The difficult, rewarding art of making great promos for TV, products The Samsung beauty got 100 million views in just 7 weeks

Great promos? Great is such a loosely used word, but some TV and advertising creative setups do produce great promos and ad films. Always, they are facing three challenges, that they need to rise and meet with a ‘cut-demand-expand’.

The three challenges?

  1. The Clutter: Talk about immense clutter across hundreds of TV channels, many OTT platforms like Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime, SonyLIV, Voot, Zee5, and all that video content YouTube and Google keep regurgitating at you… So, no eureka revelation this: There’s clutter that needs to be Cut it.
  2. Very little time… Today, everyone is one the move. The digitally connected audience is on the go! They don’t have time. One sustained look across two or three cuts is all you will get. If you don’t hold their attention, they will dump you. And they will remember you for pushing forgettable, uninteresting content. You don’t want to be there, do you?
  3. …and an even shorter attention span! Not just clutter and time, even the attention span of youngsters on Digital is today very low. Especially the Gen Z youngsters. Why? Because they are the digitally native, multi-screen generation, with access to and at ease with multiple screens and devices, like a smartphone. a tablet or ipad, a laptop and or a desktop and even a television set to boot! They have to constantly switch from device to device, even though – and because – they are multitasking. So, their attention span for a video film too is the kind of attention span that a large hoarding beside a highway has – only 4 to 6 seconds to grab attention and convey at least the start of the important message.

The idea, the story, can overcome all. And the way tell it. Your narrative. That’s most important.

The content must be smart, clever, and must catch the viewer unawares, surprising them, drawing them in with ‘hmmm… what-happens-next?’.

Of course, sometimes, for an important social message with enormous gravitas and seriousness, you need to be direct and straight to the point, but for most other video films, the approach of intrigue, a bit of a surprise element and curiosity – as I said, the where is this going?’element – always works.

Remember the Star Bharat promos?  

The idea is God…

Another remarkable ad film, an all-time favourite ever since I first watched it – has been this Samsung video. Beautifully scripted, cast, acted, choreographed, shot, edited… you know from the very beginning that it’s going to be something emotional, but you cannot outguess the narrative that’s about to open the sluice gates, as it were, and slam you into an emotional flood. Best thing? It’s a beautiful thought. a remarkable idea, brilliantly produced and narrated. Here, get your lump in the throat. I’m sure if you’ve watched this before, you will still be delighted to watch it again.

And most important, produce each significant TV promo like an ad film. Lavish it with the same kind of budgets, attention, care and production love.

Gone are the days when we used to ask show producers to deliver promos from the footage of every show. In fact, one of India’s most respected external producer-director-cinematographers who’s still producing a series I launched way back in 1996 tells me that way back then, I was the first executive producer in Indian television who got it entered into his production contract that producers would supply, along with each Beta SP episode master, two promos cut from the footage – a teaser and an episodic, at no extra cost.  Of course, today, that approach might work for some regulation promos, but for any important TV promos to stand out, it needs to be produced like an ad film for the maximum creative realism and technical and therefore overall narrative brilliance.

That Samsung video you watched a bit earlier in this story… Why do you think it racked up some 30 million views on YouTube in just 10-odd days and over 100 million views in 7 weeks of launch?  Do share your views in the comments.

… and the production

One of the reasons, to my mind, is that it was not just a great emotional idea, it was also produced absolutely brilliantly! Now not every ad campaign will have the budgets of a phenomenal leader brand like Samsung, but then, many that do have still not created something quite as magical.

I liked what Samsung CMO Ranjivjit Singh had said, and it demonstrates the point I made about being committed to the best production values. Singh had then said that although the Samsung video wasn’t based on a real story, there was an enormous about of pre-production work involved, particularly in terms of finding the best location and casting the best actors for the main characters in the narrative. And through an emotional story, Samsung also illustrated how committed and determined they are when it comes to taking care of their customers.

Some excellent content creators have cracked the code of grabbing audience interest virtually instantly. Terribly Tiny Tales is one, and on video, I love the quick, even hectic pace of food videos by Gobble too. If you’re a food lover and love to eat or cook, or watch food being cooked, you’ll probably watch their videos till the end.

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