Television commercials cost a lot of money to produce.   If you are going to try a new approach, how do you do it without costing a lot of money.  I have worked on products where we produced three finished commercials, at considerable expense, and then when we tested them, none worked.  All had to be trashed.

There is the visible production cost of shooting a video, hiring actors, creating music tracks and so forth.  But there is also the hidden cost of defining the strategy and developing hte idea.  Normally, we don’t just come up with one idea, but a range of them and then determine which idea should be pursued.

One way of deciding which idea to invest in was doing consumer testing with rough approximations of what the commercial would be.  We used animatics, which were storyboard drawings accompanied with a sound track to simulate what a commercial would look like.

These could be done either with drawings (animatics) or photos from magazines (ripomatics).  They could be done very quickly and for minimal expense.  They didn’t always replicate the final commercial, but they were a close enough approximation to evaluate the idea.

An artist would draw a series of frames in the test commercial and these would be photographed.  Separately the sound track would be recorded as a scratch track.  For testing, the slides and soundtrack would be shown to simulate the commercial.  We could understand whether the idea was clear enough, convincing, interesting and so forth.

The frame shown here was a test of a child directed commercial for Jell-O Pudding.  Our adult advertising featured Bill Cosby but we were not allowed to use celebrity spokes people in child directed advertising on television.  We therefore had to explore alternate types of creative approaches.  The one shown was a twist on the Cat-in-the-Hat and Batholomew Cubbins where little characters that looked the same as the first one kept popping out of his hat.

This second frame from an animatic that was tested against the one above featured a continuing character called Puddin’ Head who solved problems by bringing everyone Jell-O Pudding.  

It predates the Kool Aid Pitcherman by about five years but is pretty much exactly the same concept.  Puddin’ Head was a lot gentler than the rambunctious Kool Aid Pitcherman.  His blandness may have led to poorer test results.

Once video arrived these were no longer necessary and pretty much faded into oblivion. But through the late 60s and into the 70s they were common usage.

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