What It Is: TV ads that run on non-network television stations
Appropriate For: All businesses
Typical Cost: $8 to $2,000 per commercial, depending on your location, the number of commercials you buy and the stations you choose
How It Works: When it comes to television, cable television is completely different from network television. While each network station offers a variety of programming that reaches many different audiences (news, soap operas, sports, cartoons and so on), cable television is more like radio, in that it delivers its audiences on a channel-by-channel rather than a program-by-program basis. Lifetime, ESPN, TNT, Food Network, MSNBC, TBS, LMN, and all the other cable TV stations each have a specific audience--all day long every day--that makes it easier for advertisers to purchase ads for their target markets.
When you're on a budget, there's a real advantage to buying cable TV ads--the stations can offer you targeted neighborhoods and eliminate areas that you don't necessarily want or need covered. This is something that network television can never do for you. The large cable companies like Time Warner cover many areas, while cable companies like Adelphia "fill in the blanks" and cover smaller areas and neighborhoods for pennies per viewer.
When it's time to select the areas you want covered by your ads, each cable company will provide you with a map that's divided into sections, and from those sections, you choose the areas you want to buy ads in. This ability to pinpoint viewing areas is a huge help to budget-conscious business owners. And with a lower per-spot cost than you'll find on the networks, you can afford to run a decent number of commercials, which is one of the big requirements of successful advertising--frequency! Your customers have to see your commercial to be able to react to it.
Although you usually buy cable on a channel-by-channel basis, you always have the option of pinpointing certain programs. And cable television's a good place to look for specific programs that fit your audience for a reasonable cost. For instance, you can choose shows like Flip this House or Design on a Dime from the Home and Garden Television station and be sure you're reaching the right audience--even if it's not a huge audience, it's the right one--if you sell home improvement items, lighting fixtures or furniture, or if you have an interior design or construction business. These niche programs make it easy to reach specific audiences because they focus very narrowly on the particular interests of the viewers.
Another advantage is that with such a large number of stations available, getting bumped from your cable television schedule is almost unheard of--an event that's not so uncommon on network television. If you do get bumped, they're almost sure to have open inventory on one or more of their stations that will reach your audience, even when it's time for big sports playoffs, the holidays are creating a high demand for air time, or when politicians are eating up as much inventory as they possibly can.
Your local cable TV sales rep will be able to sell you any and all of the available channels that run in your area and package them together in a neat, little bundle at a discount rate, especially at the beginning of the year when they're looking for annual contracts. There will even be special, first-quarter packages offered where you commit to run a certain number of commercials on various channels during the year for a small per-spot cost. Then, all year long, your commercial will pop up on the channels you've chosen. And you're free to change your commercial anytime during the year to reflect your business' sales or special events.
Kathy Kobliski is the founder of Silent Partner Advertisingin Syracuse, New York. She is also the author of Advertising Without an Agency Made Easy.