Buying an ad on television used to cost far more than any small business could even consider paying. But thanks to the recession, along with a glut of competing traditional and digital media that sell ads, prices have been going down. Way down.
Now mom-and-pop businesses, such as restaurants, stores, and household services, can afford the attention and credibility that comes with a good TV ad. For some small businesses, that increased awareness can bring in enough new customers to get them through their own downturns.
The first step is to bone up on the going rates, then call your local cable TV ad representative. Advertising cost is broken down into production costs and the rate for placing the ad (often called the “media buy”). You can also check out the options offered by Google TV Ads, which lets you buy advertising time on national cable channels by bidding on airtime.
Production doesn’t have to be elaborate, but you don’t want it to look cheesy and “local.” Take some time and make sure your pitch is smart and interesting. Focus on one concept and keep it simple and straightforward.
To save money, video can be shot with a digital camera, and all shots can be done at one time. Actors can be friends or other people willing to work for free or for trade. These days, a discount production outfit will charge around $1,000 to $2,000.
Some TV stations may help you produce the spot for free as part of their effort to drum up new clients. While the price is right, it is still up to you to make sure your ad engages the right customers.
One pest control company in San Diego looked into running a TV ad a few years ago and was quoted a production cost of $10,000. This year it ran its first ad on a local TV station for about $51 each time it aired, which included production of the ad by the TV station.
The cost of placing a TV ad depends on the time of day, the program, and the zones your ad will appear in. Some stations are affiliated with networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox) and show national network programs that mix both national and local ads. Others offer specialized cable programming such as The Weather Channel and The Food Network.
Verizon Communications charged a mere $1 per airing when it was trying to get advertisers for its new FiOS TV service, which was sent through telephone lines to about 300,000 subscribers in Southern California. In some communities, you can still find some 30-second cable TV spots for $5 each.
Generally speaking, experts say that for airing a 30-second commercial, expect to pay about $25 to $30 on CNN and ESPN locally, about $20 on Nick at Nite, and about $15 per airing on TNN and VH-1. Compare that to an average $921 to air a 30-second ad on a network-affiliated TV station in a major media market.
But, bargains aside, don’t forget why you are advertising. It’s exciting when one of your golf buddies sees your ad on TV, but that’s not your audience. When new customers tell you they first learned about you on TV, that’s when you know the money was worth it.