With 20 per cent of all advertising failing or negatively affecting the brand it is supposed to be promoting, it only takes a tiny amount of time and money to make sure that a huge bundle of both is not being wasted.
The answer is quite simply to get a second opinion from someone who isn't involved in either the brand or the p[production. Now, I am not suggesting for a minute that analysts and consultants such as myself and others are more experienced, intelligent or cleverer than those people who are coming up with the concept for ads. Our skill is that we are not involved. We can see the wood for the trees and because we have not lived with a concept from day one we can pick up the flaws and we can put ourselves into the shoes of the consumer a lot more easily than those involved. A dispassionate, analytical, target-market view.
These days far too many TV commercials seem to go on air without the agency or client giving too much thought to the real impression it will have on viewers. Basically what happens, unless an agency and its unsuspecting client are careful, is that the team involved in producing the commercial get so involved with what they are doing that they don't see the wood for the trees.
Often, without knowing, they start at concept stage with a full feature which is then cut down to a one minute or even worse, a 30 second commercial. Now, everyone in the production team knows what was cut out and so the eventual commercial makes sense. But the poor viewer hasn't the foggiest notion of what is going on.
There are two other areas where agencies fall down. The first is making the mistake of producing a "once-off" commercial - unconsciously working on the basis that the ad will only be seen once. The second is wrongfully assuming that viewers will absorb every aspect of a commercial.
On the first point, it is vital that before producing an ad the creative team gets some idea from their media colleagues on the fighting frequency. Commercials are like jokes - hysterical when you hear one the first time but in most cases, no matter how good the joke, when you hear the same guy tell it the tenth time you want to smack him in the face.
It is the same with a TV commercial. Frequency is all important but it can also be an advertisement's worst enemy.
To prove this point to yourself, take the last Cannes Ad Awards Reel. Choose the four or five you like the best and watch them five or six times over the next week or so. Then decide how great they really are.
One way to test the difference between a good and bad ad is to take a sixty second commercial and count how many points of interest there are. A point of interest being something in the ad that gets your attention. If there is only one at the beginning and one at the end - then you have an ad that should definitely not be run frequently.
No matter how excited an agency creative team might feel about an ad, the consumer will never share that level of excitement. What keeps the consumer watching and not channel swapping or heading for the kitchen, are those little things - facial expressions, pieces of action, bits of dialogue - sufficient points of interest. Almost the same way as a novel has to have high and low points running through it to keep the reader interested.
Bad commercials are those that are totally predictable from the second time you watch it. Where one feels you're having to plough your way through sixty long seconds. Those are the ads that turn viewers off the product. Lasting impressions are vital for the success of a TV commercial. This is where agencies fall down most. Assuming the viewer is going to understand quite clearly what the message is.
And beware the notion that what TV advertising is all about is the "Big Idea." It isn't. What TV advertising is all about is a practical, businesslike way of getting the attention of the consumer and maintaining it - then leaving a lasting memory.