Cliches That Work in Video Advertising, and Cliches that don’t

By February 18, 2019
creative commercial production

A large part of advertising world is a sea of sameness. You look at a brand new TV commercial and feel deja vu. Either it’s the way the message is conveyed or the way the setting was placed and you realize – hey,  I have seen this before!

It’s hard, very hard for the video advertising world to completely avoid clichés. And it should make sense because the goal of an advertising or TV commercial production companies are not that film itself but a message that it sells. While uniqueness is a vital ingredient in a TV ad or commercial, it’ not the be all and end all. It’s not why ads are produced in the first place.

As a video production company, we have realized that whether a company or a brand is from New York or Los Angeles, they cannot altogether avoid clichés. Companies or brands have only a few seconds to get the attention and send the message, it’s natural for them to fall back on clichés that have worked before. Depending on the industry, there may be government regulation on what you can do or say in the tv commercial, limiting the breadth of creativity of the commercial.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Therefore, we don’t say that clichés are good or bad, they just cannot be ignored. However, there are clichés that do work and have worked over the years while some that don’t anymore. Let’s take a look.

Cliches that work in video advertising

#1 The boring dude getting the gorgeous girl

It may be the quintessential but hot bar girl who has eyes for the nerdy one or a famous supermodel falling for the boring guy. But this cliché works, has worked and will most likely continue to work. Why? Understand that products like perfumes, beers, watches, or even energy bars are targeting a specific set of men – the ordinary executive or the sales guy or the software engineer. They are most likely to buy a product that boosts their self-esteem or adds a little zing to their routine life. Duh! However, this concept also works equally well for the interesting, hot or successful men who feel left out because of the boring man’s win. Check out this Doritos ad. So ad executives – you will continue getting this pitch from your agency. So long as the product is flying off the shelf, right ?

# 2 The dumb dad

Okay you cannot show a stay-at-home Mom dumb. Not even children. This would be called an ad that bullies – cue Twitter backlash. However, fathers who are loving and well-meaning but often mess up while helping their children do a science project or cooking dinner on Mother’s Day, are a safe and easy bet.  Plus this works for various reasons. Fathers are by nature considered nurturing and protective. So there will be a lot of ads that show fathers in that light. However, the ads that show ‘world’s greatest dad’ in a more relaxed and lighter manner, somehow grab more attention. That’s because this concept doesn’t doubt the intention or the ability of fathers but only some of their skills. It’s charming to see a father burning the sandwich in order to cook breakfast for the mother on Mother’s Day. The hurdle is his lack of practice which will be overcome by the product the ads are selling. Simple and easy. Colorox bleach company has done this for several years.

# 3 The idea of sex

This one’s a jackpot in almost any century. We say the idea of sex because anything that triggers or turns the viewers on is bound to sell. From deodorants to toothpaste brands, from talcum powder to car tyres – most industries have resorted to this cliché at some point or the other.   Typically, one such video ad shows a woman clad in denim shorts and white sheer shirt washing a car, applying soap while her make-up is intact. This is probably the most unreal you could get yet since it’s sexy, it works. Check out what Oikos Yogurt did in this ad.

# 4 Encouraging children (teens) to healthy snacking

Teens are hard to tame in general, and making them eat healthy snacks is an age-old problem. This problem is not going away and so this concept continues to live on. Typically two hungry children (mostly teens) rush to the refrigerator only to find a packet of a healthy snack. This packet is often the product.  The concept is as old as 1982 when Kraft casseroles used it followed by Hot Pockets in 1992. Since then, it has been used by numerous brands.

Photo by Brenda Godinez on Unsplash

Cliches that don’t work in advertising anymore

# 1 The scripted but made-to-look-real hidden camera footage

You don’t use this cliché in this age and time.  A weird camera angle, with a spokesperson or a reporter-looking guy asking people about their opinion about a product. Today children as young as 12 years old are creating videos from mobile phones, editing them on iMovies and crossing a million likes. You cannot think of getting away with this one advertising cliché anymore. People can tell what’s staged and what’s not.

# 2 The fake philanthropy

A percentage of your profits goes to charity  – education, hygiene, women’s well-being – blah blah! People no more buy into these lies. It’s not only uncreative, it’s downright criminal. Even when you really are using a percentage in charity, say it through news reports or press releases, not in your ads. These days people are not only better informed but also are choosy about the causes they wish to associate themselves with. You are downright stupid if you still want to use this specific video advertising cliché.

# 3 The woman with low self-esteem

While this age-old cliché has already seen its expiry date, there are some brands and industries that still want to appeal to the woman with a low self-esteem. The problem with this cliché is that even those with a low self-esteem don’t want to recognize this as weakness. Women today are not only embracing weaknesses but also using them to their advantage. At the same time, they are aware how they can be fooled by companies who use weaknesses to sell products. Having said that, it indeed is true that a weakness is often used by brands to sell ideas or products. However, it’s the age of the underdog. People like stories of an underdog winning and embracing what he or she lacks. It’s time to move on from this specific cliché.

# 4 Women getting turned on by chocolates

Okay seriously, this one needs to go. Like … huh ? A woman, specially if she is pregnant, is always craving for chocolate or chocolate ice-cream. Why? Ask women and they will tell you a variety of other things that they have craved for and those things indeed have turned them on. And it has nothing to do with the chocolate but the unique individuals that they are. A lot of studies have reported the connection of sexual satisfaction with chocolates but nothing conclusive has been proven. And for all you know, it’s possible these researches were sponsored by chocolate companies.

The top reason why these clichés have stopped working for customers is that in the age of internet, customers have evolved to become more informed and smarter. Another reason is the way some of these clichés have been over-used by advertisers, making them easily recognizable. The ones that still work, however, are not driven by trends but prick human civilization’s most emotional chords.

Author Bio

Rinku Chaudhary is a digital marketing enthusiast and an avid YouTube viewer. He currently heads the Digital Marketing department of A Video Production Company – Sinema Films based in New York City. . He has 10+ years of experience in social media and digital marketing.  You can reach Rinku Chaudhary at