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I can Make You Famous

By Jeff Dobkin
Posted Saturday, September 4, 2004

I usually write about print advertising, but not today. You see, you never hear about most of the marketing that goes on in the United States. You only hear about the splashy retail products. Products you find in department stores, catalogs, five and dime stores, drugstores, and so forth. And the hot products that make the news, like Tickle Me Elmo.

But most of the products in the U.S. are marketed to specific industries. You never see an ad for gears or bearings on TV, but if you're an automotive engineer, you see ads for them in your trade journals all the time. If your firm manufactures ovens, you see a plethora of ads for oven controls, high-temperature resin coatings, high-temperature glass, and stamped metal hinges with and without springs. Suit manufacturers see ads for buttons, lining material, and thread; computer manufacturers see ads for CRTs, electronic chips, and keyboards; keyboard manufacturers see ads for injection molders for keys, and hot stamping houses and silk screeners for lettering.

Industrial marketing is very big. There are over 15,000 trade magazines serving fields as big as the automotive industry and niches as small as ferret-raising. Each industry has its own trade journals.

But today I'd like to introduce you to a different marketing method. There are some excellent buys in marketing, and right now, one of these is cable TV.

You can buy an ad on TV for $20. Yep, you heard that right, twenty bucks. It's on cable. But not on that local programming channel that no one watches. You can get your ad on prestigious stations like ESPN, The Discovery Channel, or USA. Yep, $20, for a 30- second spot that airs one time. The local cable companies offer this every day.

Call your local cable company. Our local company distributes its programming to almost 19,000 area residents. So while buying time on a local cable TV show can make you famous, it can only make you famous within a limited area. This may be all you need.

The cost of actually creating a 30-second spot can be under $500. Chances are the cable company will recommend a few good video companies that have produced ads for insertion into their networks. Prices for shooting are negotiable, but $500 is realistic for a local video company to write a script for a 30-second segment, send a professional camera crew of two with a high-quality camera to your location, and schedule between one to two hours for the shoot. It also includes about an hour of editing, and the result will be a pretty tight 30-second spot.

Cable TV ads can be incredibly effective, but you must select your time slot with care, as the viewer profile changes abruptly with time and station. Homemaker-oriented products do well on daytime TV. Business products mid-evening. Business-oriented services do better on news stations like CNN or CNBC. Male-oriented products have ESPN and shows like boxing, car racing, and golf. Wow, if it wasn't for ESPN, I'd have a lot of free time!

You can buy time on most national stations - like ESPN, TBS, Discovery, and USA - as well as the other national-but-not-quite-as popular stations like the Golf Network, Court TV, and so on. Prices for time on these offbeat channels are lower, and viewership is lower, too. Viewership can be nonexistent on some channels, on some shows, or in some time slots. Buying time when no one is watching is not worth it, no matter how little the cost.

Most stations will try to sell you a run of schedule (ROS) for the morning, afternoon, or evening time blocks. Air times may be a little cheaper than airing your ad on specific shows, but you may miss your targets and get very little response - especially if your services or products are geared to a specific target audience or group. It's the first package cable companies try to sell because they can fit your ad in at THEIR convenience, not necessarily at time slots in your best interest. Your ad gets bumped around as other advertisers demand better positioning and times.

If you schedule ROS air times, make sure you know about a week before each ad airs exactly WHEN it will run so you can nix any dead air time. Offers abound at some cable companies and you may hear offers of 2-for-the-price-of-1 specials, but the second ad will air after midnight. Man, talk about dead air time.

Negotiation is the law of the land when buying local cable time, so get tough. Negotiate costs, air times, and channel. And make sure your contract can be canceled if the first week or two don't produce results. While it's important to have your ad seen more than once, if it doesn't draw anything from the first few airings, better rethink your strategy - or change the copy. It's likely it won't get better with age. TV is an immediate medium without much longevity.

Each cable company has its own unique customer demographics. Some cable companies serve mostly upscale neighborhoods. Some serve urban customers. Some companies serve markets that are predominately Black or Hispanic. So if you have a product or service that is best directed to a specific market segment, call several cable companies and get their customer profiles. A little homework here will pay off handsomely in the long run.

Everyone likes to shop in their own back yard, so any firm that markets its products or services locally can be successful in this arena. And local cable is especially good for local service companies like printers, roofers, auto body shops, and athletic clubs. Restaurants and retail stores can also do well if focused on a particular market. If your business serves a geographic marketplace, there's a good possibility it can do well on cable TV. Obviously more than one ad is necessary to achieve any penetration; to be noticed, you'll probably need about 50 insertions. But you can still be famous, in your own back yard, for well under the price of a new sofa and love seat.

About the Author
Jeffrey Dobkin, author of the incredible 400-page marketing manual, How To Market A Product for Under $500 ($29.95) has a second book, Uncommon Marketing Techniques ($17.95) - 33 of his latest columns on small business marketing, exactly like the one you just read; and now a 10-audio course on marketing through classified ads called "The Intelligent Testing System". His informational products are available directly from the publisher - 800-234-IDEA. His writing is completely filled with tips and techniques to make your marketing faster, cheaper, more effective - and fun. You never learned this stuff in college! Dobkin cut through the theoretical crap and demonstrates a wealth of practical how-to direct marketing techniques. He is also a speaker, a direct mail copywriter, and a marketing consultant. To place an order, or to speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Fax 610/642-6832. Phone orders welcome - Visa, M/C, AMEX. From The Danielle Adams Publishing Company, Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066. Or visit him at ( Satisfaction Always Guaranteed.


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