by Kathy J. Kobliski, Author & Owner of Silent Partner Advertising
Everyone would like to see his or her commercials running on television. And why not? Television is the combination of sight and sound and movement. Do you know anyone who pours a cup of coffee and curls up in a chair to stare at a radio with rapt attention? Television calls to us, beckons us from another room, and keeps our attention for hours at a time.
In any market there are only a few network television stations to deal with. So while you have to search through tons of radio stations to find a handful you can use, you can do your thing on any network television station. That’s because while each radio station keeps a specific audience all day long, each network television station will change its audience as it goes from program to program. Every day you can find cartoons, news, soaps, talk shows, sports, movies, late night programs, and more, all on one television station. You just have to be sure to select the correct programs on that station.
Cable television is purchased like radio first - station by station. Cable channels are set up to interest particular demographic groups (ESPN, Nickelodeon, Lifetime, CNN, MSNBC, etc.). Once you’ve chosen an appropriate station, you can go in and pick out particular programs on that channel to narrow down your desired target market even further. If you sell golf clubs, you might decide on ESPN as the cable channel. After that, you find the golf programs. You can also be more particular geographically when you buy cable, selecting only certain cities and suburbs rather than all the areas serviced by the station.
Frequency is just as important when you use TV as it is when you use radio. Audiences are bombarded with 20-30 commercials for every one hour of programming. The next time you sit down to an evening of television, keep a notepad with you and jot down every commercial you see. I think you’ll be amazed. It will also cause you to think about whether your budget will allow you to advertise on network television at first. You’d be competing with mega-budget companies and could get lost. You may be better off looking to cable when your budget it small because their rates are often much more reasonable, which will allow you to run more commercials. And when network television is sold out and you can’t get your commercials on the right programs, cable will almost always have a spot for you somewhere on an appropriate channel - simply because they have so much more inventory to fill.
You can approach television stations for trade advertising - they use it just like radio stations do - but more often for office uses than on-air giveaways. They will trade for office furniture, office equipment, janitorial services, company cars and the care that goes along with those vehicles, restaurants to take their clients to lunch, or for office parties, movie tickets, etc. Like radio stations, you can negotiate what percent of your advertising schedule will be paid for in cash and what percent will be paid for in trade. It’s usually 50/50, but you can tip it in your favor to a 60/40 or even a 70/30 if they’re desperate and you’re the only game in town willing to play. Half cash/half trade means that if you’re running a schedule for four thousand dollars, you will pay two thousand dollars in cash and provide two thousand dollars in product or services (or whatever percent you’ve negotiated). Always use your highest retail prices or hourly rates when figuring up your end of the trade. The television station will be using their highest rates when figuring out what amount of advertising you can run. Treat your trade as cash.
Trade advertising sounds great - but you must always stay vigilant and never strike a deal unless the advertising will reach your target audience. If you do, it’s a total waste of your product or services - you might as well flush them.
Your television sales rep will be able to help you craft your script when it’s time to make your commercial. If you’re also running a newspaper ad, sending out some direct mail, or doing some radio, be sure that the same information is used in all of it for continuity. You can expect to be charged an hourly fee ($100-$400 per hour, depending on where you live) for the station to send its camera crew to your location for footage. You can also expect about two hours of shooting, then another one - three hours of editing. Have the station provide you with a reel of all raw footage. Then you can have another commercial produced at another time without having the expense of them returning with their cameras.
If you can’t afford that, get a professional photographer to take some photos of the outside of your building or location, if it’s attractive, and some inside shots that depict what is being said in your script. Remember that your commercial may run just before or just after a professional commercial that cost many thousands of dollars. You don’t want yours to appear amateur in comparison.
Have people in your store, restaurant, or office for the shooting. You want to give the audience the idea that you have customers. Each person who will be in the place during the shoot needs to sign a release form (found in my book). If you don’t have that, they can come back and stop you from using that commercial after you spent a lot of time and money getting it done. That advice extends to your family, friends, and employees as well. Sad as it is, friends have arguments, families break up, and employees leave or get fired. Get a signed release form from each and every person in the commercial. That includes animals. Get a release from the beast’s owner or handler.
Ask for a VHS client copy of your commercial so that you can pop it into your VCR at a later date to see if it can be used again with no changes. Keep the master reel in a cool dry place, labeled, with a typed copy of the script. Now and then, if a commercial is not used continually, it will be taped over by the television station and you will have to pay to make another.
Stay away from the camera! We all don’t appear as soft and furry or kind as we think we do. Keep your pets, your kids, your grandkids, and your sister-in-law who wants to debut her singing voice, away from the production. Let a professional from the television station do the voice and any appearances necessary for the commercial. The expert will not take away from the message and will shine the light on your product or service where it belongs. On top of that, you won’t have to listen to "It’s my turn next!" at the dinner table for the rest of your business life.
© by Kathy J. Kobliski. All rights reserved.
- Author of You Can’t Grow a Business Without Advertising - so where do you start? Outdoor Advertising (PSI-Research/Oasis Press, editions 1 & 2, 1998, 2001).
- Monthly columnist for entrepreneur.com for two years (2000 & 2001).
- Written articles for Sales Masterminds, Canadian Women’s Business Network, HomeOfficeMag.com, and StartupJournal.com, and others.
- Quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Independent Business, Golf World Business, Switchboard.com, BankRate.com, SkyRadioNet.com, General Motors, The Money Room and The Ron Thomas Business Forum, and others.
- Owner and President of Silent Partner Advertising in Syracuse, NY since 1984.
- Taught advertising and media-buying within the New York State Small Business Development Program for three years.
Kathy J. Kobliski