Television advertising is often bypassed by small and mid-sized businesses in favor of print, radio, and even Internet.

They often view TV as too expensive and may believe that only large national companies can advertise on it. While that may have been true a generation ago, the advent of cable television and the explosion in the number of stations and programming has made TV an advertising medium that is effective for even local businesses — a medium that businesses of virtually any size can afford.

“If you’re a local firm, such as a jeweler, you don’t need to run ads nationally,” says J. T. Hroncich, managing director and principal of Capitol Media Solutions, an agency that helps companies buy advertising. “Cable TV is very reasonable. As opposed to taking out an ad during American Idol on broadcast TV, you can take out a local ad on a popular cable show, such as Top Chef. It all depends on who your target market is.”

The following article will review why TV is a good advertising medium, how to target your TV ads, and how to buy TV advertising on a budget.

Why Buy TV Advertising and How to buy on a budget

Television can be an attractive and effective use of advertising dollars for certain types of small or mid-sized businesses. TV (video) maximizes the reach of a commercial message and provides the opportunity for your potential customers to visually understand your service or product.

If your product is visually appealing: tangible goods such as freshly painted home, new furniture, jewelry, or is helped by a personal connection i.e. Dentist, Attorney, Pediatrician a 30 second spot positioned properly can definitely drive business. If your ad fits well within the surrounding programming, it can potentially be an outstanding tool in your marketing efforts.

An effective advertising campaign that includes TV advertising can be very expensive and complicated; however with some patience, good negotiating skills, and an open mind you can buy TV on a budget.

How Much a TV Ad Will Cost
The cost of a single television commercial is only part of the story. As you plan your marketing strategy consider the BIG Picture: Answer these questions before you ever call a production company or TV advertising agent.
What exactly is my goal: Local Awareness? FAST sales? Long term visibility and top of mind positioning with your community.
Before you ever spend a dime on the AD campaign, you have to produce the SPOT or media…

30 second TV commercials can cost anywhere from $2,500 and up.

Now…The cost of the advertising campaign. In most cases you don’t want to spend your advertising budget all at once. You want to air it with a bit of frequency so that people will see it a number of times and have it reach the majority of your target market. Typically, television stations accept spot lengths of 10, 15, 30, and 60 seconds, and even longer (15-30 minutes) if it is direct response advertising/PAID PROGRAMMING.

You may have access to co-op advertising funds from manufacturers of products you sell that would augment your budget. Make sure that you clearly understand the terms of qualifying for those funds, for example the ad may need to run a specific number of times or within a definitive time frame.

How to Buy TV Advertising on a Budget: Target Your TV Ad Campaign

Develop a plan: Who, Where, When and How.

Geography. Options for advertising on TV include national networks, which reach a national audience; local broadcast or independent stations, which reach a regional or local market; and cable television, which can be national, regional, or local. “Any one or a combination of these can be used to achieve success.

Target audience. Who is your core customer? If you are selling Cosmetic Surgery your target audience would likely be adults. Don’t make the mistake of assuming EVERYONE is your target market!

Timing and seasonality. Identify you optimum time of week. or time of year: Weekends, evenings, Winter, Summer etc. TV ad rates change every quarter — broadcast TV rates usually rise in the fall when the new season starts for certain shows. Also, political activity, election years can dramatically effect rates for everyone.

How to Buy TV Ads on a Budget

A few tips on how to find the bargains in advertising on TV.

Pay upfront. Station sales representatives love this. “They know the money is there, and their commissions are secured. They will work hard for you and maintain a schedule with little preemptions.
Commit to a multiple-week schedule. Most cost-efficient packages are sold on a 10-13 week basis. Stations much prefer to have spots booked ahead of time. It helps them manage their inventory. If you work through a cable company that has many different stations, you might be able to strike up multiple week deals on a variety of programs. If you are looking to advertise during the weekend, you could strike up a 13-week weekend schedule whereby your ad runs in live sports programming and news, along with old movies and syndicated programs.

Take advantage of market conditions. If the local economy is slowing, airtime available on local television stations may be suffering too…and you can negotiate some terrific deals. NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK.
Look for fire sales. “Although they don’t happen very often, fire sales provide the opportunity to purchase advertising packages far in advance. Quite often, they will include programming you would otherwise not be able to afford. (Having established relationships with your local TV networks and/or a savvy media buyer can save you HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS. 

Auctions. When you purchase advertising via an auction, you will need to pay upfront, and you have little to NO control as to the audience or the time your spot is aired. We suggest using auction buys as a “supplement” not a full game plan.

Buy remnant advertising. You can purchase inexpensive remnant packages with a range of flexibility; the more flexible you are, the more savings you will receive. For example, you can purchase an ‘auto-fill schedule’ of 100 spots per week to air 6 a.m.-12 a.m., Monday through Friday.  It may seem like a risky schedule, however at such a low cost if one or two spots air in a popular program this essentially ‘pays’ for the remaining spots.

Negotiate added value. When booking airtime, you can almost always negotiate for extras or “a value add.  Your AD rep/agency or professional media buyer can often help negotiate these value add deals better because they’re aware of what the stations have offered other advertisers in the past.

Negotiate a media mix. Ask if the television station has a website and what potential promotional activities may be available on the website if you buy tv advertising.  Negotiate having YOUR video placed on their website… The best of both worlds.  IF you are placing a PAID programming appearance (30 minute show) have your editor create a 2 minute trailer with a specific call to action: “Visit (your domain) for all the details”. 

As you fine tune your TV advertising schedules, you’ll quickly get a sense of who is doing the most on your behalf.. Develop a relationship with your best performers and invest in them. It will be worth your effort.