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  • Writer's pictureChris Valentine


The world's first television commercial aired on July 1, 1941, running for $9. The ad was for Bulova Watches and appeared during a game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies. Incidentally Bulova are still making watches today.

Since the first commercial over 79 years ago, TV advertising has grown into a $75 billion dollar industry. Whilst recent years have seen TV’s market share drop as many viewers cut the cord, internet advertising has ensured that video ads are more popular than ever.

Despite the emergence of digital and online advertising, TV is still the most trusted medium of advertising with 61% of consumers in the US stating that television is where they are most likely to find advertising that they trust.

TV also leads the way across all advertising markets when it comes down to a consumer’s intent to purchase. In the US, TV delivers the highest ROI of all media for every spent at $14.34.

So what is required to make a great TV commercial?

The best TV ads find a way of being memorable, whether that’s by tapping into nostalgic feelings to get their point across, or by making the consumer laugh, cry, or even feel weird. The key is to create an emotional response that enables the message to be relevant, different and ultimately stand out from the thousands of other advertisements that consumers are exposed to daily.

If the above can be executed correctly, a TV commercial really can have a life of it’s own. The best commercials make people want to talk about them with their friends. The Ad has to capture the brand’s values and identity, whilst the consumer needs to feel like they are being directly talked to. Your audience should watch the ad and think, “this brand is for people like me.”

Lastly a great commercial needs to have a strong call to action, giving clear instruction to the consumer for what they should do next, whether that be visit a website, call a number, or even something as simple as buy it now!

Advertising has evolved over the years, and has certainly become more sophisticated in many respects. But, when looking back at which advertisers came up with the most infectious taglines or moved things forward in how a product can be presented, it’s hard to find better examples than these two.

Kool Aid. The anthropomorphic pitcher of sugar water first appeared on our television screens in 1954.

The Ad starts with a catchy refrain being whistled three times before the words Kool Aid are added by incredibly enthusiastic children as they go on to sing exactly why every family needs to buy the drink. We then see the mother and the anthropomorphic pitcher reinforce the message, encouraging viewers to “drink the Kool-Aid.” Incredibly simple, incredible catchy - an absolute winner!

On 22nd January 1984 during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, Apple engaged the nation as they aired their classic 1984 commercial. The Ad was for their original Macintosh computer. It was directed by Ridley Scott, which would explain it’s grand cinematic feel. The spot showed a scantily clad woman fighting a brainwashing machine, inspired by George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel “1984.”

This ad hit all the required touch points for its pop culture relevance, intelligence, originality, and daring. It’s said that the Apple marketing team were less than convinced on how the ad would be received, especially since the ad was only going to air on this one occasion.

Their fears were put to rest when consumers hit electrical stores across the country in their droves to purchase the Macintosh computers. Within three months of the ad airing Apple had sold $155 million worth of Macintosh computers. I still think the ad holds up today. What do you think?

At BB3 we feel incredibly lucky to have worked with Life Alert over the last ten years. They have one of the most iconic Ads in America.

Life Alert's "I’ve fallen and I can’t get up" commercials have changed very little over the years, and this is largely because the company's brand message and call to action are so strong.

As we discussed earlier, there are multiple elements to a powerful commercial. It should be memorable and evoke an emotional response, an advertiser must communicate the ethos behind the company, and lastly, the call to action should be strong and direct. For all of these reasons, the Life Alert commercials are hard to beat.

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