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Why Does Your Brand Wait Until :29 to Show Up in Your :30?

The perils of being late to the party

"Each commercial is a short film, a piece of brand history. Don't waste it."

A majority of Americans admit they forget people's names.

You hear a great joke, a moving story or a bit of wisdom. Yet you haven't a clue about the name of the person who shared it with you.

The same thing happens every day in advertising.

When people find out you work in advertising, they say, "Oh, I love that ad with the baby and the dog and the beer!"

We reply: "What was the product?"

"Oh, I don't know. Lawnmowers or hamburgers … but I loved it!"

Herein lies the problem.

Slapping a logo at the end of an ad means one thing: Your brand is interchangeable with any other brand. The brand must connect with the message and is in trouble when people erroneously recall your spot being for Bud Light, Levi's or even White Castle (no matter the buzz or the number of social media "likes").

So, why are we making so many 30-seconds spots that don't reveal the brand until the 29-second mark? Is it arrogance? (No, certainly not in this industry.) It must be the focus on concept over brand. Yes, we all want to be clever, emotional and even edgy. But if it's at the client's expense, then that's a waste of the brand's money—and the consumer's time.

(And we know better.)

We argue that product placement in film and television is cheesy, even borderline ridiculous. ("Really, everyone at the sitcom bar drinks MGD?") Yet when we have 30 seconds to actually sell—when everyone knows why we're here—too many spots find a path to obscurity.

Go ahead and mock obnoxious daytime TV ads for lawyers, carpeting or insurance, but they make sure you know who they are.

However, they are cheesy.

So, let's meet somewhere in the middle.

Always incorporate the brand in the concept. To paraphrase Scott's "Green Grass" campaign: "Feed your brand … FEED it!"

Three brands that got it right: Cheerios with Saatchi & Saatchi's "Just Checking"; State Farm with DDB's "State of Unrest" (aka "Jake From State Farm"); and Swiffer with Publicis Kaplan Thaler's "Swiffer Effect" reality campaign.

These three brands delivered on emotion, humor and cultural shifts, all without calling too much attention to them. The brand remains the star, both in the campaign and in public discussion. The balance of product message and PR traction was made. Everyone was talking about it—and clients love that.

Each commercial is a short film, a piece of brand history. Don't waste it. Let's challenge copy and art direction to integrate. Let's make the viewer remember who is making them laugh, cheer or cry.

After all, they do have a name.

Martin Oleksy is founder and creative director of the Flying Minds agency. He is also co-host on the Ad Men Radio Show, heard weekly on Lakeshore Public Media.

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