Part 2: How to produce effective broadcast ads for your target audience.
Knowing your company’s capabilities and strengths, identifying your target customer, and understanding your market are critical to any successful marketing program. Having this information puts you well on your way to creating basic print ads and directmail pieces, as well as more advanced radio spots and television commercials, that deliver a consistent message to a targeted audience.
Once you have this knowledge confidently in hand, the work of producing a commercial begins. Here are the steps to make it happen and important tips to consider:
1. Choosing a Production Company
Deciding who is going to produce your advertisement — everything from writing the script and hiring the talent to rehearsing, recording and/or filming, and editing — is the next step. Production can be very expensive, so you want to do it right. It’s probably not something to tackle on your own, unless you have significant experience and a successful track record in the production arena.
One of the biggest mistakes that doit- yourselfers make is assuming no one will notice or care about little mistakes and things that give a radio or T.V. spot that “homemade” feel — choppy edits, blurred or dark images, poor diction, etc. In fact, people will notice, and the good impression you had hoped to create will become a negative image of a business that is cheap, sloppy, and pays little attention to detail — or even worse, a business that doesn’t know what it’s doing. A single, poorly done 30- second ad can damage or destroy both a reputation and a brand that may have taken years to build and will likely take as many years to rebuild.
Fortunately, there are several options for hvacr contractors who have made the commitment to create a professional broadcast ad campaign, beginning with your local radio and television stations.
Local Radio and T.V. Stations
In most cases, stations have the equipment and resources, such as writers and professional talent, to produce your ad(s). Also, they tend to have attractive pricing. In fact, many stations provide production services for free, provided you spend enough advertising dollars with them.
Sometimes, though, stations will charge for high-level production. So, if you are considering a local station for production, it’s important to know that production quality and costs can vary greatly from station to station. Another important consideration is that the station may not know your company or take the time to better understand your brand and craft a message that supports it. They might tailor the message to their format and audience, which might not appeal to your audience. Imagine, for example, if you hired a hip-hop radio station to produce an ad that you later wanted to air on a country music station.
Which brings up another point: A station that produces an ad for you may limit its use to its station or sister stations. Be sure to have a discussion about this before entering into a production agreement.
Advertising agencies also offer production services, often with higher quality, better creativity, and a more personalized approach than many radio and T.V. stations are equipped to provide. You are more likely to end up with a professional piece that can be produced in conjunction with other parts of your marketing program (e.g., print ads, direct mail, billboards, etc.) for a cohesive look and feel. Additionally, an agency will be able to help you create a media plan for multiple outlets when you’re ready to distribute the completed advertisement.
Of course all of this comes with a price. Agencies charge for their time. However, in many cases, agency production fees are affordable and worth the investment. Consider the fees and how an investment in your brand will support and strengthen it. What is that worth to you?
Programs Another often-affordable and simple option is participation in a manufacturer’s advertising and co-marketing programs (see “Manufacturer-Sponsored vs. Independent Marketing Programs”), available in the Download Center at www.hvacrbusiness.com.
2. Planning and Creating Content
After you decide who will produce your advertisement, you need to think about the ad’s content. You should have already defined your brand and the messaging that supports it. Now it’s your job to deliver that message in language that your audience understands and potential customers will respond to.
Keep it Simple
The time limit of the ad is clearly defined, so a focused message is important. That means limiting your content to a single, well-constructed message. A radio spot or television commercial is not the place to go into great detail. It’s an opportunity to create emotion and define what differentiates your company from competitors. If you need to deliver more than one message, consider creating two or three different commercials and rotating them in your media schedule, always presenting your brand consistently throughout.
Using a cumbersome phone number or Web site address is a bad idea, especially in a radio spot that lacks supporting imagery. If you do include contact information in a T.V. commercial, use type that is large enough and stays on the screen long enough to be easily read. And when a homeowner uses your contact information, be sure to ask how they heard about you. Doing so can help you determine if your advertising is working.
Pick The Right Talent and Imagery
The talent you select to deliver your message also impacts the effectiveness of your advertisement. The person can lend an air of authority to what you have to say, particularly if it is someone your audience recognizes and respects. But that authority can be lost if the person is nervous or uncomfortable on camera.
You can avoid this entirely by using professional talent. However, be aware that on-air talent is used by other businesses in the station’s market frequently, and as a result, it could be more difficult to differentiate your message. Pros also cost several hundred dollars a day and sometimes demand residual payments if you play the commercial longer than a set period of time.
If you find yourself using someone less polished or comfortable on camera, consider limiting the person’s oncamera time and cutting away to images of homes, families, or whatever seems appropriate to your message.
Strong imagery can support your message and should always take precedence over special effects. While fun and entertaining, special effects actually can compete with your message. Use too many, and you run the risk of viewers remembering the effects and not the message. Also, special effects tend to date a commercial, shortening its lifespan and potentially making you appear out of step with the times.
3. Delivering Your Message
When your advertisement is complete and your message on target, it’s time to plan its distribution. Again, you have several options, each with advantages and disadvantages.
Your local radio or television station can assign an account executive to work directly with you to tailor a media plan to your business. Although the individual attention is a positive, it’s important to recognize that a station’s No. 1 priority is to fill its inventory or air time, which may not always work to your advantage. They can certainly get your advertisement on the air, but can they do it at times when your target audience is most likely to hear or see it?
Reach and Frequency
What you’re looking for in a media plan is reach and frequency. Reach is the unduplicated percent of a potential audience exposed to advertising one or more times during a given period. Frequency is the number of times the average person or household is exposed to an advertising message.
Ad agencies with experienced media departments have access to this information as well as software and tools to help you create a media plan that provides the reach and frequency you require. In many cases, agencies also are equipped to provide a post-buy analysis to be certain your media schedule runs properly and can request “make goods” if the station under delivers. In addition, agencies may have experience in your industry, handle the ad placement and billing, and be able to work with you on long-term strategic plans on an as-needed basis.
Knowing when to run an advertisement, in terms of time of year and time of day, is critical to a well-designed media plan. For a contractor, summer and winter typically are the busiest times of year, so it makes sense to advertise in the slower spring and fall months to generate business. Reminders about maintenance inspections and pre-season specials also can go a long way toward keeping your name in front of the customer and building your brand. As a result, your name will be top-of-mind when customers are looking for repairs or replacement systems during heating and cooling seasons.
Time of day, too, is important. The demographics of your target audience should determine the time and day, and type of programming you consider. In most markets, radio drive time (usually 7:30-9 a.m. and 3:30-6 p.m.) offer higher ratings than the middle of the day, as do local T.V. news programs — morning and evening.
Most stations also offer packages around specific events that appeal to your specific customers; for example, when a local homebuilders’ show is coming to town. Or stations might offer a package with a defined number of spots during baseball or football season, where a college or national team popular in your area draws a large audience.
Special Events and Quick Response
As an aside, special-events programming could provide technician recruitment opportunities and make other contractors in the home improvement industry aware of your services, planting seeds for future referrals.
It’s also a good idea to think about an ad or ads that enable you to respond quickly to specific circumstances or events that impact your business — heat waves, cold snaps, and special tax incentives, for example. Although you can prepare a special ad to address those circumstances, perhaps the easiest and least-expensive approach is to leave space at the end of an ad (ideally five seconds for a radio spot and 10 seconds for a television spot) to add a tailored message.
Obviously, there are many things to consider as you plan a marketing strategy that includes radio and/or T.V. advertising. Fortunately, as you look at the production and distribution of your ads, you have several options to help you create clear, concise content and deliver it to a carefully targeted audience with the desired reach and frequency. Stations, agencies, and manufacturers offer assistance, each with advantages and disadvantages. Your job is to match your needs with the offerings of each organization and make decisions that will reinforce every piece of your marketing plan, always with an eye to supporting your brand.
Michael Wayde is an account supervisor and Stacy Whisel is vice president of strategic media programs at Godfrey, a full-service, integrated business-to-business branding and marketing communications company headquartered in Lancaster, Pa. For more information about Godfrey, visit www.godfrey.com.