Stardom Isn?t For Everyone – Guest Writer Dan Katz

March 16, 2010
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imageDan Katz is President/Creative Director of LA ads ? A Marketing Agency, in Northridge, CA, with a specialization in the Deathcare industry. LA ads is an Agent of Change.

I think it?s great that funeral homes can now post their commercials on YouTube and other free video sites. It gives them a much larger audience without paying a dime more for the media. In fact, if they play it right, link it to their website, and do all the other ?viral seeding? tricks, they can expand their viewers by thousands.

Of course, given my business, I regularly scan Google Video and YouTube for any new funeral home commercials that are posted, and I have to admit, so many fall short of their mark. They either look homogenized because they?re ?stock? commercials created by marketing agencies that sell pre-produced spots (the advertiser merely plugs in their name and logo), or worse, they?re produced by the local cable channel, with all the creativity of a phone book. In the second case, the formula is to shoot inside and outside the funeral home, with a few staff members at the end saying in unison, ?We?re here for you!? What could be more dull and ignorable than that?

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But the worst offenders are those commercials that feature the funeral directors as spokespeople. Let?s be honest, shall we, and admit that most funeral directors, while they are compassionate, caring and honest people, are not naturally camera-ready. In the hands of low budget production crews, they often come off as representatives of the grim reaper, if not just plain boring. The lighting isn?t flattering. The angles convey no authority. And the acting is stiffer than the bodies in the back room.

I don?t blame the funeral directors. Just watch ?American Idol? and you get an idea of how few people really know how they come across on camera. It?s human nature to want that 15 minutes of fame. But not everyone can ? or should ? jump at the opportunity.

The fact is, it takes the talents of a very good, very experienced director to know how to bring out the best in a non-professional spokesperson on camera. It takes a talented DP ? director of photography ? to know where to seat that person and set the best lighting so that the person appears impactful but not intimidating. And it takes a very objective advertising director to decide whether or not that non-professional spokesperson should even appear on camera in the first place.

From time to time, I?ve had clients appear in their print or TV ads, but only if I honestly felt they had something truly valuable to contribute, and the ads were stronger for it. I?d occasionally do screen tests to evaluate if their presence helped or hurt ? and I was honest with them in all cases. Most important, I?d hire highly capable directors or photographers who were used to turning ?regular people? into star attractions. They?d take the time to work with the client, get them at ease, and identify their best on-camera qualities. It has made a huge difference every time. But you can?t expect that level of attention from a production crew whose real job is to produce the stuff that sells time for the cable company.

That?s why I?m constantly pushing for funeral service businesses to hire professional advertising agencies or marketing consultants who have the objectivity to see what the audience sees and the integrity to tell their clients the truth in all cases.

Even if it?s not what their clients want to hear.

Read More Articles By Dan Katz Here:

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