In case you haven’t wandered over to my “about me” tab, my actual paying job when I’m not struggling to finish scripts is a Promo Producer. Which is a posh way of saying I make ads for TV programmes. I bring this up as self promotion is something constantly talked about in the writing world and as I’ve been promoting other products and TV shows I thought I would share a bit about it from my point of view, and how this can be applied to writing.
Now you can read hundreds of posts about how great the latest Guardian ad about the three Little Pigs is, so instead I’m going to talk about something else. For the past 4 or 5 weeks my four year old son has been completely obsessed with Dinosaur Train, a show that he’s never seen. Whenever he sees the ad that would state “Coming Soon” he’d get amazingly excited and ask when it’s on. When a dated version came on he’d keep asking “Is it March 12th yet?” This is what a good promo does, it creates a desire to want more.
How did Dinosaur train do this? Let’s look at the title, as we are taught in writing the key to a good title is that it tells you what the show is, and has a bit of irony “Dinosaur Train” a combination of a small boys two favourite things in the world, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Dinosaur Rocket Train, as adding rockets as well may have led to small children exploding with excitement and then where would you be? The front page of the Daily Mail and no-one wants that. But Dinosaur Train is a pretty original and ironic combination. Now you have your show with a great concept and title how do you promote it, well Kids love catchy jingles and tag lines, ask anyone whose child embarrassingly runs around the house screaming “BANG! and the dirt is gone”. By putting the promo on with this great title, a catchy tune and more importantly showing dinosaurs AND trains, at such an early stage led kids to want more, you show them this really cool peek at a fantastic idea and they get it. Kids are not dumb, if something is bad they won’t stand for it, kids programming has to be amazingly good and original to hold the attention span of a four or five year old.
In terms of my job I’ve promoted products and shows on lots of different channels and the key for me is always knowing your audience and having a tone of voice that speaks to them. Here’s a couple of examples for UKTV Gold, a comedy channel with a very knowing and intelligent audience, at the time these were made Gold had started to move into entertainment programmes, and placing those on a comedy channel meant you have to adapt your message for the audience, and the brand of the channel. In the future Gold shifted back to a pure comedy channel and launched a new channel for it’s entertainment content called Watch.
Now these are both examples of promoting to a very savvy audience, one that is “in on the joke” is it misrepresenting the film and TV show, kind of, but what it’s really promoting is the channels sense of humour and brand, these are shows and films everyone knows about, so promoting them in this way works, it’s putting a new fresh spin on something for the audience. Of course another way to look at is I’m a professional liar and one step above a lawyer.
One of the most recent promos I’ve made is the one that’s success has really surprised me, and this is due to the power of the internet and social networking. I needed to make something to promote the motorbike coverage on British Eurosport, which is pretty much THE channel for bike fans. Again AUDIENCE, what do I know about the audience, they are amazingly loyal and knowledgeable about the sport, and just hoover up information, bike riding and watching bikes is a huge part of the audiences life, if you’ve ever ridden a bike or been on the back of one you’ll kind of understand why, you’ll either want to kiss the ground and never go near one again or you’re hooked. These guys are hooked. The one thing about motorsport that gathers a lot of criticism from people is the “Oh well the best car / bike always wins the driver / rider doesn’t matter”. Which as any fan of motorsport will tell you is complete rubbish, you need both. This promo aimed to emphasise the team nature of the sport that it is equally man and machine, and these bikes are more than machines, they have a bit of soul to them. Why? Because the audience is smart, and they get it and are tired of these arguments. This was also to emphasise again the channel brand is knowledgeable about the content and knows its audience well.
This is where things get a bit weird, after sticking the video up on Vimeo, I posted one Tweet, one facebook message, one Linkedin Message all social networks I am active on. One thing led to another a few Bike blogs over the world picked up the promo and embedded it and currently three weeks after uploading it it’s on 34,000 views. Now I didn’t put this on Youtube as it was purely to promote what I’ve been doing and have an archive of my work, whilst having the best quality and no ads. It’s still getting about a thousand views a day on a fairly niche video site, which is by no means mind blowing but also wasn’t planned in any way, shape or form. Once you get something online it can take on a life of itself if you are lucky. If you have a strong digital footprint these things can be less lucky and more planned out but only if you have something good and original to say or show.
So in terms of promotion the key is always know your audience, this is pretty much the key to any type of writing. If you are writing a horror your audience know how a horror movie works, you either follow those rules in a really original way or you risk not meeting their expectations. By all means break the rules, shatter them into tiny pieces, put them in a blender and sprinkle them on a coffee, but if you want to do something truly original and different with your writing, know who your audience are, know your audiences expectations, and no matter what, exceed them.