How Does Broadcast Advertising Work?

Broadcast advertising might seem like a daunting set of tasks to the uninitiated. In this video, I’ll talk you through all the stages of TV advertising, from the initial brief, all the way up to having your TV advert on TV, and tracking how it performs. The whole process starts with a brief from the client. Here at Hightower video, we help start the brief process by sending the prospective client a briefing form, which handily breaks down and coaxes out what the client is looking to achieve from the campaign. Once the brief is received, there’s usually a series of conversations over Zoom, or in person, where we work with the client to interpret the brief, establish a comprehensive strategy, and talk creative and production goals. From the client’s point of view, an incredibly important part of the process is to figure out what the customer’s needs and wants are. We frequently work with market research companies, who really get to the core of the customer, and what they will respond to.

The next stage is to work with a media buying and planning agency, to figure out how to point the prospective TV advert in the right direction, with channel planning. Each TV channel has a demographic and the media agency will start planning a strategy that takes in customer age, social, economic situation, and location. We work alongside several top tier media agencies to ensure there’s absolute synergy between strategy, creative and production. Once the strategy has been developed, we work with the client, to decide the best plan of attack to develop a TV advert, which will appeal to the target audience. This includes the message, tone, type of production and brand voice.

Once we have an overarching creative strategy, we’ll work with a scriptwriter to develop a series of scripts, each with a different angle to approach the core point of the exercise, to best engage with the audience, and potential buyers. We present the scripts to the client, and then we work with the client to whittle down an idea to the point of being ready for production. The next stage is a biggie and one that’s exclusive for TV advertising. Clearcast is an organisation that reviews and arbitrates whether a commercial can be broadcast on most TV channels, in the UK. It’s not a government body however, and was actually set up by the main TV channels as an ass covering exercise. Before Clearcast, too many adverts were going on TV, and then being promptly pulled down by the ASA, for making claims that wouldn’t hold up in court.

This was, of course, causing many an unseemly spat between clients, also agencies and the stations, which was in no one’s best interest. First Clearcast was set up as the gatekeeper. Any agency who knows what they’re doing will send a script to Clearcast, alongside any substantiation to justify claims that they make in the advert. There are plenty of products and services that sell through Clearcast without any problems. However, there are certain areas which will be combed over by them in some detail. An example might be Clearcast asking for independent, clinical research, to show that your new wonderful toothpaste, actually does make your teeth whiter. There can be an amount of back and forth between the advertiser and Clearcast, but script stage Clearcast is so important, because when clearance isn’t given, and an advert is produced, they’re in the habit of picking apart the advert and denying clearance. This is a very expensive way of spending your angry client’s money.

After clearance has been achieved, the script will be developed into a storyboard, by the production company. A storyboard is essentially like a comic strip and gives the viewer a better idea of the creative direction than a script would alone.

Further to this, here at Hightower, we usually produce an animatic, which takes the frames of the storyboard and animates them. This adds further pre-visualisation for the client and production company. It is very useful for timings and shot arrangement.

Now we’ve completed pre-production. We have a script and storyboard, and work can commence, producing the advert, itself. Here at Hightower, we work extensively, shooting live action shoots with the full gamut of cast and crew, as well as animation, graphics and stock assets work. With the footage in the can, the next stage is putting together everything with the post production team. The footage will be logged, edited, graded, and colour corrected, by an editor. The editor will then pass on the footage to the graphics department. We work with many different artists during this phase, including 3D CG specialists, 2D and 3D animators, as well as motion graphics artists.

Next comes the voiceover process. We usually present 10 or 12 different sample options of voiceover to the client, to get their input. Then we patch in with the client, to the voiceover studio, and work with the artists live. We’ll send pre-recorded voiceover to the client for editorial feedback. Here at Hightower, we love our music, and consider it to be the glue that binds together any good advert. We usually work with a musician to produce a custom music track, which really elevates the products and sets it apart from the usual stock music blandness.

When the editor has finished working with the other specialists, and we have a first draught, we send the draught over to the client, and work with them to refine the product, with editorial revisions. It’s very normal for the advert to go back and forth several times between the client and production company. Once we finally have the client sign off, the advert has a clock attached to it. This is a code produced to allow the stations to identify the advert. Then the clock’s advert is sent back to Clearcast again, who cast their eye over to make sure everything is present, and correct. After final Clearcast sign-off, the advert is sent to the stations indicated by the media strategy plan. There is a further submission fee for each play out to station. In the case of Hightower, this is the only cost not included in the production fee.

The TV advert has now been passed from the hands of the production company onto the media agency, whose job now is to act on the strategy they devised early on in the process. The media agency will keep a keen eye on the advert’s performance and report back to the client. The agency usually uses a mixture of different software to achieve this tracking. Hightower’s partners all use Adalyser, an incredibly useful tool to help plan and execute a TV advert campaign, in an extremely precise way, similar to the best of online tracking platforms. Google Analytics is the other big one to show how effective the advert is at getting people onto the client’s website. If you need any more information, give us a call.

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