You Have 30 Seconds… Impress me

What makes a good commercial? Some of you may be thinking commercials are just the titillating couple of minutes before you get to find out just how crazy those Jersey Shore hooligans will get, but admit it, isn’t one of the best parts of the Superbowl the commercials?? And don’t you send along some of those 30-second spots to your friends when you come across good one? So, what does it take to grab your attention and yet effectively sell a product in a mere 30 seconds?

After watching about a zillion ads online, I have decided there are 6 different routes a campaign can take to make an effective commercial. A good ad will either make you: hungry, laugh, cry, think, excited or simply just annoyed. Here are some examples of commercials that do just that.


Simple and to the point. Although actual Reese’s weren’t used in the ad, how good does that delectable peanut butter and chocolate combo look? According to Psychology Today, watching food ads on TV actually prompts the viewer to eat. A study performed by John Bargh showed that unconsciously, watching food ads affects our behavior and causes us to grab that bag of chips. While the study showed that the ads do not necessarily make the viewer eat that particular food, if you happened to have some Reese’s in your house after watching that ad, my bet is on you reaching for that chocolate-y goodness.

Old Spice:

Not only do I like this ad because it is just so damn funny, but it makes our boyfriends feel inadequate at the same time. In my previous article, More Junk in the Trunk, please, I discuss how ads make women feel insufficient. So finally, there is one that does the same for men, go gender equality! All kidding aside, this ad does prove effective in the comedy category. In an analysis of the best and worst Superbowl ads, expresses that in order for a funny commercial to not only grab the attention of the viewer but actually SELL the product, it must not rely simply on gags. Often times while watching a commercial you are laughing, but afterward you find yourself thinking “what the hell was the commercial even selling?”. This Old Spice commercial is not only hilarious, but the production is impeccable. Not only are you engaged by the humor, but visually as well. Also, having a gorgeous man in the commercial doesn’t hurt either…

Drive Safe PSA:

When I first saw this commercial, I have to admit I was speechless afterward and I believe that was the point. Commercials like this one can either make you think or have you changing the channel as quickly as possible. A study by Deborah Skinner shows that an advertiser walks a fine line when using sad commercials. The results show that a viewer responds more favorably to a sad commercial if it is seen while watching a sad TV program. So while I would say that this commercial is effective, the advertiser has to be particular as to when this ad is shown.

The Truth:

By now we have all seen these commercials by a PSA campaign called The Truth but think about when they first came out. Everyone knows that smoking kills, its written all over cigarette boxes, but people often turn a blind eye to these things. We know that drinking is bad for our liver, but how much fun is it to go out and have one too many with your best friends? The Truth ads however take the hard hitting facts and basically punch people in the faces with them. This ad in particular states that a Tobacco executive tried to make underweight babies seem like a good result of smoking during pregnancy. A commercial that effectively makes you think should leave you saying “what?!” and this commercial certainly does the trick.

American Express:

Who doesn’t love Ellen DeGeneres? If you just disagreed with that statement, you are lying. This is most likely the thinking behind the series of American Express ads that feature numerous different celebrities. No doubt seeing our favorite faces of Hollywood grabs the viewer’s attention (I was certainly excited when I saw Ellen bustin some moves) but using celebrities in ads can be good and bad. A book called Television and the American Child, states that the use of celebrities are really only effective with the celebrity is deemed as credible. For example, Michael Jordan obviously has the credentials to promote basketball shoes and Gatorade, but what on earth does HE know about underwear and socks? So in hindsight, American Express’ use of celebrities may miss the mark. What does Ellen DeGeneres know about handling money? Doesn’t she have people for that? Perhaps in the future, the use of celebrities should simply be celebrity athletes who actually use the products they’re selling.

Bob’s Discount Furniture:

I will be the first to say it: I think Bob is the most annoying man I have ever been forced to watch on television. That being said, am I going to take a look in his store to get the best deal on a new bed set? Probably. The point of annoying ads is to get inside your head. Think about the one person that is currently making you crazy: you may hate them with the heat of a million white suns, but you’re still constantly thinking about them aren’t you? The reason Bob’s commercials work are because he has the goods to back them up. He gets inside your head so the next time you need new furniture, you end up going because not only is he stuck in your mind, but he’s got the great deals.

I may work for a marketing and PR firm but it does not take an expert on advertising to see the obvious.  These 6 approaches give way to the best commercials, but advertisers walk a fine line when doing so. A good ad leaves you wanting the product.

So, do any of these ads leave you wanting?

Written by: Caitlin McDonough

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