Sunday, July 02, 2006

July 1: Day One in the History of Commercial Television

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of commercial television broadcasting. Prior to July 1, 1941, television was primarily an experimental medium, but when WNBT in New York interrupted programming for 20 seconds with a picture of a ticking Bulova watch, it marked day one in the history of television broadcasting (1).

The term commercial referring to a broadcast advertisement originated in the United States with radio in 1935. Today, 16 minutes and 8 seconds of every hour of television is devoted to commercial ads. There are even hours devoted to nothing but advertising; in 1981 the term infomercial was born. With infomercials, instead of the commercial interrupting the program, the ad becomes the program (2).

Since the birth of commercials in 1941, TV viewers have grown accustomed to the periodic interruptions of commercials, and in some ways the slogans of television commercials have become almost as memorable as the catchphrases from the television programs themselves.

A good slogan is worth its weight in gold, and Madison Avenue’s writers study the keys to writing slogans that will resonate in the viewers’ minds. In an age of ever-shrinking attention spans, every student of writing might learn something by taking a page from the slogan writer’s playbook.

Here are some of the keys to writing good slogans according to “How Stuff Works”:

1. A good slogan should present key benefits of the product, such as Polaroid’s “The fun develops instantly.”

2. A good slogan should differentiate the brand from the other products in its category, such as, “Timex Watches: Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

3. A good slogan should help the viewer recall the brand name. One of the key ways this is done is through the use of alliteration or rhyme as in the famous slogan: “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”

4. A good slogan should impart positive feelings and be stated in the positive form, avoiding negative words like never, don’t, doesn’t, or can’t. Examples are “Coke is it!” and “U.S. Army: Be all that you can be.” Notice how the following top 10 most frequently used words in slogans are all positives: you, your, we, world, best, more, good, better, new, taste (3).

Today’s Challenge: Slogans For the Ages
Below are some of the most well known slogans in television history. See if you can identify the brand name that goes with each slogan.

1. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

2. Don’t leave home without it.

3. Have it your way.

4. Look Ma, no cavities!

5. I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV.

6. When you care enough to send the very best.

7. Manly yes, but I like it, too...

8. No more tears.

9. He likes it! Hey, Mikey!

Quote of the Day: Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket. –George Orwell

Answers: 1. Alka-Seltzer 2. American Express 3.Burger King 4. Crest Toothpaste 5. Excedrin 6. Hallmark 7. Irish Spring8. Johnson’s Baby Shampoo 9. Life Cereal

1 – Grobman, Paul. Vital Statistics.

2 – Ayto, John. 20th Century Words.

3 - Foster, Timothy R.V. “How Ad Slogans Work.”

4 - adslogans

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