Sitting through a recent Twilight Zone marathon, I learned a few things. First, it’s still one of the best shows that ever hit the airwaves. Second,Â after absorbing hundreds of commercials, I discovered that a great majority of them could be written by almost anyone who could follow a few basic tenets. I would say that at least half of all advertising on TV falls into these cliches.
Most commercials follow a pattern I call, Problem, Product, Promised Land. You start with a problem, introduce XYZ product in order to solve it and then you enter the promised land of happiness.Â To run a successful cliche ad campaign, there are a few rules you should apply.Â Here they are:
Rule #1) Women are smart, men are stupid.
You can ignore all the other guidelines, and still produce a winning ad with this one. Always depict men as idiots, and women with the superior intellect. Women will know more than men about about everything, including lawn mowers,Â barbecues, race cars and even impotence. On rare occasions a woman can be shown as mentally inferior to a man, as long a she is the gorgeous, ditsy type. You can pull this off because men don’t care and ordinary women are able to look down upon her.
The ONLY time a man can appear smarter thanÂ a woman is when he is what I call â€˜The Intruderâ€™. This man will not be the womanâ€™s husband or boyfriend, he will be a stranger, like Mr. Clean or the Fiber Bar guy. He will usually burst upon the scene to solve whatever problem is at hand, which is kind of creepy in and of itself. Even though he is smart, the only reason he is needed in the first place is that the womanâ€™s significant other is a complete dolt. She would have figured out a solution if she wasnâ€™t weighed down with an idiot.
Rule #2) Kids are smarter than adults.
Lest you think women and minorities are at the top of the intellectual heap, think again. If you really want a solution to your problem, consult a child. In TV land, the younger they are, the smarter they are. Grown-ups are puppets to be manipulated for the relief of boredom and acquisition of goodies. Not much different than Â government workers.Â It is even better if they can cause pain and embarrassment to their elders.Â It’s a good thing these TV parents have children, otherwise they probably couldn’t tie their shoes.
Rule #3) Animals are smarter than people.
Thank goodness for chattering chipmunks, finicky felines and cunning koalas. If you cannot come up with any other idea for your product, just toss in an animal; give it some clever dialog and viola, you have an instant hit! Animated ones are even better. Be sure to imbue them with human like attributes they donâ€™t really possess. The critters must outsmart humans, be more considerate, and if possible, rescue the helpless, clueless bipeds from a dangerous or near fatal situation.Â They know whatâ€™s best for everyone and believe the world would be better if every person lived according to their rules. In other words, they are a lot like politicians.
Those are the guidelines. In the next post, I will try to write a modern day commercial using them. The result may look like any of a number of commercials running today.
Here’s part 2 of How To Write A TV Commercial In Ten Minutes