DRTV Production Strategy from the BEHIND THE SCENES eBook - Part 4 of 10

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"There are hundreds of decisions that go into the production of an infomercial, all geared to ensuring that the end result is powerful, entertaining, informative and successful.. Some of the obvious ones include: Casting talent (hosts and hero talent), crew selection, shooting format, Acquirychoice of camera, camera angles, location, set design, lighting and on and on. A half-hour infomercial with high production values whether shot in studio, on location, or a combination of the two, is not that different from shooting any broadcast network show in terms of the effort and time required. But rather than ratings, our measure of success is how well the finished program sells product. Harry Greene, EVP, Production

What are the three most important production values to make short-forms and infomercials engaging and powerful?

Well first, a strong well-written script is a given. And after that, probably the other two most important are the overall "look" of the show or spot and the talent we cast. The look of the show is a function both of how it's shot and directed – a talented Director of Photography (DP) with a great camera package and a great eye, and a strong direct response director with an overall vision for the final show; and also a function of art direction – in terms of location selection, set design, location and set dressing, wardrobe, etc.

We pay close attention to anything that's in the frame of each shot, such as what's in the background, curtains, flowers, vases, pictures on the wall, furniture, wall color, room lighting, and our lighting through windows. These are all are conscious decisions about how they look in a particular shot, either with or without talent, featuring product or not.

On a set in the studio, it would be what elements of the set are visible in each shot, what do we see behind our hosts or as part of a particular segment or demo, etc. So basically, looking at each shot as a separate composition, every element within the frame that is a part of making the composition pleasing to look at as well as being effective in making the shot work from a practical standpoint.

We shoot and post all of our shows in 1080p high-definition - which has become the industry standard over the past few years. And although we produce in HD, which is a widescreen format, we still protect our shots and design graphics so that when the edges are cropped off on a Standard Definition broadcast or cable feed, none of the important action or information is lost. I can't overstress the importance of a talented DP who "gets" DRTV.

And without casting the right talent, the show or spot will just fall flat. We spend a lot of time in casting– both our show hosts, and hero talent, and even extras when called for. Hosts need to be appealing, likable, engaging, demonstrate some affinity for the brand and product, and, very importantly, have the ability to sell.

I see that we use a lot of black and white footage followed by color…what's the genesis of that technique and how successful has it been?

Using black and white vs. color is part of a group of selling tactics that fall under the category of hyperbole or exaggerations. They are used in the right spot to create a bad/good visual metaphor. The black and white shots typically reveal the "old" or "bad" way of doing something, followed by beautiful color footage of the same task made much easier by using our product.

Although this device is a bit of a cliché, it still works in the right situation. In the past we've shown a woman pushing a six foot tall vacuum to show how heavy vacuums are – then contrasted this with the ease of using a lightweight machine. We used a "human mop" – a woman dressed up as a huge mop to show how antiquated wet, nasty mops are when compared to another woman using steam mop. These exaggerations often bring a smile to the face of the viewer, but more importantly they drive home a key point about the product in a very memorable way.

What are the keys to the most genuine testimonials?

There's no better endorsement for a product than one consumer telling another how much they love it. To maximize impact and effectiveness, on-camera testimonials have to fit the product's target demo, genuinely love the product, have a compelling story to tell, and have a good on-camera presence.

To that end, we've developed a process that yields very genuine consumer and professional testimonials. We look for consumers currently using our product, and/or recruit everyday consumers to try the product for four weeks or more and provide us with weekly updates. We interview them about their experiences with the product, seeking honest opinions in their own words, without scripts or coaching.

We evaluate their stories, their screen presence, how they speak and the strength of their opinions based on their usage of the product. The world's most creative copywriter can't possibly capture the same level of "genuineness" that everyday people express in their own words. It's a lot of up-front work, but well worth the effort.

People see through actors that don't have an affinity for the product or service.

We've also used company CEOs or other principals who can speak with authority, where appropriate to be a part of our productions.

Who dreams up all those demos we see?

Like all of the other aspects of production, it's a big team effort. We combine client input, with our writing team's ideas and concepts for powerful demonstrations that memorably demonstrate the product's USP. Ideas that we all think have merit are thoroughly tested and if a custom prop is involved, we source, build, and test that as well. Additionally, we use product experts who help us test and refine the demonstrations and also provide feedback on the optimal way to present them – and this feedback ultimately makes its way back into the script.

You can download the entire eBook at any time at: http://BS123.acquirgy.net

Irv Brechner has written over 100 published direct marketing articles and 13 books on a variety of topics. He's been a pioneer in online customer acquisition since 1996 and offline for his 35-year career. He has developed Acquirgy.com's "Customer Acquisition Intel Center" (acquirgy.com/intel ) he evangelizes best-of-breed tactics to help companies acquire customers in the digital age. He can be reached at: irv@acquirgy.com .

Read all Irv's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Customer Acquisition Intel.

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