What Authors Can Learn About Marketing From TV Ads

Photo credit: caprisco from morguefile.com

Do you know what a movie TV spot is? It’s simply a TV-commercial version of a movie trailer. These run about 30 seconds or less, and are generally very targeted to a specific audience. Studios will run multiple ads targeted to different groups of people, and TV is a great place to do that because one type of person likes one show, while another person will watch something entirely different. But both people enjoy the same movie.

I know you’re wondering what this has to do with you. You’re probably thinking, “I write books, not make movies. And I can’t even afford a TV ad in the first place!” I hear you. What I want to do is draw your attention to the concept behind movie TV ads—the idea of customizing your marketing efforts to reach more than one group of people. It’s something I see a lot of self-published authors gloss over in their marketing. Most self-publishers will pick a single message and hammer that home everywhere. You’ll have one talking point about your book—essentially limiting yourself to one audience.

But the goal of a movie ad is to get both types of people who will enjoy the film to buy a ticket. How can we do the same?

I want to get you thinking in the direction of multiple ways to present a single story. To help you do that, I’ve picked a couple of movies that ran a lot of TV spots. We’ll watch several of those and think about what message each is sending.

First, let’s look at some TV spots from the movie Brave. This is a great example because the movie’s marketing department ran more than a dozen TV ads, so we have a lot of examples to choose from. What I want you to do is watch each TV spot in this list, then jot down some thoughts on what messages you’re seeing. I’ll give you the list, then I’ll do the first two to get you started.

Let’s take a look at the first spot in the list:

What are you seeing? Here are some words that might describe it:

  • Scottish
  • Beauty
  • Sentiment
  • Gentle

See how this works? This ad panders to the audience that likes pretty pictures and sentimental stories. But take a look at the next ad on the list:

What words would you use to describe this one? How about these?

  • Fun
  • Humor
  • Mayhem
  • Hilarity

We’ve now seen two ads for the same movie. One wants us to believe it’s a laugh riot, and the other claims it’s all about Scottish beauty and sentiment. And, hey, they’re both right! The movie contains both elements.

When you’re finished with the Brave list, take a look at this list of TV spots from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, another movie that ran a lot of TV ads.

Before you watch these, let me mention that this set is different from the ads I gave you for Brave. Notice how every one of these ads (except maybe the last one) all hit the gritty action-adventure notes. But what’s targeted about them is what part of the story they emphasize. Take the first one, for example:

This ad is focused on showing us the big threatening antagonist. Perfect for bringing in the audience that wants to see some epic fight sequences. Now look at the third ad in the list:

This one calls out that Captain America is working against S.H.E.I.L.D. and the big threatening antagonist. We’re shown that it’s him versus the world in a quest for justice. This one gets the politicly minded crowd excited about what themes the movie might explore.

Hopefully you’re seeing how a story can be marketed in a number of different ways to reach multiple types of people. But as I said before, a self-published author will often take a single aspect of a book and tailor all the marketing messages to fit. Doing that limits your field of readers. There are likely more people out there who want to read your book than just the small niche you’ve chosen.

So how do you identify other marketable aspects of your book? Do some brainstorming. Think about various parts of your story, such as relationships between characters, genres, villain motives, and so on.

If you’re still stuck, you could try another trick. This requires that your book is for sale and that you’ve received some reviews. Go to your book’s page on Amazon (or wherever it’s at) and read the reviews. Make a list of what aspects of the story reviewers have called out as favorites, then try to use that list to create some new marketing messages.

What do you do with this list? Well, you may have discovered more groups of people you can ask to review your book. Maybe there’s an event you could give books to as prizes that you hadn’t previously considered. Or you may have decided to try posting a couple of different tweets with targeted headlines. Whatever you do, remember that there’s probably an untapped group of readers out there just waiting for you to tell them your book exists.

Celebratory Sale

To celebrate the relaunch of Fix My Story, I’ve put the e-book of Finding the Core of Your Story on sale for 99¢ on Amazon! Sale price is good through September 5th.

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