It’s surprisingly easy to make a boring and ineffective TV commercial. And today, more than ever, telling a good story about your brand really matters. How best to tell that story? TV is still the most effective medium to tell your story. Or screw up your story. Your audience can tell if you went cheap or half-assed it. They really can, trust me. The average American sees 1,000 ads per day. They KNOW a good ad from a bad ad. Think about how hard you work to make your casinos appear high-quality, clean, nice, organized and fun. You do not want to put into market an ad that’s low-quality and disorganized. Because appearance matters.
Remember, putting a quality ad into market that helps tell your story is a real business opportunity. Look around you in your market. How many truly interesting and memorable casino campaigns do you see? Few, if any, right? Having a message that stands out, that is better than your competition, is a real business advantage. You want advantages!
I’ve been making casino TV commercials for 24 years now, and I’ve worked with casino clients in pretty much every market in Indian Country. And, holy cats, I’ve seen a lot of bad commercials. But I’ve also helped a lot of casinos step up their game and produce commercials that help them stand out in their market and make a real difference to their bottom line.
This article is going to help you identify common TV production pitfalls – so you can avoid them – and help you understand where your money is best spent to get the most from your TV campaign.
Step-by-Step Guide (plus helpful tips along the way!)
1.) Have your casino brand figured out. This article isn’t about that challenge. I’ve written about it before. You can Google it. But having your brand figured out is FOR SURE step #1. In a nutshell: Be unique, be different, make it about the guest, and make them feel something. Don’t be another casino saying the typical casino stuff. That just doesn’t help you.
2.) Go out and find/hire someone who knows how to write/produce a TV commercial. Then explain to them what you want, tell them how much you have to spend – so they can write a script to match your production budget. And when I say “hire someone,” I don’t mean a production company (the people with the cameras and lights) or the local TV station news crew. No, what you need is a copywriter who writes TV commercials as his/her day job. A real professional. Best case would be a writer and art director together. (Ad agencies employ those types of teams.) What you want in the end is a script with an idea that’s driven by your brand point of view, written by someone who knows what they are doing and has done it a hundred times before.
You wouldn’t hire the construction company to design your new hotel tower. No, you hire an architect. Because hotel architecture and design is a special skill. Same here.
3.) Once you have the script, go online and find four or five different video production companies in your region, review their reels to see if they’ve made your sort of commercial before, and then ask the ones you like to bid on the commercial production. And you must give them a pricing parameter. Do not ask them what it costs. Show them the script, tell them your budget and – if possible – show them some examples of other TV commercials you like. The examples don’t have to be casino commercials (personally, I prefer when it’s not). Do this so that the production team understands HOW you want it to look/feel. And you should also include the writer in this exercise. They can be helpful because they’ve done this before.
4.) Things to know about TV commercial shoots. If you are paying actors, they cost money. Buying their rights for a year or two is what you want to do. Not cheap, but what you have to do. If you want to use the video you shoot for online ads, your website or in-casino video signage – that’s going to cost extra. Just know that’s how the industry works. The background people in your spot – try to use your team members, their friends and families. Pay them cash, have them sign an agreement.
This whole process – if done right – will take longer than you think. A few weeks to plan it, a few weeks to book talent and vendors, a week to shoot it, and then a few more weeks to finish it. Organizing quality help, making a solid production plan, producing quality work – it all takes time. That’s just a fact, so make sure that you budget enough time.
5.) Lastly, if your TV commercial storyboard looks like a brochure showing off all the things you have in the building – fire your writers and start over. Fire them immediately.
Video is a special medium. You can convey real emotion with video. Think about all the movies you’ve watched where you really FELT something, the movies that made you cry, the movies where you fell in love, the movies that scared you, that made you feel sick. Moving pictures – if done right – can make you FEEL something. Commercials can create emotion in ways that other marketing tools cannot. Creating an emotion, driving a feeling, is what the best branding hopes to do. Tell a story, make your audience FEEL something about your brand, your casino. Don’t water it down, don’t do the easy and obvious stuff.
If you don’t know what that sort of commercial looks like, check out Red Circle’s REEL online.
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