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The Keys to Cable Ad Success

Learn what to say and how often to say it when you advertise on cable TV.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: I'd like to create a TV commercial for my flower shop. I'm assuming that cable will be my best bet since I've heard it's less costly, but I'm still not sure how to get started. Can you help me?

A: Let's set aside the question of how you plan to deliver your message for just a moment-the most important part of any ad campaign is what the ad says. Choosing the right media to deliver the right message is pretty easy once you've figured out what you have to say. Do you have a memorable message in mind? Here are few tips:

  1. Bad advertising is about your company-its product or service.
  2. Good advertising is about your customers and how your product or service will change their world. Consequently, guard against using "I," "we," "me," "my" and "our" too often in your ads. Replace those words with "you" and "your" and watch how much better these new ads work.
  3. Your customers aren't really buying flowers. They're buying the reaction of someone important to them. So don't focus on the flowers. Focus on the reaction of the person who will receive them.
  4. Don't get hung up on reaching the right people with your message. I've never seen a business fail because they were reaching the wrong people. But I've seen thousands who have failed because they were saying the wrong things in their ads.

That being said, buying one or more cable zones is often a good way to shrink a big city to an affordable size. Most cable companies can section one small part of the city for you, if that's all you can afford to reach. Broadcast television and radio cannot sell you a similarly geographically restricted target audience.

One of the most common mistakes made by small business owners today is trying to reach more people than they can reasonably afford to reach. Very few readers, listeners or viewers will take action after just one or two exposures to your message. The key to successful advertising is to say the right thing often enough that your flower shop becomes the flower shop customers think of immediately and feel the best about when they need to purchase a potted plant or a floral bouquet.

When buying cable, think horizontally, not vertically, when scheduling your ads. In other words, advertise on the same few networks at the same few times on the same few days of the week, week after week, month after month. The goal is to reach the same people over and over again. The best way to reach a person with a second and third exposure to your ad is to go back to the same channel at the same time on the same day of the week that you reached them the first time.

Never buy a "broad rotator," no matter how low the spot rate. When you buy a broad rotator and scatter your ads across many different networks at many different times of the day, the result will be that your ad will reach too many people with too little repetition to ever secure a place in their minds. Would you rather reach 100 percent of the city and persuade them 10 percent of the way? Or 10 percent of the city and persuade them 100 percent of the way? The difference is in the repetition, but the cost is the same.

Your local cable provider should be able to give you a computer-generated reach and frequency analysis for the schedule they are proposing. The key is to ratchet down the reach so that you are reaching your average viewer at least three times each week, every week, 52 weeks in a row. The cable seller is likely to fight you on this. Don't let them win.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but repetition, repetition and more repetition really is the key to growing a business, assuming that you already have the maximum signage your city's sign code allows. Extremely expensive signage is often the cheapest advertising your money can buy. Have you maximized your signage?

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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