The 1st 7 Seconds Rule for a TV Commercial

by TedV

For attention gaining purposes, television commercials are very similar to radio ads. If you exclude the obvious visual impact, which we’ll discuss soon, capturing a viewer’s attention and a listener’s attention are virtually the same. Perhaps I should have made this a Part 1 and Part 2 for Broadcasting rather than distinguish between radio and TV.

The cost of producing and then airing television commercials preclude many smaller businesses, and particularly B-2-B. Therefore, if you’re going to all this trouble and expense, use the Principles of Relevance Marketing to make sure someone pays attention to what you say.

TV and Radio Ads – the Same Only Different

The Same

People don’t pay as much attention to commercials as the broadcasts
You have to interrupt what listeners are thinking about
No one can go back and “re-read” a broadcast ad
You MUST capture the listener/viewer’s attention immediately

So to conquer these factors you should re-read my last post on interrupting the listener’s thought patterns in the 1st 7 seconds of a Radio Ad.

I won’t go over each here, the link right above discusses these techniques in some detail, but here are five ways to catch a viewers’ attention:

• Introduce Someone Important or Impressive
• Make an Abrupt Announcement
• Ask a Conversational Question
• State an Amazing Fact or Statistic
• Let the Listeners Overhear Someone Else’s Secret

The Differences Between TV and Radio Commercials

The picture (obviously)
The viewer usually concentrates on the show, unlike radio
The viewer sees the commercial as the time to NOT pay attention
Ad placement in the list during a break is important
Irritating ads before yours can drive them to mute

The picture

You have access to one more of the five human senses to help get your message across with television commercials. Drive home in some way your prospects seeing themselves succeeding.

There are a plethora of ads out there now for these for-profit colleges, such as ITT Technical College and the University of Phoenix. The commercials always show people in their ideal student age range doing something wonderful with their lives after graduating from their institutions. They are shown and heard succeeding in their chosen careers and enjoying their private and family lives.

Leave clever and witty visual branding commercials to the big guys with millions and millions to spend and/or waste.

The viewer usually concentrates on the show, unlike radio

Sometimes, particularly during the daytime, a percentage of TV viewers will be listening to the television while doing housework. But most people around the clock just watch the TV. Therefore, rather than having to wake the viewer from half paying attention as in radio, you have to capture their imagination even more, or they’ll zone-out on you. Why pay attention to what you’re not interested in, right?

Fortunately, with television, you have both words and pictures to help keep them involved. Coordinate these with engendering in them a sense of their success and you’ll have a captive audience.

Viewers see the commercial as the time to NOT pay attention

Hand-in-hand with the intense concentration on the show, you have the fact that this is a break. During breaks you break away from the show to go where people go during commercials.

Work with this in mind. The 1st 7 seconds are most crucial to cause viewers to stop going to the refrigerator or to the other primary location in the house where one goes during commercials.

Ad placement in the list during a particular break is important

The first commercial right at the break stands the best chance of keeping audience attention, if done correctly. That’s why you pay more for it. Help the audience relate to your message right from the first second.

Otherwise, if you are in the middle of a commercial rotation, create some sound related attention getter that will call the viewer back to the screen. Make a startling statement is a favorite here.

Irritating ads before yours cause viewers to mute

Try to find out which ads go ahead of yours. Look at them if possible and refuse to go after anything that irks you. Do make sure you have a strong visual plug to pull viewers back to you, and sure you have clear written words on the screen at the start of your commercial to cause people to un-mute.


There is a lot of risk with local television advertising, and a lot of potential. Make sure your message speaks to your targeted audience. Don’t go for the broadest appeal, because those messages get ignored soonest. Use Relevance Marketing to hold your true segment’s attention and create interest.

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