Has Your Small Business Considered TV Advertising?

Shooting a commercial

Chris Whitehead / Getty Images

Television advertising does not have to be out of reach for small businesses. While the thought of it may conjure up images of sets, studios, actors and actresses, craft services, lighting, sound, and expensive equipment, the truth is that it can be both affordable and effective.

You don't need a huge budget, a massive set with a ton of props, a food truck, a creative director, and a hoard of actors. You just need to know how to use the medium effectively and how to save money by taking advantage of remnant advertising opportunities.

Combine Audio and Video Seamlessly

Effective TV commercials merge video and audio into a powerful tool by selling your product or service through both sight and sound. Turn down the volume on any good commercial, and you should be able to identify the product and its benefits just from the video. The same holds true for audio. Close your eyes and listen to what is being said. Effective audio in a TV commercial explains the product in enough detail that viewers should understand it without actually looking at the screen.

This combination of senses unavailable in most other forms of advertising allows advertisers to reach even those viewers who might not be giving their full attention to commercials. And if the sound or visual is effective enough, it might intrigue the viewer to watch and listen more closely.

For those viewers who already are paying close attention, the combination of both a strong video element and a strong audio element will help drive home the strengths of the product or service being sold.

Show, Don't Tell

Most people who have taken writing courses in school or who have written professionally have heard "show, don't tell" as feedback. This applies to TV commercials, as well. Effective ads do more than tell viewers that a product or service is effective; they show others gaining satisfaction from what is being sold.

Visually, think of it in terms of an advertisement for a restaurant. Instead of showing the exterior of your building while explaining what sets apart the food on your menu, show diners inside enjoying the food. Show close-ups of the dishes along with close-ups of the diners enjoying themselves. This gets the message across much more effectively than simply telling viewers why your food is good. Even spokespersons who explain why products or services are desirable often are less effective than a scene showing satisfied customers.

Don't neglect the audio. Viewers should hear customers ordering specific items and raving about how good they look and taste. Again, listening to diners enjoying themselves is more important than listening to people explain why they like a restaurant.

Be sure to include a call to action in your advertisement. What do you want your viewers to do? How do you want them to react, and when? Tell them to call now, order now, or visit their local dealer, for example.

Production on a Budget

Most small businesses will be advertising to a local audience, and one of the most effective ways to do that is through local cable television operators that can sell packages which will place advertisements on a variety of popular cable channels. It's also possible to go through local advertising firms that will work with local broadcast channels and cable providers. Either way, businesses can shoot their own footage inexpensively and provide that to the advertising outlet. Businesses simply need to know what video and audio formats will be acceptable, and the more they do on their own, the less they need to spend on outside production professionals.

Some businesses may shoot some of their own videos and come up with the concepts, relying on production professionals to handle the editing and the completion of the ad. Others, if they have the skill, may shoot and edit their own commercial in its entirety. When it's done, it's important that business owners retain ownership of their commercials so they also can run them online through sites like YouTube.

Remnant Advertising

Another way to save money is to get more airtime for your money through remnant advertising. TV stations or cable providers sell specific time slots, and the times when more viewers are watching generally are more expensive. However, some time slots often go unsold, and the advertising outlets often are willing to sell those slots at a discounted price as opposed to letting them go unsold. The benefit is that it's possible to get more airtime for less money when accepting remnant time slots. The drawback is that advertisers have no control over when those time slots will be available or if they will be available at all.