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Here you will find articles on television advertising, marketing, small business, buying air time, and more.

Air Time: Buying Thin Air

You have your TV commercial, and you're all set, except for one little detail. Now you have to get it out there, and show it to the buying public. That means buying air time; but you have no clue how to do it. Who do you call, and what do you need to do? How come nobody at the networks answers your emails? Here's the real truth about air time on television:

NOT REAL: "I'LL GO IT ALONE..." As an entrepreneur, I'm better off buying air time myself directly.

REAL: Air time is no cheaper when the businessperson buys it directly; in fact, some discounts are offered only to agencies, not individual businesses. When you call a network or cable system, the ad sales rep is interested in one thing: a commission -- and they're not concerned with working hard to make an entrepreneur's small budget go far. Unlike the networks and cable companies, our agency's success depends on yours. Agencies are motivated to help advertisers succeed, so the schedule you get is selected for effectiveness, appropriateness to your product or service, and to suit your budget.

NOT REAL: "I'LL TAKE ONE AIRING, PLEASE..." If I can just get my commercial on TV one time, I can see how many calls I get, and then I'll buy more air time.

REAL: Statistical studies have shown that a viewer needs to see the same commercial an average of 6 to 8 times before they comprehend and/or act upon the message. Not only that, when customers don't see an ad again, it seems as though the company has disappeared, and they suspect there is something illigitimate about your offer. People buy products and services from companies they believe will be there if they have a question or concern. Be there for your customers.

NOT REAL: "ANY OLD SPOT WILL DO..." Hey, this guy on the web sells super-low-priced batch of airings for a lump sum, and he will spread them out piece-meal over many cable and broadcast systems. They're "unused" or "remnant" spots, which have gone unsold. Such a deal!

REAL: Have you ever seen a 30-second moment of silence in place of an advertisement? A notice, saying, "Pardon our silence, we couldn't sell this ad space"? We didn't think so. Televsion just does not work this way. There are no truly unused or remnant spots out there. Even not-so-popular cable systems find ways to dispense with their inventory every single month by offering them to their existing customers. In fact, airings become harder to get as the month wears on, because the sales reps start fighting over the remaining inventory. If you buy these so-called bargains, you might as well burn your money in the back yard. Television works by constant, frequent repetition, to the same audience. These "Package of Spots" deals spread the airings so thin, it's unlikely the same person will see your ad twice, much less the 6-8 repetitions it takes. One random airing in front of one viewer does not an advertising campaign make. Surprisingly few media sales people seem to know this, and they'll sell you some pretty crazy things. The "Package of Spots" deals are tantamount to fraud because they promise that your ad will run, but the times and places it runs are too random to be useful to you. Think about it: there is no way to guarantee a set number of airings without first checking on prices, networks, locations, and times. A real agency such as ours asks you details about your product or service, produces your ad for you (or reviews the one you've got), and then researches the most appropriate times and places for you to air. You don't want to advertise your snowmobiles in Florida, do you?

NOT REAL: "I'LL DO THE MATH..." In order to know if I can afford to advertise on TV, all I need to know is the "air time rate," the price of one airing.

REAL: Just as the price of one potato chip doesn't tell you how much the bag costs, the price of one airing is a useless piece of information. To find out if television is affordable for you, ask yourself if you can commit 5-10% of your company's monthly gross income to television air time. Then, be ready to talk with a reputable agency about how your budget will buy an effective campaign. You might need to start small, or even go back to the financial drawing board to locate marketing capital to support the kind of television campaign you want. If you can't afford a national campaign, or you don't need one, a local or regional campaign might be just right for you.

NOT REAL: "YOU GOTTA SHOP AROUND..." I need to call several agencies, maybe my cable company too, to get bids on the best rates and air time schedule.

REAL: Look. Just don't do it.  Surprised? You'll never get an apples-to-apples comparison that way.  Air time rates apply only for specific times and networks, they change often, and it can even depend on who's doing the asking. Agencies usually get better rates than individuals do, simply because the sales reps know that makes the agency more inclined to send them a high volume of business. Different agencies have their own theories about what makes a good schedule, so every schedule is different. Wanna go it alone? Once you call a cable company directly, you're locked in - stuck with the rate they gave you.  They put your name in their database, make a note of the price they quoted you, and you'll never get a better price than what that eager ad sales rep quoted you. AND because an ad sales rep works on commission, he feels he has "dibs" on your business. He won't just let an agency step in and negotiate a lower rate for you. You'll be stuck with whatever the sales rep signed you up for. Bummer. We've seen it time and again. Better to let a reputable agency handle the ugly details of negotiating an effective, low cost air time schedule.  Talk to your ad agency about your goals, your budget, and your customer. Let them work for you. When you have a good rappore with your agency, they're better able to negotiate on your behalf to get the very best schedule for your money. 

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