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BBB Small Business Advice: Think you can’t afford TV advertising? Think again.

1/30/2009

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Man watching TVBecause of the declining economy, larger companies are cutting back on their ad buys and smaller businesses are reaping the benefits of significantly lower rates. Television ads that were once relegated to the early morning hours are now ubiquitous and products such as the Snuggie and Shamwow are household names. For small business owners interested in advertising on TV, Better Business Bureau offers guidance on how to effectively manage the process of getting the attention of customers on the small screen.

With prime time slots being sold for 25 percent less than last year, many companies are jumping on the opportunity to increase their advertising reach and are seeing results. While the ads may seem annoying to some, more than four million Snuggies have been sold via a national TV advertising campaign. Of course, not all time slots are within a small business’s reach even after a steep discount. Ad rates during the upcoming Academy Awards telecast have reportedly been cut to $1.4 million from $1.7 million—a 20 percent discount, but still a large chunk of change. 

“Large corporations are cutting back and advertising budgets are being slashed across the country; as a result of the decline in demand, TV ad rates are dropping,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “The playing field for TV advertising is becoming more level and small business owners can now take advantage of steep discounts for prime slots, as well as cut rates from PR firms and productions companies.”

BBB offers the following advice to help small business owners expand their advertising practices:

Learn from Peers. Connections made through professional associations are a great way to learn from other small business owners. Business owners should ask around—although direct competition might not be too forthcoming—to find out what other companies’ best practices are and learn from their trial and error.

Identify the target demographic.  A business owner should not be biased by their own viewing habits when choosing when and where to advertise. After identifying the appropriate target audience, it’ll be easier to purchase advertising slots with the most effective reach—which may not necessarily be major networks, but could be niche cable TV programming that speaks directly to a business owner’s customers and their interests.

Determine Your Message. While corporations with large advertising budgets can afford to run ads that simply reinforce a brand image and don’t necessarily drive a consumer to action, small business TV spots should focus on reinforcing unique selling propositions and encourage viewers to get off the couch. Does the business offer the best value in town, best customer service, or is it perhaps the most convenient? Small business owners should also consider highlighting events such as year-end sales.

Produce on a budget. When it comes to producing a TV commercial, small business owners have a few options which include paying a PR firm to handle the concept development and production, working directly with a video production company, or, in some cases, relying on the TV station or cable provider where the ad will run. Before settling on a company for production, a small business owner should compare prices and always check the company out with BBB first at www.bbb.org.

Don’t be Afraid to Haggle and Shop Around.  Before settling on where to advertise, business owners should research which programs and stations give them the best exposure to their target audience as possible. While a business owner might be tempted to buy a slot during the highest rated TV show, most experts recommend running commercials for an extended period of time and suggest buying more spots—that might be at a less desirable time—than blowing the whole budget on one primetime ad. Keep in mind that ad rates vary not only by channel and program, but also by the time of year.

For more small business advice with tips for effective advertising and marketing techniques, go to www.bbb.org.

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