See Spot Run: Making the Most of Broadcast Advertising

Jewelers advertise through various media, including print, broadcast, billboards, and bench signs, but many aren’t aware that there’s a scientific, strategic approach to media buying that can help generate the maximum return on advertising expenditure. The specific steps for evaluating your “reach”—i.e., the percentage of people you are reaching in your target market—vary depending on the method of advertising. In this article, we’ll address the steps required to analyze your reach in broadcast advertising; future articles will address other forms.

Know your target audience. To choose the most efficient medium to reach your target audience, you must know as much about them as possible. How old are they? Where do they live? What type of music do they listen to?

Beware of evaluating the effectiveness of your media plan based on your personal preferences. People who buy their own media often tend to buy what they watch, read, or listen to, and you may not be representative of your target audience.

Begin by identifying lifestyle and demographic characteristics that are common among your current customers. The best predictor of your future prospects is a careful look at who buys from you now. And the more you know about your customers’ likes, dislikes, and habits, the better equipped you will be to reach your target audience.

One way to get this information is to run a query in your store’s database of past customers. This will provide valuable demographic information of who has bought from you in the past. There are a variety of ways to collect customer information, such as entering it into your computer at the time of sale, asking customers to fill out a comment card, or sending out a questionnaire. Many stores collect customer data for direct mail purposes, such as holiday promotions or special offers on their customers’ birthdays. If you use any of these methods, chances are you have built a useful database. Work with your computer technician to design a way to access this information in a streamlined and efficient manner to help in your marketing efforts.

If you don’t have such a database, broadcast stations in your area can be your next-best resource. Ask your advertising rep to run a qualitative profile of your customers, using research from a service such as Scarborough or Media Audit. TV and radio stations, as well as media buying agencies, subscribe to such services to help clients make advertising decisions. A qualitative profile of your current customers should include factors such as age, gender, income levels, key occupations, whether or not they have children, and whether they rent or own their residences. Don’t be surprised if your store’s customer profile is not quite what you thought.

Remember, broadcast stations have a wide range of software that will enable them to zero in on your customer base, helping to boost the ROI of your marketing efforts. But you must know what to ask for to get the right help. (In most cases newspapers and national magazines also will be able to provide a wealth of information, but we’ll address that in a future article.)

Select the correct advertising medium. Many jewelry retailers, particularly local and regional retailers, allot much of their advertising budget to local newspapers. Depending on a store’s marketing objective, print may indeed be the best advertising vehicle. In other cases, however, broadcast might be more effective in reaching a larger portion of your target audience. To determine the best medium for your store, carefully consider your advertising objectives and how they match the strengths and weaknesses of each medium.

Your advertising medium should always be consistent with your overall image and message. If you position yourself as a high-end retailer, then bus advertising would not be the wisest choice. “Media ranker” reports, which you can request from your advertising sales rep, can tell you which media outlets will best reach these prospects.

Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiating is a key factor in getting the best return on your advertising investment. But to negotiate effectively, you must know industry standards, and what you are entitled to if the media outlet does not live up to its end of the advertising bargain. You must also know how to speak the ad rep’s language. Here’s a quick run-down on how to get the most out of the negotiation process for broadcast.

  • Make sure stations provide you with ad rates and ratings broken down by “daypart.” Dayparts refer to the various time periods in the day, segmented by program types and audiences reached. Dayparts are grouped as follows: early morning (6-9 a.m.); daytime (9 a.m.-3 p.m.); early fringe (3-5 p.m.); early news (5-6:30 p.m.); prime access (6:30-8 p.m.); prime time (8-11 p.m.); late news (11-11:30 p.m.); and late fringe (11:30 p.m.-2 a.m.). Each time block carries a different ad rate based on viewership levels.

  • Within each daypart, compare ad prices from different stations to determine who offers the best values. Ask each station you deal with for an “Avail.” An Avail is a list of all programs available from that station and includes the daypart in which the program runs, its rating, its ad rate, and its cost per point (CPP). A CPP is the cost to buy one rating point, or 1% of the population, in an area being evaluated. In its simplest terms, CPP translates into what it costs you to reach each person who will see your ad. When interpreting Avails, pay particular attention to a show’s CPP, which is essential when comparing the rates of one station to another.

  • Compare the CPPs of different shows within the same daypart. This is the only way to determine which station offers the best ad value. For example, you might compare the CPPs of two stations in your area that run a 6 p.m. news broadcast. For one station, the total advertising cost for a spot in that news broadcast might be $500. The same ad in the other station’s newscast might cost $1,000. Since one station’s total ad rate is twice that of the other, it would make sense to think that the cheaper ad is the better value. But this is not necessarily true. If the $1,000 ad reaches 200,000 viewers and the $500 ad reaches only 50,000 viewers, then the $1,000 spot is actually a better value. The lesson here is never to compare absolute costs of ads to determine which is the better value. What matters is the cost per person reached.

Your ultimate goal in negotiating rates is to obtain the lowest possible CPP for each program in each day part.

Don’t limit your broadcast buy to one TV or radio station. On the surface, limiting your buy to one station might seem like a great way to negotiate lower rates, but this strategy rarely produces the most effective buy. People watch programs, not stations. Therefore, buying ads on appropriate programming across multiple stations is usually the best way to reach the broadest segment of your audience.

To take this a step further, don’t buy all of your ad spots within the same daypart, as this also will limit your reach.

Establish objective criteria to measure your plan’s effectiveness. Perhaps your media plan contains a mix of print, radio, and TV ads. How do you know if this mix is giving you the biggest bang for your buck? If you don’t know how what you’re buying works together, you can’t properly evaluate the effectiveness of your plan. Media buying agencies use sophisticated procedures for determining a plan’s “reach” (the percentage of people you are reaching in your target market) and “frequency” (how often you’re reaching them). Sometimes, focusing on broadening your reach is more important than increasing frequency. Conversely, there are other situations in which greater frequency takes precedence over broadening reach. If you don’t have the correct balance between reach and frequency, you won’t have the most effective media plan.

Keeping watch. Once you’ve planned your media buy, monitor it. The best media strategy in the world will not work if it is not executed the way you planned it. Close monitoring of your media plan will ensure that you receive what you intended and will alert you to problems that need correcting. When monitoring your plan, there are several aspects you must track.

When your invoice comes in, check it against your order to make sure your spots ran. The invoice will contain actual log times taken directly from the station’s logbook, confirming when your spots ran. If requested, invoices can even be notarized.

Ads sometimes are preempted. You won’t be charged if your ad doesn’t run, but that’s small consolation if you intended to promote a specific sale or special event. If your ad is preempted, insist on receiving a “make-good” (a free ad) for the inconvenience. Although it’s not standard procedure to receive make-goods for preempted ads, savvy media buyers do it all the time, so it’s worth asking.

With TV, check to see if your spots are separated enough from your competitors’, and that your own spots don’t run too close together. Do this by checking your invoice. Media invoices will tell you the exact time your spots ran. If your ads ran closer than 20 minutes apart, call your ad rep and tell him or her that you are not going to pay for one of the spots. In fact, work this into your negotiation stage up front, and tell the rep that if your ads do not run at least 20 minutes apart you will require either a credit or a make-good as compensation. The industry standard for how far apart ad spots should run is 15 minutes. I recommend 20 minutes, however, which ensures delivery of the planned reach and frequency objectives.

Pay close attention to the time within a particular program that your ad appears. As a rule, expect one-third of your ads to run in the incoming break (the time between the previous show and the one in which you bought space), one-third to be during the actual programming and one-third to take place during the outgoing break (between the show in which you bought space and the show that follows). If more than two-thirds of your ads run in the breaks between shows, as opposed to during the actual show, you are not getting a fair rotation and should insist on make-goods.

Also consider whether or not the programming in which your spot ran delivered the number of viewers it was supposed to. TV and radio advertising rates are based on an estimate of the number of people the show is predicted to reach—that is, the number of people who will be watching or listening at the time your ad will run. To determine whether or not the programming delivered the requisite number of viewers, call the TV or radio stations and ask them for either the Nielson (TV) or Arbitron (radio) ratings. Do this both before and after the buy, and compare the actual ratings to the estimated ratings to determine if the programming delivered the projected audience. If the actual viewership or listenership turns out to be less than 90% of the estimate, negotiate make-goods as consolation.

The monitoring stage of your media plan is crucial. If you don’t monitor your buy and ask your ad rep to be clear on what’s promised and what’s actually delivered, you will have no way of knowing if you are getting what you pay for. Whether you’re buying direct or through an agency, you should hire an agency to audit your buys on a quarterly basis. A thorough auditing (post-buy analysis) may help you recapture up to an additional 20% of your advertising budget in additional spots because of under-delivery or inadequate placement.

By implementing the above suggestions—and taking a scientific approach to media buying—you can increase the impact of your advertising without increasing your budget.