Can Small Businesses Afford TV Advertising?

Lindsey Weedston Local Advertising, TV Advertising

The short answer: Yes. Probably.

When most people think of TV advertising, they think of national campaigns that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s true that it can cost that much – or even millions if you’re trying to advertise during the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t options within a small business price range.

You could potentially get a TV spot and produce a commercial for a few hundred dollars. There are local stations that charge a fraction of what national stations do, and costs also depend on both the time of day and time of year that the ad is running.

If your budget is too tight to accommodate a couple hundred dollars, you might want to rethink your business model.

TV advertising is a pretty versatile medium – it can be done on a small or large scale, or anything in between.

Is It Worth It?

Human BrainWhen you think of local, late night TV commercials, you probably think of a certain type of ad. They certainly aren’t as flashy as the ads from huge corporations – a lot of them are simple shots of an office and some smiling faces with a cheerful voice over and a phone number on the screen. Does anyone even pay attention to these commercials?

The short answer: Yes.

If you think about it, most TV commercials don’t make you immediately want to run out and buy a product or service. The purpose of a television ad is more subtle than that. For small businesses, there’s a lot of value in just getting the company name out there. There could be plenty of people looking for your product or service locally – just because you’re not interested in something being advertised doesn’t mean that there aren’t others who need it.

More than that, seeing any ad will have a small, undetectable, subconscious effect on you. Studies have shown that seeing an ad makes you more likely to choose the advertised company over a competitor you’ve never seen before. It’s a simple effect of the human brain being drawn to what’s familiar. But all you really need to know is that no matter what the budget, a TV ad that’s done right will increase your business. It’s still a more effective marketing medium than any of the new-fangled online options.

Of course, if you like the new-fangled online options, your ad can always play on Hulu or pre-roll on YouTube videos.

Success Storiesvern fonk slide Breaking Fonk

Not to toot our own horn, but… toot.

As you probably already know (because we make sure to remind everyone all the time), we’ve been shooting and editing the Vern Fonk ads for many years. Before they started TV advertising, they were a relatively unknown little insurance firm, and today their ads are a cult hit, with offices spreading all across Western Washington and Oregon.

Of course, much of the credit goes to their own wacky sense of humor, but the point is that they had a very small budget when we first met them. However, all it took was some late-night spots on local stations to get their brand out there. With a little creativity (a lot of creativity, actually), they got a lot of attention and their business swiftly increased. The same can happen to you.


How Does It Work?

Don’t worry – no advertising company is going to expect you to know everything, or even anything, about shooting and placing commercials. Any company worth its salt should offer shooting, editing, and media buying services, as well as help with planning, script writing, hiring actors, and anything else you need.

The process usually goes something like this:

  1. Consultation meeting to discuss goals, budget, strategy, and ideas.
  2. Planning and brainstorming to create a step-by-step plan outlining exactly how the commercial will come together.
  3. Script writing which can be done by the ad agency, the client, or both.
  4. Shooting the commercial, either on-location, in a studio, or with a green screen.
  5. Audio including any voice overs, sound effects, music choices, or on-camera speech.
  6. Video editing done by a professional within the ad agency.
  7. Approval by the client
  8. Media buying including contacting and negotiating with TV stations or websites.
  9. Distribution and monitoring to make sure the ads play when and where they should.
  10. Reports created by the ad agency to let you know how well your ad performed.

Your primary expenses will be paying the advertising company to shoot and edit the ad, paying them to find the right TV stations or websites to run the ad, and then paying the TV stations or website for the ad space. You can potentially save money by doing the media buying yourself, but ad agencies should have a lot of experience in negotiating for the best price for the ad space as well as figuring out where and when is best to run the ad.

 Traditional or Online Video Advertising?

Which one should you choose? That will depend heavily on your demographics. It’s true that the current young adult population (Millennials) are much less likely to view traditional TV commercials than previous generations, simply because they’re less likely to have purchased any kind of traditional TV package – including cable but even the most basic channels. Many of them prefer Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services.

If you’re targeting young people, it may be a better idea to look into online video ads. This can get complicated, however, because local stations don’t tend to make their content available online in the way that national stations like Comedy Central do. YouTube ads are a possibility, but many of these ads come with a “skip” button that appears after the ad has been playing for only five seconds. There’s a lot more to consider with this type of video advertising.

But the important question is, of course, can you afford online video ads? Yes, probably. The average price of an online video ad is comparable to that of a traditional TV commercial, though it looks like last year the online versions became a little more expensive. But again, that’s an average. There are many different options when you go online, and plenty of them are affordable. A lot of it depends on how much traffic the website gets.

The Bottom Line

Don’t assume you can’t afford a TV commercial. We’ve all seen TV ads for small local businesses. They’re not special – you can do the same thing. Find a local advertising company and get yourself an estimate. You’d be surprised how far your small budget can go.