The Basics of Cable Television Advertising for Small Businesses

For many smaller businesses, purchasing spots on broadcast television (ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX local affiliate) is not an option for various reasons. While others can, but are scared off by the costs of running ads. And, of course, there are many brands that see the benefit of running on broadcast stations and reap the rewards. Every business is unique to its own local market and marketing media mix.

Rather than getting into whether a brand should or should not be positioning itself on television (obviously, we’re an advocate of media planning & buying here at R&A), we want to focus on giving businesses the tools to evaluate it in their market. Specifically, wired-cable (i.e. Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, etc.), as that appears to have the most confusion.

  1. Cable Penetration. Ask the cable representative: how many television households (HH) do you represent out of the total television HHs in the market? Wired-cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast are not the only ones providing cable networks to households. There are Alternate Delivery Systems (ADS) like Direct and Dish Satellite services. Whether buying inventory through wired-cable or ADS subscribers, companies will want to see the percentage in the 65-75% range; meaning, the brand will have the OPPORTUNITY to reach 65-75% of the TV households in the market. We caution anything below 50%!
  2. Zones. Cable can be beneficial for some businesses that specifically need to target a geographical region. For most cable networks and programs, ads can be inserted on specific zones and all zones typically comprise of the entire DMA or market. Ask for a zone map and align the organization’s geographical targets. If it’s available, cable companies will offer ‘The Interconnect,’ which comprises of all zones and sometimes multiple cable systems. Look for high composition while minimizing waste.
  3. Fragmentation. Yes, cable is fragmented; and with so many different networks, it’s key to capitalize on the ones that will target the primary demographic. Start with a ranker of the top performing networks for the desired demographic and then work from there. For example, top networks that perform well based on ratings for women 35-64.
  4. Broad-Rotators. Don’t be misled by stations that promise “we can deliver a ZILLION number of spots.” Although the idea of tons of spots sounds promising, most will show up on secondary cable networks and run as broad rotators like Monday – Sunday 5a.m. – 12 midnight. This strategy doesn’t create frequency among individual viewers. Ask for a schedule that utilizes the top 10 cable networks and comprises of rotators no more than 4 hours apart. Prime (8 p.m. – 11 p.m. EST) is always a good choice, as that’s when a majority of the cable viewers are watching. Supplement with individual prime programming as well like “Walking Dead”, “Mad Men”, “Rizzoli & Isles” and other high-reach programming. Shoot for a spot every 1.5 to 2 hours with a goal of 12-10 spots per week.

Small business owners are stretched for time and don’t necessarily want to get too involved with the marketing details, but knowing some of the basics (and working with a great partner) will help uncover the brand’s true marketing potential!

Couple watching televisionImage Source: HTC

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