Sounding off

Our lovely cousins at the RAB have made an online TV ad to promote radio advertising. The cheeky blighters have based it around our TV ad, but, as they don’t say much we’d disagree with, we have decided to take it as a tribute. Don’t forget to put the sound up.

Our TV ad does strongly feature lines and catchphrases from TV ads but also important gestures and movements: the Cornetto gondola rowing, the R White’s dance, the JR Hartley head-nodding. No matter; the RAB has highlighted an issue we feel strongly about which is the importance of sound in TV ads.

Radio can indeed through sound alone provoke a visual memory from a TV ad; in one of our own research groups someone talked about the British Heart Foundation’s TV ad from a couple of years back where blood clots were seen moving sinisterly under the skin to the accompaniment of the Frank Sinatra classic ‘I’ve got you under my skin’. She said that every time she heard the music she could visualise those clots creeping along veins.

But unless that strong visual image had been linked to impactful sound via the TV ad the radio wouldn’t have worked as well. TV works that way with other media too. Seeing a still image in print or outdoor from a TV ad can remind people of the full glory of the original, but they can be confusing without the TV narrative.

Current fashions in TV favour some stylish action with either a voiceover or a music track; think Sony Balls, Guinness surfers or Cadbury’s eyebrows. And fabulous results can be produced in that way; the latest Budweiser and Hula-Hoops TV ads are part of that trend – even the Philips Carousel film. All of them could – and do – run in any market in the world, either as they stand or with a local voiceover.

But what we’re seeing less of is TV ads with dialogue, where we get to know and love characters through conversations. Some of the classics like Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins for Cinzano or the Gold Blend couple gave us ongoing mini-dramas that compelled us to watch the next instalment.

There are ways round this of course and one of this year’s most successful campaigns has created a loveable character, with a back-story, narrative thrust and great scripts.

His name is Aleksandr Orlov. VCCP has created strong emotional connections for the brand in a low interest crowded market with some classy anthropomorphism. If they did need to export the advertising I guess that the marvels of post-production could transport Aleksandr and Sergei anywhere in the world. It would work for the PG Tips monkey too, though Jonny Vegas wouldn’t travel so well I guess.

The combination of moving images with sound is one of the enormous advantages TV (and cinema) has over other visual media like digital outdoor or online video. Yes, online video has the capability for sound but the reality is that the speakers are only likely to be on if you’re watching TV or a film online. Music is a surefire solution to the sound element in TV ads; we have footage of people dancing, singing, clapping along to them. But hearing and seeing words come out of real people’s mouths – with or without music – is a special treat and provokes a deep emotional response. T-Mobile did it in Trafalgar Square. We’d love to see more.

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  • Jeremy Lee

    And the RAB has also had to use an AV medium to promote itself, which, if not quite ironic, is mildy amusing.

  • Gordon Macmillan

    That’s very funny. It’s a fair point (well stretched). Maybe the advertisers will “just ask” the TV people as well.

  • charlie robertson

    Radio – like TV with your eyes closed
    – good at having a pop at the brand leader.
    and it gets us talking – power of ads in practice.
    Take it you are not putting out a brief to promote TV on the radio?
    BBC does that for you I suppose.


    We have suggested to the RAB that maybe they’d like to buy some TV airtime, given what amazing value it is right now, and then their ad would be seen by millions rather than just a thousand or so.

    But Thinkbox has no problem using other media; we already use print, DM, events and online and we actively promote integration. Although I have to say nothing has provoked quite such a response – web traffic, online and in person – as our own modest TV campaign. It’s not just about numbers or efficiency you see.