Advertising and Marketing

In Promos, New Ways to Make You 'Stop, Look, Listen'

Show content and music helping unite viewers with brands 6/11/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Gone are the days when all a TV
show promo had to be was a collection
of clips knit cleverly together,
along with a message telling everyone what
day and time to tune in.

Today, a promo has to convince
viewers to stop fast-forwarding
through commercials, engage
with an audience, communicate
the brand of both the show and
the network and, often, do all of
this while integrating an advertiser.
Plus, promos still have to
tell viewers when and where to
watch—not that it matters quite
as much in the anytime-viewing
world. It’s all part and parcel of
the evolution of the promo form
in its attempt to gain eyeballs and
even dollars—with music often
subtly playing an integral part in
getting the message across.

These are the trends on the
minds of attendees heading to
the PromaxBDA conference in
Los Angeles this week.

“Everything is designed to try
to make the [commercial and
promo] break disappear now,”
says Jeff Boortz, president of
Be the Creative Source. “After
viewers tune back in to see the
snippet of content—people call them podbusters—
they figure they are close enough to
the end of the pod to watch the rest of the
break linearly. Everyone is doing it. DVRs are
so widespread now that programmers had to
come up with something.”

On reality-competition series Top Chef,
Bravo often will throw a behind-the-scenes
moment into the middle of a commercial pod
that encourages viewers to return to the show.
Those moments might also include a sponsor,
if only through quick pans of the surrounding
kitchen equipment.

The Biggest Loser does that a lot,” says Joel
Pilger, president and founder of Denver-based
Impossible TV. “They will put a promo in the
middle of the break that looks like you are
back, but it’s really a recap of what’s happened
so far. Still, as a viewer you
say, ‘There’s something there
that I need to see. I need to
hit pause and watch that.’”

Along those lines, after Discovery’s ad sales
unit cut a deal with Universal Studios, Impossible
TV created a clever spot that integrated Universal’s
theatrical film Despicable Me with Discovery’s
hit show Deadliest Catch. In the spot, the
animated minions from the film became workers
on Captain Keith’s Alaskan fishing boat.

“Advertisers are asking, ‘How can I get
closer to the talent, to this brand? How can
I get my product or service wrapped up in
this thing?’” says Steve Urbano, VP of Impossible
TV. “They are trying to establish a place
where their product is being embraced and
connected with a show and a network. It’s a
powerful way to get viewers to pay attention
to a product.”

“Networks are starting to use promo space
to generate revenue,” says Boortz. “It’s still a
fairly new phenomenon, but
it’s getting more sophisticated
every month.”

Networks also are interested
in longer-form promos that tell
stories on their own because
promos—as catchy, short-form
videos—have a long afterlife on
the Internet.

“We definitely are doing more
stuff for the Internet that ends
up on social media,” says Chris
Stonich, executive VP/creative
director for Lussier Productions.
“We call it ‘promotainment.’”

Stonich and Lussier recently
cut a three-minute-long promo
for ABC’s Revenge that explained
the show’s set-up and played almost
like a tiny movie, with one
of the show’s characters narrating
a video that tells the story of
the first season.

“More promos are being produced and appearing
in more media,” says Ron Mendelsohn,
president and CEO of Megatrax. “All of the
networks have their Websites, and promos are
running on Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo. Promos are
alive and well all over the Internet.”

Those promos can also have an immediate
effect on traffic, as more viewers demand content
whenever they want it.

“As more performances of TV shift online,
it’s natural for people to click on a promo and
then click over to Hulu or ABC.com to watch
the actual show,” says Mendelsohn. “It’s a very
seamless thing. It’s not like years ago when
you ran a TV promo and told viewers to watch
the show on Sunday night on ABC and then
they had to wait four days to do that.”

That afterlife on the Internet is allowing promos
to become more like movie trailers than the
15-second tune-in spots of yesteryear.

“On the Internet, the norm is to run at least oneand-
a-half to two minutes,” says Mendelsohn.
“Promos are becoming even more of an art
form now. The lines are blurring.”

Promos not only are becoming longer, they
are also becoming slower.

“Everyone in the industry is trying to slow
down the speeds at which promos are cut by
about 20 to 50 percent,” says Joe Tamanini,
president of Studio City, which cuts a high
volume of promos, including lots of spots for
daytime shows including Anderson and Live!
With Kelly
.

“It used to be that you would use a really
high-energy piece of music and tons of fast
cuts to try to show all of this great material,”
Tamanini says. “It was very rapid-fire, very cutty.
And at the time it was very cool. But now
if you take that fast promo and run it through
the DVR, nothing lands with the viewer.”

“You have to find a way to break through
the white noise that is in and of itself advertising
on television,” Tamanini continues. “Viewers
are getting messages thrown at them all the
time. You have to slow down, tell a clear and
concise story and stop trying to be so goddamn
clever. You don’t want to be so clever that you
lose people.”

Studio City just developed, shot and cut more
than 100 promos for the upcoming Summer
Olympics, all of which will air in local markets,
featuring athletes who come from those markets.

“What I think is so revolutionary and cutting-
edge about [the promos] is that we’re
able to be very micro-focused on the different
regions to make the spots,” says Tamanini.
“Hopefully, that will give people in those markets
good reason to watch the Games.”

It may not be as obvious, but music plays almost
as big a part in telling a promotional story
as video. Like almost everyone in the TV business,
music and sound design companies have
to do less with more, re-engineering library
tracks to make them sound like originals and
submitting first drafts that look and sound
like ready-to-broadcast projects.

“Using sound design and musical augmentation,
we can make an existing track sound like
it’s been scored to match the campaign or the
goal for which the promo campaign is looking,”
says Ted Gannon, senior composer, sound
designer and mixer for New York-based sound
and mixing company Super Exploder, which
works in tandem with sister companies Northern
Lights, Bodega and Mr. Wonderful.

Like the promos themselves, the accompanying
music has to send the message that the
network and the series wants to send. Super
Exploder and its sister companies just collaborated
on USA Network’s promotional campaign
“The Boys of Burn,” and other spots, for
the sixth season of Burn Notice, which returns
to the network June 14.

In the spots, the music consists of mostly
low-toned thrumming that conveys action
and intensity, perfect both for Burn Notice’s
and USA’s brands.

“There are a few marks that we had to hit
on all of those promos,” says Gannon. “Burn
Notice
is not James Bond, but it does have a
contemporary spy feel. The music has to be
sexy, and the tempo has to be quick and reflect both the show and the network.”

Music companies also have had to design
Websites and create other mechanisms so they
can deliver product to clients on a minute-byminute
basis.

“We just stopped pressing CDs this year in
the U.S., and all of our music is served over
the Internet via our new Website, or a customized
hard drive,” says Mendelsohn, adding that
it took Megatrax three years to develop the site.
“It’s all completely searchable online. We are
offering more and more tools to help our clients
quickly find what they want,” which includes
music directors who clients can call up and get
help to quickly ! nd the tracks they seek.

Even with all of the technological advances,
some things never change. Composers and
sound designers still prefer to work with live
musicians and instruments whenever they
can, even though almost all instruments can
be reproduced electronically.

“When you’ve got the mind-set, skill set
and creative ideas that four to five people will
bring to the table, it can be magic,” says Randy
Hart, creative director of AirCast, Megatrax’s
custom division. “Little seeds of ideas can
really take on lives of their own.”

Live might be better, but technology allows
companies to more easily incorporate live
tracks into promos. In a pinch, voice-over
artists and musicians can re-record tracks
from their in-home studio and deliver them
electronically within the hour. In the past,
re-recording would require companies to
schedule new time with artists, and they
would have to come into the studio to record.

Whether it’s performed electronically or
live, promo music doesn’t have long to catch
a viewer’s attention.

“Promo music has always been about being
really catchy or really hooky,” says Mendelsohn.
“You need to catch someone in the first three
to five seconds. That’s one of the formulas for
writing good promo music—you need to catch
someone right from the beginning.”

Adds Hart: “Whenever you deliver a piece
to a client, you want it to have so much soul
that it stands on its own and speaks with
personality.”

E-mail comments to
palbiniak@gmail.com and follow her
on Twitter: @PaigeA

 

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