5 marketing lessons from cheesy local commercials

Panama City Beach has an entire channel of nothing but unpolished ads for local businesses. They have a charm that’s undeniable.

In the world of advertising, local television commercials are commonly viewed as a complete joke. Many people love to hate them because they can be cheesy, poorly produced, and, at worst, boring.

While you may change the channel whenever these commercials come on, that’s certainly not what I do. I’ve always loved watching these commercials. In particular, there’s a television channel in Panama City Beach, Florida, called Beach TV that’s nothing but nonstop commercials about businesses and events in the area. That might sound like a complete nightmare to some people, but whenever I’m on vacation in the area, you can count on the fact that this channel will be on in the background when I’m in the room. I promise that I’m not crazy.

The last time that I was in the area and watching the channel, I realized that there are a number of lessons advertisers and marketers can learn from these ads. Here are five.

1. Don’t be afraid to be who you are.

In a vacation destination like Panama City Beach, many of the businesses are simple restaurants, gift shops, and tour companies. Instead of treating this like a liability and trying to be something they’re not, they own what they are in these ads and set proper expectations.

2. A personal message can be more effective than a polished one.

A lot of these ads feature the business owner talking about their business, why they started it, and why they think you’d enjoy it. It’s clear that these business owners aren’t used to being on camera. While it can seem like many of these recordings were done in one take (they probably were), the unpolished and sincere delivery can be much more endearing than one that’s overly rehearsed and mechanical.

3. Put your audience in a positive frame of mind.

One of the reasons why I love watching Beach TV is because it makes me feel like I’m on vacation even if I’m not. The channel can be streamed online through a web browser, mobile apps, or their Roku channel, and I will admit that I turn it on from time to time for a mental vacation while I’m at home. Seeing some of my favorite local spots to visit is relaxing, and if you close your eyes, you can almost hear the waves crashing in the background. OK, forget what I said earlier, maybe I really am crazy.

4. Tell people what they need to know.

Say what you will about these ads, but they’re usually very informative. For example, a restaurant may tell you about some of their popular drinks and food items, what live entertainment they offer, and exactly how to get there using landmarks in the area. You won’t come away from these ads wondering what was actually being advertised.

5. Leave them wanting more.

It’s true that I haven’t actually visited all of the local businesses that I’ve seen advertised, but because they applied the previous four points, the natural outcome is that I have been motivated to visit many of them. And for the ones that I haven’t visited yet, it’s probably only a matter of time before I want something specific that they offer and will be reminded to visit them because of what I recall from their ads.

The next time you see local commercials, don’t be so quick to change the channel. In fact, you should go ahead and watch Beach TV online right now. As I mentioned, try to find out what positive lessons you can learn that might have an impact on the way you present your company or clients. You could end up making deeper connections with the people you’re trying to reach – and crazy people like me.

Brandon Watts is the Founder and Principal of Wattsware , which is a PR agency that mainly works with technology companies. He’s worked with brand new startups, well-known companies with hundreds of millions of users, and everything in-between.


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