Julian Gratton

10 persuasive techniques to consider using in your next TV advert

In the UK there is a limit of 12 minutes of TV advertising being shown in any one hour on all UK TV channels. This means that, potentially, the average person could be exposed to 24 TV adverts in any one hour, which means finding ways to stand out from the crowd is important.

Advertisers have for years looked to use clever techniques to get people to act, click, phone, buy or talk. Vance Packard’s ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ brilliantly covers some of these techniques, as do a few other books. I’ve listed ten of my favourite persuasive techniques here in this blog for you to try when creating your next production.

1. The small request

Dead simple this and a technique loved by charity organisations the world over. Start by requesting that the consumer do something small… essentially this is the hand raising exercise to see who is open to your message. Once they’ve completed the ‘something small’ you hit them with a bigger request at a later stage.

2. Follow the crowd

Basically, the more people approve of something the more likely you are to get other people to act the same way. If 9 out of 10 cats prefer a certain cat food, it’s highly likely your cat will like it too… and we all want to make our cats happy! Find a way to generate a statistic that 90% of people choose or approve of your product or service and use that as the core of your message!

3. Make them laugh

We all love to laugh. Share a joke down the pub. Tell a funny anecdote around the dinner table. If people laugh with us it warms them to us. People like us. They want to spend time with us. That’s why advertisers use humour, as it’s a simple way to make people like the brand or product they are selling. Plus it increases the chances of people talking about the advert in the corridor at work, down the pub or in the playground. So if it’s appropriate, find a way to make people laugh and they’ll respond to you in a positive way. The below advert for Hamlet is quite simply a great example of this.

4. Play hard to get

Perceived unavailability. It’s a powerful thing. When things in life are scarce (or seem scarce) people want them more (and will usually pay more for them too). ‘Limited Edition’, ‘Offer ends this week’, ‘Last few remaining’. These are just some of the terms and phrases you can use to give your offering some perceived unavailability. As humans we love the freedom to choose whether we want something or not. Remove that freedom and give us the fear that there is only one choice available (‘No’ you can’t have it as it’s all sold out) and you’ll find that we’ll act quicker to maintain our freedom of choice.

5. Compare your product or service

There are really two types of comparison advert you can do. The first is to compare your product or service to that of a competitor… obviously with yours coming out on top in some way (Supermarkets love this kind of advert). The second is to compare it to something that the consumer does in their life (such as spending 23 hours per week online) you then position what you want them to do against this. For example: ‘You spend 23 hours online… surely you can spend just one hour a week running to look after your heart’.

6. Make your product human

Anthropomorphism. It’s not only a great score in Scrabble. It’s also a cute advertising strategy. Loosely defined. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human emotions to animals and inanimate objects and it’s a technique that’s not only used in advertising but also in Children’s books, cartoons and music videos (check out the brilliant Coffee and TV music video by Blur). As an added trick, if you relate strong emotions to the object (abandonment for example) then you can create a very powerful piece of communication. The IKEA advert below does this wonderfully.

7. The visual metaphor

A Rhino and a 4×4. An Octopus and car tyres. Objects that are completely unrelated to each other yet share important qualities (toughness and grip) that visually associating them with each other creates a powerful communication that goes beyond words. That’s the beauty of the visual metaphor. And if you can use it well in your TV advert then you’re on to a winner!

8. The power of authority

When we’re Children we’re constantly told that we should listen to our parents, teachers and other people in authority. As time goes on we are exposed to more and more people with a degree of authority that we listen to… and in many cases (Doctors and Dentists) we actually pay for them to bestow upon us their wisdom. When I was a kid I used to love the Victor Kiam adverts for Remington. Here was a successful guy who’d bought a company and he was fronting the advert, staking his reputation in the belief that his product was the best. It’s a technique loved my Car Salesmen in the US and England’s very own Mike at Mike’s Carpets (a man who knows a lot about carpets)!

9. Fear of loss

Is it better to lose something or gain something? Apparently people will fight harder to stop losing money rather than fight harder to earn it. It’s known as loss aversion. So telling people what they will lose by not choosing your product or service can be more powerful than telling them what they will get if they choose you!

10. Sex

When I was a Junior Copywriter at an Advertising Agency, two of the Senior Creatives did a poster that today I still absolutely love. It was for The Vegetarian Society. It had pictures of a carrot, a cucumber, a courgette, a parsnip and an aubergine. The headline simply said ‘Sex Aids’. A line of copy underneath simply explained that having a Vegetarian Diet helped with sexual performance. It worked wonders for The Society and won the Creatives a lot of international awards.

Burgers, Ice Cream, Perfume, Builder’s Work wear, Passports, Holidays, Cigarettes, Trainers, Milk, Deodorant… to name but a few… they’ve all discovered the joy of sex in their adverts.