The 12 Kinds of TV Ads
by Donald Gunn

After a prolific career as an marketing specialist, Donald Gunn took a year off of work to analyze successful Television Ads. What he discovered was that all TV spots fall into 12 specific categories, which he referred to as the 12 Master Formats.

1. "Demo"
The demo is a presentation of the product and its features. For instance, a lot of washing detergent ads show before and after images.

2. "Show the Need or Problem"
First, the ad sets the stage with a problem. Something is clearly missing in the consumer's life or there is a clear need. Then, the ad introduces the remedy. In the following ad, "Bride & Grooming," the groom is less than happy to see the bride's face.

3. "Symbol, Analogy, Exaggerated Graphic / PROBLEM"
The third format uses a symbol or an exaggeration visual to introduce the problem.
In this next ad, the subject is shown stranded on a deserted island where no person
or company can get to... except one.

4. "Comparison"
The fourth format is "comparison." This ad tells the viewer why the featured
product is better than all other products on the market. It may sometimes be
difficult contrasting the "problem" spot with the "comparison" spot. The "Comparison"
spot will focus only on the problems with the competitors rather than the consumer
not having the product.

5. "Exemplary"
The fifth format is the "exemplary story." The ad is a storyline or situation
showing how the consumer has benefited from using the product. How the product
makes the consumer feel good! In the next spot, two girls use
to fill up an otherwise empty apartment.

6. "Benefit Causes Story"
The sixth format is "benefit causes story." The ad shows us the benefits left
behind by the use of the product, the after-effects. Gunn uses the example of
a man on a safari, suddenly screaming when the lion charges. We soon realize
that he is actually standing at the zoo and been looking through the powerful
lens of an Olympus photo camera.

In a Lynx commercial, we see a man and woman waking up in bed after a presumably
hot night of lovemaking. They start picking up clothes they left behind from the floor,
and continue through the streets tracing back to where they started. Finally, they end up in the supermarket isle where they had crossed each other. The final shot is of the young man spraying is body with Lynx deodorant.

7. "Tell It"
The seventh format is "tell it" or "presenter" or "testimonial." This spot could
feature either an actor or a real testimonial sharing their experience with the product.

8. "Characters and Celebrities"
The eighth format is "ongoing characters and celebrities." Remember the guy with the glasses from most of the Verizon ads? "Can you hear me now?" Of course you do. Characters or celebrities help the viewer embed your brand into the viewer's psyches.

9. "Symbol, Analogy Exaggerated FX / BENEFIT"
This ninth format is the "symbol, analogy, or exaggerated effects / Benefit."
This ad uses symbols, analogies and exaggerated effects to show the benefit
of the product.

10. "Associated User Imagery" 
The 10th format is "associated user imagery." This type of ad uses characters
that the client wants the viewer to associate with the product. These characters
may be skateboarders, basketball players, business owners, teenage girls. In the
following Glendale Police Department Ad, the client targets the Armenian Community
which is why most of the actors are of Armenian descent.

11. "Unique Personality Property" 
The 11th format is "unique personality property." These spots focus on something very unique to the product, perhaps an interesting design, or feature, or name, or even inventor. For example, the Afleck commercials feature a duck that keep uttering the words "Afleck!" throughout the whole spot. Besides the unique characteristics, the ad
also shows the need for the product.

12. "Parody or borrowed format" 
The 12th and final format is the "parody or borrowed format." Look at the popular
shows or films out and you will find a good concept for these spots. The "parody"
spot could take on the features of a reality show with a twist, or a game show,
or a recent box-office hit. Many of these spots mimics the news to introduce a
unique product - "In the news today, we have a revolutionary new product..."