By Chris Consorte – Posted on November 17, 2007

Don’t think TV advertising fits your budget? Think again.

As a marketing firm, we’ve helped literally hundreds of clients on their direct mail, Internet, print advertising and radio advertising campaigns. You’ll hear no complaints from me — this stuff pays the bills. But it was only until recently that we started helping our clients out on their TV campaigns to — among other things — drive traffic to their e-commerce website.

I suppose this is not really a big deal to big companies. They often do tons of TV advertising and have huge budgets to accomplish such. However, it’s a really big deal for my clients — those companies of the small to mid-size. Why? Because there’s a perception among advertisers and consumers that you’re really successful if you can afford to advertise on TV.

People see TV commercials. They often remember them, and many times consumers even respond to them. Yes, TV advertising works, and it works for direct response and driving site traffic, too. Now more than ever, actually, for two reasons.

The first reason is that producing a TV spot has become so inexpensive, in my experience, it’s no more expensive than producing a print ad, a mailer or other forms of media creative. With digital production, often easily done from a computer desktop, there’s no longer a need to use film production and expensive edits using highly specialized equipment. Additionally, there are many websites that sell pre-done commercial spots that can easily be customized with the advertiser’s voice-over script, logo, address and phone number. Personally, I’ve seen what I consider to be very high-quality commercials completed for $500 to $1,000. Again, you’d often pay more to have a graphic designer layout one print ad for this price — if not more!

The second reason is that buying TV media has become so simple and cost-effective. The key to this cost-effective media buy is remnant inventory — basically inventory or spots that are unsold often a week or less before airing times. This is an issue for the cable and network stations because they’d like to make something rather than nothing for these spots — often spots that are in desirable day-parts on great stations. Buying these remnant spots offers a great opportunity for the advertiser — and big cost-savings. There are many online sources for media buying and placement as well — just as with the spot production.

Just recently, at our urging, one of our financial services clients decided to move forward in advertising on TV. Their objective was to get their phones ringing and to drive traffic to their website. We were able to find many pre-cut spots for them to choose from in order to customize — which once they decided on the spot it only took 72 hours to deliver their final spot to them via e-mail. We then began working with our affiliates to buy remnant spots in their key geographic territories — targeted to a specific demographic prospect. We had a plan for them within 24 hours and, upon approval, they were on-air within 1 week’s time.

The result? For about $3,000 in total costs — the same amount of money they would have spent to run one print for a day in the local paper — about 150 custom TV commercials were aired on their behalf. They received almost 100 qualified inbound phone calls, plus additional traffic to their website during the time of the spots airing — all prospects looking to potentially do business with our client — and closed a substantial amount of business. They doubled their investment with us two weeks later, so I’d say it’s working for them.

I suppose the bottom-line here is that if $3,000 is not going to break your budget, then TV advertising is likely worth a shot for your business. It’ll help with your awareness and brand-building efforts, it will drive e-commerce site traffic, and it will build employee morale and excitement. Your friends and family will likely see the spot and they’ll be excited, and you might even get a few phone calls so you can close some business to pay for the campaign. You’ll never know until you try it.

Chris Consorte has spent his entire career working on various marketing and new media projects on both the agency and client-side of business. Chris is also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine.

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