Q: We own a few health clubs in town and would like to expand further. My board of directors suggests that we try advertising on television. While that is certainly an intriguing idea, I’m not sure it will work for us. What are your thoughts? John D., Parsippany, NJ
A: There is no doubt that TV is a very powerful medium for growing a business. It is the only one that allows you to combine words, pictures, sound and music in the comfort of your potential customer’s homes. Nike, McDonald’s and Budweiser don’t spend all of those millions of dollars every year without getting a substantial return on their investment.
Indeed, television is more popular here in the States than anywhere else in the world. Americans spend an average of 19 hours a week watching TV. Norwegians, in contrast, watch but 2.5 hours a week. We get an average of 27 channels. Russians get 4. So yes, TV is a big deal here.
But here’s the deal with television: Don’t try it unless you are willing to make a substantial commitment of both time and money. Even then, only if you are willing to wait a few months for a payoff. Also, because television has such a wide reach, and because you pay for that reach, you better be darn sure that people will be able to buy what you are selling on TV. A single health club, for instance, may simply not have enough of a pull to get people to show up when they see your ad at home 30 miles away. A chain of health clubs is a different story.
But, if you have the right sort of regional business or product, and you have the money and commitment to make a substantial TV buy, the payoff can be huge.
Television, to be effective, must be used repeatedly. How often? A lot. Here’s how to figure out how much: A GRP is a “gross ratings point.” It calculates 1 percent of the TV households in the area. If there are 2 million TV homes in your city, 1 GRP would be 20,000 households.
To make a television buy worth your time, you need to buy 150 GRPs a month. One tip: during summer GRPs are more affordable. In December they are substantially more expensive. The price per GRP also relates to which stations you want (networks more, cable less), the size of your city, and the number of TV stations in the area.
Of course, a TV buy in a big city like New York is substantial, maybe $2,500 per GRP. In a smaller market it might average $100.
You can save money by trying these tips:
- Advertise at off-peak hours. Prime time (8:00 to 11:00 p.m.) has the most viewers and costs the most.
- Go cable. Cable allows you to advertise on a station that meets your desired demographic and is much less expensive than the networks.
- Consider a media-buying service: TV salespeople will quote you their standard rate card, maybe negotiate down a bit, but that’s it. A media buyer charges 7.5 percent but can easily save you more than that, because they buy millions of dollars worth of advertising a month and have a lot more pull than you do.
The bottom line is that TV can reap tremendous rewards for your small business, but you have to be willing to be patient and have the war chest to back up that patience.
What makes a good television ad? First, be visual. TV is a visual medium and sound should be used to enhance the picture.
Next, GRAB THEIR ATTENTION. Consumers are very sophisticated TV viewers these days. If you don’t catch their attention quickly, you probably won’t catch it at all.=
Next, be sure to repeat your phone number and the name of the business several times.
Finally, don’t make the mistake of making your ad more interesting than your business or product. Or so amusing that people don’t remember what you are selling.
Don’t be afraid to copy a good ad that works.