Your Video Investment: Commercial Ad or Promo?

When a client calls me for a new video project, the first question that comes up is, “What kind of video should we produce to achieve the client’s goal?”

Most video producers create their videos according to what “feels right” or “looks good.” Of course it should feel right and look good. But beyond that your videos need a strategy behind them. You don’t want the video to just feel good; you want it to actually help achieve your goal, whether it’s selling a product or a service, to inform, to brand, or to entertain.  This means that you have to be super strategic about kind of video you want to produce.

In the realm of advertising and promotion there are two main categories:
1. commercials
2. promotional films

So, what is the difference?

Let me start off by showing you some examples.
I want you to watch a commercial and a promo that I made.  They basically promote a similar thing (though their audiences are quite different once you get down to specifics).  Their product is: A summer camp that has a special needs program. One of my videos below is a commercial, and the other is a promo.

Camp Morasha Commercial

Camp Kaylie Promo Film

Commercial or Promo: What’s The Difference?
First of all, it’s the duration. In general, a commercial is 30-90 seconds long. Promotional films are usually longer then that.
But duration is not even the main difference.

The main difference is what they do.

A commercial is usually a branding tool that uses a method of showing the product or
service it communicates in a fast and often abstract fashion. It explains key components in pictures and audio. Often ad agencies come up with super sophisticated, abstract ideas and concepts. Companies and non-profits spend a lot of money on those ideas.
You’re probably asking, Why would you spend so much money? Can’t everyone come up with a great idea?

It’s a Noisy World, And You Want To Be Heard
Today, commercial concepts need to be more clever and and more memorable than ever before, because today people are advertised to more than we ever have been in the history of the world.
Daily we see over 3000 advertisements a day.
If your ad doesn’t stick with people and make your audience do what you want them to do (buy, sign up, click, or even just remember you when they go to the store), you wasted your money to produce your content.

What Is A Commercial?
In essence a 30-90 second commercial conveys an idea connected to the brand it is advertising to “make it sticky” so that the audience will later act upon your message that leads to action. The concepts tend to be stir emotions (can be happy, funny, sad, etc., i.e. beyond just informational) and connect with deep human psychological needs.  Commercials are used for long-term branding. Camp Morasha is releasing ten of my videos this fall to help strengthen their brand.  The proof is in the pudding: they had more early registrants by November than ever, already bringing them dangerously close to capacity for the summer of 2014.
Which summer camp wouldn’t want so many signups that they need to put some on a waiting list?

Here, again, is the Yachad Camp Morasha Commercial.

Camp Morasha Commercial

The Advantage Of Commercials

  • not much used in the non-profit world yet; it’s easier, as an early adopter, to become the dominating force in your field with commercials
  • strongly establishes your brand/offer
  • great for email marketing and youtube or getting a lot of traffic
  • creates the perception that your brand is a pioneer or dominating force in the market place
  • very memorable (if done right)
  • convert sales like crazy, when part of a larger marketing plan
  • very entertaining and fun to watch if produced right
  • tend to get higher traffic and shares than purely informational videos
  • creates positive feelings toward your brand

Downside Of Commercials

  • producing  commercials is a big investment
  • you need a few of them in order to be effective
  • not very informational (but can direct them to where they can get more information)
  • must be part a larger marketing plan

Who Is A Commercial For?
You should think of making commercials if:

  • you want to drive a lot of traffic
  • you have close competition and you need to rise above and make your brand more memorable
  • you have a full-time marketing person who has a long-term marketing plan
  • organizations that send out regular updates via email and social media

You need the right budget for it. Commercials are great for already established organizations and brands who want to grow their dominance in the market and prove their superiority over the latest competing forces.

What Is a Promotional Film?
Promos are usually longer then commercials. I have seen promos that are
as short as a long commercial and as long as a TV episode. Promos often include documentary elements, interviews, and footage that shows the offer/product and explains in detail what the offer is. It’s less emotional than a commercial; its main purpose is to showcase what you have to offer.

Advantage Of Promos

  • it’s usually cheaper overall to produce because you need only one film for your entire message, and the situations you are filming already exist (i.e. don’t require actors, extra locations, etc.)
  • targeted to the right audience, it can achieve your goal right away because your message is contained in one film
  • great for home pages because the promo is the gate to your site

Downside Of Promos

  • can be boring if produced the wrong way
  • you can send out your promo only once via email/social media to the same audience (as opposed to multiple commercials)
  • man, most of the time, promos I see are wayyyy toooo loooong
  • click through rate and conversion rate is lower then in short form content

Who Is A Promo For?
You should consider a promo if:

  • you don’t have a main video that describes your organization or brand
  • you don’t have a video on your home page
  • your offer is higher-priced (because it takes more logical persuasion to get someone to buy into an expensive offer)
  • organizations whose competitors already have promos on their home pages: your prospective clients and participants will already expect to see what you’re all about while they’re checking out all their options.  Don’t disappoint them!

What Route Should You Take?
I found a great middle path that has served our clients very well. I call it the middle path because it combines all aspects of a commercial and promo without killing the bank. You should first produce a promo and use this as a centerpiece that describes the brand, the video you can fall back on when someone first encounters your organization and asks, “What do you do?”
Then you can additionally produce one or two commercials.

Why? The commercials work as baiters and create curiosity in the viewer to want more. In your commercial you have a lead to the website that greats your new viewer with the promo piece. It’s essentially your next way of getting people back to your promo to check out what you do and to donate or sign up.
Now he/she is ready to get more of your message because they already got hooked in the short film and want more.  A commercial is basically another excuse to have a contact point with your audience, and get them interested, again, in who you are, your cause, and how you make the world a better place.

Your commercial leads people to your promo from a new angle.
In your promo you make your buying proposition and lead them to a cart or sign up page.
It’s a simple, 2-step process that can be reproduced over and over, with each new commercial.

Do you have commercials and/or a promo for your organization?  Have you found one to be more effective than the other?


3 Responses to "Your Video Investment: Commercial Ad or Promo?"

  1. Neil kummer says:

    Hi Shmuel,
    We have no video on our main page, so I understand we need a promo

  2. r y says:

    Very impressive, professional, informative, persuasive piece.
    hope you and your family are all well!

  3. Thank you for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for
    your further post thank you once again.

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