Making your TV Advertising Work


“Advertising on TV doesn’t work; it’s just a waste of time and money!”

“We have a $1K budget for a two-week test; make it work and we’ll put in more!”

Every TV station, ad agency, and media company hears these kinds of statements from prospective clients. Most just nod their heads and say “we’ll try our best to make it work,” all the while knowing there’s no way they can make such nonsense work. So where does this lead to? The same place every time: an unhappy client and an ad agency with one less customer. It’s a vicious cycle, it’s bad for both advertisers and advertising companies, and the only way to break it is tell prospective clients what they don’t want to hear.

When these would-be advertisers say “make it work,” what they really mean is “take this tiny investment of mine and turn it into a huge profit overnight.” There is so much wrong with that mode of thinking it’s hard to decide where to begin. First off all, TV advertising doesn’t work on that time scale for 95% of local businesses. The 5% that can potentially reap the mythical rewards of advertising that these clients expect fall into the category of direct response products and services – things that clients have an immediate need for, which they don’t already have, and which cost $30 or less (making them an ideal impulse purchase). When a client gets upset that we can’t turn their home remodeling company into a million-dollar success off of a thousand-dollar investment in a two-week time frame even with the magical words “25% Off Bathroom Remodeling – Call Now!” flashing at the bottom of the screen, they’re ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people who will see the ad won’t have any need for bathroom remodeling at the exact moment they see the ad. Advertising products and services of this nature takes more than a few weeks or even a few months to see results – it can easily take years!

So if 95% of local businesses can’t expect instant results from advertising, how can they turn a profit from their investment? The answer: brainwashing through repetition. Certainly you’ve gotten a commercial stuck in your head to the point you can quote the pitch word-for-word and hum the jingle without even thinking about it. Now, most of the time you saw that commercial, you had no immediate need for whatever it was they were selling, but what happened when you finally did have need for such a product or service? Odds are you went straight to them – unless there was another commercial for the same product or service by a different company that did a better job of getting stuck in your head. Either way, the lesson still stands: even if your prospective clients have no immediate need for your product or service, if you air your commercial often enough for a long enough period of time, you’ll plant your brand firmly in their minds and yours will be the first name they look for on Google when they finally need what you’re selling.

Even a partial success on this front can have a beneficial effect: if yours is one of several competing brand names in your prospective clients’ minds, there’s a chance you can edge out your competition with properly optimized PPC and SEO campaigns, putting you in the top Google search results and making it more likely a prospective client on the edge of picking either you or a competitor will decide in your favor and click through to your website.

But why take the chance?

High-frequency exposure across multiple TV stations simultaneously for 3-6 months and a memorable, well-chosen brand name are the keys to TV advertising success. This – and not unreasonable demands of well-meaning ad agencies – is how you “make it work.”