Literally Phoning It In

4 Apr

Commercials are endlessly fascinating to me; to get to your attention, it had to go through several levels to get approval before it got on the air. So how is it that a commercial so bad made the airwaves?

After so many days of serious posts, I figure I need to talk about something trivial. Vitamin supplements are the source of my pain today… well, ads for supplements, anyway. These radio ads are literally someone calling in on their crappy phone, testimonials about how they’re going higher, faster, stronger thanks to Brand X. There’s even a pet version of this with a cute dog barking at the right moment when the customer says the brand name.

So when you’re listening to AM radio, where the signal can be glitchy, and you can often barely hear the radio hosts… adding a “I can barely hear you on the phone” element seems ridiculous. Same reason I hate it when people call into the show; which is why my favorite shows have abandoned that schtick and have settled with texts and email.

But I have to remember Marketing 101: product, price, promotion, and place. The product is super pills. Just like any medication, you can’t show the disease, you show the cure. You show someone living clear of plaque psoriasis or walking barefoot without fungal warts. Price… eh, let’s not mention the price. It’s never mentioned, just a free sample, because once you get sold on the item, paying $50 a month (or two weeks) seems reasonable. Until you do, it seems ridiculous. When I started losing my hair at 25, I could have used Rogaine, but it cost… well, exactly the same. I didn’t have money in my budget to pay $50 a month! So better to shave my head than carve out a chunk of my wallet.

Promotion–this is a radio ad. So maybe this is the clue to understanding a “phoned-in” ad. So many times, I’m used to advertisers using the same ad for online, TV, and radio… and it doesn’t make much sense. When the voice actor says “click on the link to learn more,” I start chuckling because… I’m listening on the radio! A voice actor gets tuned out. Having the host (or a host you know) lets the ad keeps your attention longer, but that means paying the host more. So if the average radio listener’s ear makes the slick commercial ineffective, why not throw a little cash at some customers (or better yet, employees pretending to be customers), record the calls, then shoot it out to the radio networks? You’ve saved on production costs and gotten a superior product!

Which leads to the place–you’re trying to reach people in cars. They can’t “click to learn more,” they can’t even write anything down. So… repeat the brand name, repeat the phone number, and hope it sticks in the listener’s head. The advantage of the testimonial is the same with having the radio host read the ad; it lends the illusion of respectability. And hey, if you repeat the ad, they’ll remember the stupid brand name in their sleep!

So… perhaps there is method behind the madness after all. Now if someone can explain the stupid Coke ad where this excited voice actor sounds as if drinking a new Coke flavor will lead to you becoming the next Steve Jobs, that would be helpful. Or Mountain Dew’s “Baby-Puppy-Monkey” ad that will still wake me up in the middle of the night in a terror. I find it funny that Wikipedia calls the reception “mixed,” but all the examples of that are all awful.

Am I thinking about this too hard? Is it just a bad ad? Or a good ad in disguise? Let me know in the comments below! And if you need another ad, check out one of my books! $1.99 is the price, but if you need a free sample, go ahead and download one of my stories. Looking forward to hearing your testimonials. 😀

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