Get All Access for $5/mo

The 6 Rules of TV Advertising for Small Businesses When it comes to your ad buys, are you following these rules?

By Mark Lieberman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


With exciting opportunities opening up at a dizzying pace, businesses are sometimes uncertain how best to maximize their local TV advertising. The essence of advertising still rings true: Advertising is about branding -- and converting viewers into paying customers. Here are my basic rules any buyer needs to know about today's video advertising landscape:

1. Target the right audience.

The American marketing pioneer John Wanamaker famously said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." Most successful advertisers have a fairly strong sense of their audiences but until recent years have not had sophisticated tools enabling them to reach customer prospects via specific demographic, psychographic and "behavior-graphic" targeting. Advancements in digital targeting have been well-documented; you may be less familiar with the latest audience-targeting innovations in TV targeting enabled by the combination of the latest set-top box and consumer data.

Related: The Most Thought-Provoking Ads of 2017 -- So Far

2. Know your options.

Local advertisers are best served when there is a robust complement of multiple local cable operators from which to select. In such a marketplace, advertising rates and placements are driven by local competition. The less competition, the higher the cost. The good news is that there may be more options available than many people realize.

3. Use digital to complement a TV campaign.

Practically every study we've seen about cross-platform video campaigns reveals this: Marketers who invest in multiple media outlets enhance the effectiveness of their advertising. Earlier this year, for example, the Interactive Advertising Bureau cited a new auto model campaign for which a combination of desktop, mobile web and TV advertising led to a 211 percent lift in unaided brand awareness.

While digital-only advertising represents approximately 11 percent of our company's total revenue -- as an example – today, we are seeing more than 70 percent of our clients using online advertising (and about 50 percent of them using mobile) as a complement to local TV ad buys.

Related: 4 Podcasts That Offer Great Advertising ROI for Entrepreneurs

4. Go ahead, use social media -- but with caution.

Social media has been plagued with well-documented issues such as gross audience overstatement, highly undesirable ad juxtaposition and general lack of accountability. The horror stories of lapses in social media messaging are legion. However, social media's power -- especially in helping you reach younger customer prospects -- in undeniable. Ask social media marketers tough questions about how best to protect your business's brand. Have a strict social media policy within your organization as well. Social media should be seen as a piece of your overall marketing campaign, though not the centerpiece of it, and it needs to be monitored.

5. Liberate the gold in your company's data.

Whether you realize it or not, your own customer data file -- however large or small -- is a critical asset in building an effective ad campaign. This data can be cross-referenced with census data to define the demographic profiles of prospective customers. You can then match your data and census data with cable set-top box viewing patterns and even offline purchase behavior. And lastly, you can use the combined data to create a media plan to find the right audience by targeting your customers' favorite TV shows, and even reach them directly with a targeted message.

Related: 4 Video Advertising Hacks Powerful Enough to Change Your Company

6. Ask tough questions of your ad partners.

Whether it's your agency or your media partners, learn from them the relative strengths and shortcomings of various media platforms. Digital advertising's strengths include geo-fencing, re-targeting, reaching a highly engaged audience and the ability to measure ROI. But, digital's limitations -- including click fraud, viewability issues, ad-blocker technology, imperfect targeting algorithms and inappropriate content environments -- all underscore why many marketers choose not to use digital advertising in isolation. Radio advertising remains ideal for reaching consumers in their cars, but is known for frequency of message and limited branding power. TV advertising is evolving to encompass digital-style targeting and ROI capabilities with the advantages of sight, sound and motion but remains nominally the most expensive medium. Have a frank discussion with your marketing advisors about the best mix for your objectives and your budget.

Mark Lieberman

President and CEO, Viamedia

Mark Lieberman is CEO of Viamedia, one of the country’s largest independent TV advertising management solutions company. Previously, Lieberman was co-founder of TRA, a media-research and analytics company that was sold to TiVo, and of DIVA, the first commercial video on demand company.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.


This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.


Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.