How Would You Sell A TV Show?

When you work agency-side you know that arguably, the most important part of the creative brief – it’s living and beating heart – is the key message. (I say arguably because “Insights that drive the brief” – the hot buttons that drive consumers, are pretty important too) Written by strategists, planners or account people, the key message is the focus of the advertising – it’s the tune that all the elements sing along to. The success of any marketing effort is dependant on a clear, singe-focused key message. Writing it well is an art in itself. The key message is usually reflective of the benefit – the proposition that the advertising sets up for the consumer. It can be based upon the “What’s in it for me?” factor if there is a benefit to be communicated. If it’s news or information that you wish to impart about your product it become the “What do you want me to believe?” factor. Either way, you are trying to make some kind of emotional connection with your consumer, while presenting a compelling reason why they should buy your brand.

But take a look at entertainment advertising for a moment. Crack open a People Magazine sometime. All the TV show ads and movie posters look the same. And most of them say the same things – the key message is purely descriptive. Huh? Did I miss something? Did a memo go out that says there is only one way to sell entertainment?

There are a couple of reasons that I can think of for this oddity – and feel free to leave your own hypothesis – but I believe that the entertainment industry doesn’t embrace the whole notion of emotional connection communicated via a key message. I’ve been in meetings and heard the “We paid a million bucks for that actor – I want his/her face in the ads” argument and I buy it in some cases. I do believe that some comedies and dramas are best sold based upon telling people what they are – and allowing the actor/cast to do the emotional connection thing leveraging their own fame/brand (Think the Twilight Saga). But in television, and after that crucial first season is over, wouldn’t it make sense to try to tell people WHY they should watch – or WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM if they watch, rather than simply telling them what’s in the bag and hoping they see something they like?

I call this the “tell-ivison” strategy. In promo land it makes sense. On TV or in trailers, the strategy is one of program sampling. Try it on for 30 seconds and see if you like it. But in print or online you can’t sample. And you have roughly half a second to engage your audience. In my humble opinion, this is the time to be brave, not weak. That’s my theory. What do you think? How would you sell an existing TV show or movie based on the benefit theory? Would it bring audiences? Would it be effective?


About Jill Atkinson

From concepts and smart headlines to original content and transmedia storytelling, to television pitch materials, directors treatments, long format writing, blogs and web copy with SEO, I write it all. I'm a writer, copywriter, and a content writer. My job is to help you say it better with ideas and language that get noticed. With copy and content that engages customers and audiences and ideas that make a connection with them. Ideas that generate a response. Materials that can sell a pitch. When you work with me you're working with the big boys: Maclaren, BBDO, Taxi, Sharpe Blackmore and also a great bunch of mid-sized agencies, b2b shops, a national television network (CBC), 15 specialty channels (History Channel, National Geographic, Showcase, Action, IFC, BBC Canada, + many more) and start ups who have taught me everything I know about how to get you noticed, remembered and sold. Or clicked. Or talked about. There are lots of ways to try to sell your products or to sell people on your offer or to engage them in your content and your show. But there is only one way to get it done right and on strategy. My experience is a foot in the door for your brand or your television idea . And no matter the size of your project, my commitment and attention to detail remain the same, big or small and always on deadline. Great conversations have to start somewhere. Give me a call or shoot me an email Check out my work at
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