that satisfies nobody and sells nothing.



Here's a compromise you can try: create a "donut" spot. That is, a single spot that doesn't change, but it contains a "donut hole" of maybe ten seconds where you can add updated information or this week's special or some other local tag. In some cases, the TV station is responsible for putting the tag information into the hole, in others, you do it back at the place where the spot originated. The idea is to make a good spot that stands alone, but can be updated cheaply and quickly for fast turn-around, without re-doing everything from scratch.


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Ryan Schultz
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 9:40:26 pm

Wow Todd,

Thank you so much for that bit of information. I understand exactly what you're saying. Unfortunately I am a double major in broadcasting and graphics design at SUNY Oswego, where they don't teach real world knowledge such as that. I know that I have a lot to learn and I'm willing to dedicate a lifetime because this is what I love doing.

And Mark, thank you for your comments as well, those are both good analogies I will be able to use with future clients.

I drafted a treatment of somewhat of a combination of the ideas offered and my contact between the company and myself loved it, and the company has also signed off on it. There will be some tweaks before production, but I will definitely post it when I am done. I hope that my skills will be sufficient to produce an effective and quality video.

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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Mark Suszko
Re: My first television commercial!
on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:23:36 pm

He coud send flowers;-)


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Ryan Schultz
Re: My first television commercial!
on Apr 25, 2011 at 9:58:53 pm

Well the commercial is done. It was a very difficult process, my clients were very, very difficult to deal with unfortunately. So they basically ended up molding the commercial, but it was a great learning experience. here it is:

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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Mark Suszko
Re: My first television commercial!
on Apr 26, 2011 at 1:24:00 am

I'll let you know where to send my check:-)

Congratulations on getting it made. You're going to hate your own work by next week, if you don't already, because in your head you're already thinking ahead to ways you would improve it if you got another shot at it. And of course about what to do next.

In that spirit, I have some "notes". :-)

Your b-roll of the flowers is good and effective. Very colorful and gets across the amount of product.
The planter he hands mom at the end is underwhelming, could have been more lavish and over-the-top. The client is supplying it for free, make the most of that.


I'm going to guess the client foisted the kid part on you. He's cute. A kid is not a bad element to use, but the implementation was a little lacking in this case, and the script should have been written around the cute little guy, if you're going to go that way. The thing to do there would be to make him Mom's little messenger on a mission: Show 3-5 sec. of him madly scrawling crayon drawings, cut to dad waking in a bed filled with like 50 drawings of mom getting flowers and the words "happy mother's day, from dad", etc. Next, the kid has stuffed dad's clothing pocket, shoes, socks, etc. full of the notes. The notes can also be a subtle way to promote specific client bullet points about items on sale. When the dad's car backs out of the garage to go to work and the door comes down, dad sees a huge note on the outside of it, made from post-its or maybe sidewalk chalk, continuing the blatant hint themes. He opens his lunch at work to find more hints, etc. .... beat this horse to death, THEN the punch line at the end is going to resonate. You chase that with the kid in close-up, looking tired yet satisfied that he's done his job, maybe with a wink of private conspiracy between him and mom, over dad's shoulder, as mom and dad embrace. This is admittedly a LOT more shooting setups to cram into a production day, and more editing. but it is precisely this level of madness that separates a "meh" local cable generated spot from something potentially award-winning and outstanding in a sea of mediocrity.

Also, the flower pot kind of didn't "read" on camera as shot; it just looked like the husband had a salad for breakfast. You could barely see what was inside. It should have been a low cereal bowl, or a plate, piled high with obvious bark chip mulch or grass, etc. and maybe garden tools instead of silverware. He could improv reacting to how to use them.

Milk jug in the shot was maybe too prominent and distracting in the composition. Better to have a caraffe of milk or a quart size or something slimmer that still reads as "milk".

To make the joke line about "men just have an instinct about these things" work, you need to follow the comedy rule of threes to hammer home the fact he's been given such blatantly obvious hints. The wake-up scene needed something more blatant and obvious, which gets us, the clueless audience, in on the joke early, so we can appreciate it building. What I wanted to see there was an overhead shot looking down (you make that with two ladders and a flat board straddling the bed), and then a cut to a very tight close-up of the face as he's laying on his side, facing the alarm clock. You have several seconds in this part of the spot to make a three-shot sequence to make the first joke point, which could have been a three-foot section of sod in the bed, peeking out from under the bedsheet. One of the advantages of throwing a lot of tight shots together is your cost for the scenery is lower, since there is less scenery to see.

I think it's a strong first effort, and you probably were already thinking much the same thing as I just wrote. Build on this, and try to get the client interested in a series of related spots, to build the brand identity over time. If you can create a story "arc" over a series of spots, you can leverage a bigger overall story that rewards viewer attention and makes them want to anticipate the next "chapter".

For the next one, a freebie idea for you is: the everlasting rivalry of two men and the border between their yards. Each tries to one-up the other, using Nanticoke-supplied products. The war escalates over the season, as they keep one-upping each other with bird baths, gazing balls, windmills, gazebos, etc. each weekend.


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Ryan Schultz
Re: My first television commercial!
on Apr 26, 2011 at 3:12:28 am

Wow, thank you so much for taking the time for this constructive criticism, I do agree and have thought about a lot of the things you said, but you went above and beyond. You made a lot of really great points, and I was upset that through my shooting I couldn't get the message across for a lot of the shots. They just didn't read well at all so the majority got cut. I definitely was not up to my regular standard.

We ran into a lot of problems that inhibited what I could do. For example, none of their products were in bloom, that flower b-roll was actually animated pictures from last year. So we were limited with what we could use at the end, the flower you saw was the biggest and best unfortunately. Then, there was an over the shoulder of the flower in the flower pot, but that got cut for time constraints because they wanted all the flowers added, so that didn't read, like you said.

All your suggestions are excellent though, I really wish I was able to go back and do it again, like you said. The idea about writing notes is an awesome one and would have read really well. Thanks for all the input.

Also, I decided not to continue working with them, it was very very difficult juggling this commercial and school at the same time, and now finals are coming up and I'll be working on a bigger project very soon when summer hits. But that idea you had is a great one, with the neighbors competing. I want to make it just thinking about it, haha. Maybe in time, but thank you again for all your help. I really appreciate all your input and your great ideas.

ryangschultz.com
SUNY Oswego (Broadcasting & Graphic Design)
Sony HDR-AX2000
MacBook Pro (Snow Leopard) 2.66Ghz, 4GB RAM


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