Let’s Finally be Blunt with Unrealistic Clients: TV & Radio Advertising Cannot “Work.”


Every TV and radio agency, station, and media buyer has heard the following kinds of statement from prospective clients:
“I don’t want to air on TV; it does not ‘work.’”
“I don’t want to air on radio’ it does not ‘work.’”
“We want to air a $2K one-month test, and if you make it ‘work,’ we will place a gazillion dollar order next month.”

When a salesperson for an advertising agency, station, or media company hears this nonsense, they just nod their head and say “we will try our best” (which I believe happens, but “trying” has almost nothing to do with it). But what does agreeing to this nonsense usually accomplish? The majority of the time, listening to the client (and taking the bad order) leaves the client unhappy 30 days later and the media company without a future client. We are ready to break this awful cycle, but it will only happen by telling prospective clients information they don’t want to hear:

You are using the word “work” as if you think it will somehow make your business oodles of revenue (deep sigh). TV or radio advertising cannot “work” instantly for 95% of local businesses. It will not turn you into a multi-millionaire in a day, a week, a month, or a year. Why? Because it cannot turn your traditional service or product into the instant purchase direct response product you want it to be. For example, we can’t make prospective clients call your personal injury law firm tonight because you yelled “Call Now, Call Now” in your commercial. Why? Because personal injury is not a true direct response product. Why? Because a true direct response product is a product that costs less than $30, that the majority of consumers do not possess already, and that the majority of the consumers realistically have a need for at the moment the commercial airs. When a “Call Now, Call Now” car wreck commercial airs, do you think a majority of the people who hear it have just had a car wreck? Obviously not. In fact, 99.99% of the people that heard it did not just have a car wreck.

Let’s say you are a home remodeling company and you want to air your bathroom remodeling commercials (maybe including walk-in-tubs), so you are going to yell “Call Now, Call Now” in the commercial. Do you really have a direct response product? Let’s check the facts. Does remodeling cost less than $30? Nope. Do the majority of consumers own a house and have the need for bathroom remodeling? Also nope. Obviously, “Call Now, Call Now” is not going to get most people who hear your commercial to actually call now!

The only thing that has a chance of “working” for 95% of small businesses is long-term brainwashing. Yes, I just said brainwashing: hammering your prospective clients over and over and over and over and over again until the day arises when the small percentage who have a need for your service/product determine they want it. The minute they have a “want” for it, you better hope that your business did a better job of brainwashing them with your brand than your competitors did, because if you did, they will first go to Google and search for your brand (not call). And since you did a great job of brainwashing them, they’ll specifically search for your great brand “Speedy Gonzales Remodeling (insert City).” Your website then comes up, and then they call you.

But if you only did a marginal job of brainwashing, or if you did a good job but your brand name stinks (example: a lawyer running a typical bland lawyer commercial saying “We are great. Call Goldstein-Harwood-Kennick-Svosckey”), then the consumer who just had a car wreck is going to do this kind of Google search instead: “car-wreck lawyer (insert city).” Now, if you did an average job of brainwashing and your PPC and SEO campaigns are properly optimized, they might remember your name in the list of attorneys that show up on Google. And they might call you, and you might even have a shot of selling to them. But why take the risk that your brand isn’t the one they choose?

Proper brainwashing requires strong frequency, across multiple TV/radio stations (at the same time), for 3-6 months (then frequency can be lowered some) and a decent brand name. If you have a terrible brand name, then you have to run at a much higher frequency each day/month to get the same effect. And if you have a fantastic brand name and fantastic commercials like the famous personal injury attorney “Jim ‘The Hammer’ Adler,” then you can run at a lower frequency than your competitors.

Will a few people call directly based on your “Call Now, Call Now” commercial? Maybe. But for 95% of small businesses, the revenue derived (from calls) from a one-month test will be so miniscule that it won’t pay for the cost of your ads, let alone make oodles of profit so you can “increase your second month budget to a gazillion dollars.”

For 95% of local small businesses, TV and radio advertising cannot “work.” Nor can it make people have car wrecks, make the government fail to pay someone’s social security claim, make someone break their arm at work, make their basement start leaking, make their elderly parent fall and break their hip (so they need a walk-in bathtub), or make someone who does not have $20,000-40,000 magically come up with that kind of money so they can remodel their kitchen. But what TV and radio advertising can help do is brainwash consumers with your brand name so that when they actually have a need and the money for your product/service, your company’s name is the first one they do a Google search for.

Be smart. Make your brand better. Shorten your commercials. Then double and triple your frequency. Run synergistic campaigns across both TV and radio. Drive traffic to your web property (since this is what people are doing anyway). It is not rocket science; this is the only formula which has any chance of long-term success for your business.