April 13, 2023

What we love to see in a TV ad brief

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A TV ad, at its core, is a brilliant short story. It invites you to view the world from another perspective, gives you permission to feel emotions that don’t necessarily speak to your own experience, and, if well told, stays with you. It then takes these fundamental elements to the next level by inciting you to action. Emotion is transformed into connection, and the resulting empathy is what drives people to roll up their sleeves and get involved.  

At Catsnake we love two things; stories, and charities. And we’re a lucky lot because we get to combine those two loves daily, and exclusively. Just stories. Just charities.    

Over the years we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with some extraordinary causes whose work has effected real change, from the smallest living creatures (RSPB) to the futures of generations to come (UNICEF), and everything in between including WWF, Scope, Amnesty International, Guide Dogs and St Mungo’s.    

One of the most powerful ways a charity can engage its audience is through a TV ad. Every great TV ad starts with a brief, but have you ever wondered which bits are invaluable for the ideas we develop?

The short answer is all of it. So. First. Make it long! We love a giant brief with plenty of information rich documents. Our creative process is rigorous and structured, and we always feed a lot of information in at the start.  

Then tell us: Who do you want to do what? Remember that we are experts in storytelling and adverts, but not necessarily in your sector. So, educate us!  

Next, we’ll want your research -anything you have about your cause, sector, audience, and organisation. We eat it up.  

Tell us the stories. It’s first-person perspectives, told from the frontline, that help us get to the heart of what you do and stay anchored to the reality of your cause. When collaborating with Guide Dogs it was the service users that gave us an emotional connection to the work. Real people who, in the final ad, are empowered to live their lives to the full as a direct result of vital legacy donations.  

What’s your budget, what does it cover, is VAT included?  

What about deliverables? Tech specs, duration of content and use. When making the UNICEF Connections ad we knew we’d have to deliver during lockdown and were unable to shoot new footage. This inspired a full range of approaches based on existing content only and our (thankfully significant) understanding of VFX!  

Who’s your audience? We’re looking for mosaic profiles, internal segmentation – every way you already think about your demographic. UNICEF Generations was entirely inspired by audience insight and resulted in the most audience-first TV ad this audience-first agency has ever produced!  

List your Aims! KPIs and measures of success are vital. How will we know it was a success? What do you most care about achieving? Raising funds or awareness? Focus on one KPI or give them to us in priority order.

Then it’s brand guidelines, tone, everything that makes you identifiably you. It’s equally important that we know what you don’t want us to say. Are there any contextual considerations, political or geographic? What needs to be front and centre?  

We’ll need to know your internal processes – who signs this off, and at what stage?

How has your previous output been received? Why are you replacing it?  

Do you have assets, strengths or content we wouldn’t normally expect? Filmmaking capacities, an in-house illustrator, international teams on the ground, maybe the support of a celebrity?  

Quick aside… When we made the RSPB TV ad Time Flies the poignant voiceover was recorded by Jim Broadbent. And whilst he wasn’t an unexpected asset as such, his passion for birds and the RSPB, was! Having a household name that loves your cause is always a huge benefit, and Jim loves the RSPB. When working with GOSH Charity on their Legacy Radio Ad, we knew from the outset that David Tennant would be involved because of his own love of the cause. So this shaped our creative approaches and our spec scripts.

Lastly, if you’re not sure then send it anyway! You never know what will provide the seed that blossoms our ideas into the perfect place for you.  

So, if you work in the third sector and want to make a TV advert, or even just to discuss the options, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you and would be absolutely delighted to tell your story.