Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Q: Last time, you talked about MJ’s national cable buy for The Reincarnationist… what the heck was with all those numbers?
A: Unfortunately, when placing an advertising schedule, numbers are a necessary evil. Especially when having to make tough decisions between similar properties.
As previously discussed, the original plan was to place MJ’s commercial in as many major metros as the budget would allow, targeting niche cable programming that dovetailed with the book’s themes of archaeology, spiritualism, and reincarnation.
But several cable networks – A&E, National Geographic, History, Discovery, Travel – aired shows that’d be a good fit. In order to pick, we relied on MRI research that showed A&E and History had the best mix of programming to go with a viewership that indexed high to MJ’s target demographic of adults 35-60, college-educated, with a household income over $75K. Both A&E and History’s viewers also indexed high (vs. the general population) to several key lifestyle filters, like reading 1+ book/month, belonging to book clubs, and being intellectually curious.
In order to keep down costs, MJ, MIRA publishing, and Expanded Books created a 15-second commercial instead of the traditional 30-second spot. 15-second commercials don’t have the audience recall of a full :30, but they cost half as much when buying airtime.
The decision to run national vs. local cable came down to cost and availability. When pricing out A&E and History, our media buyer found the break-even to be after the Top 7 markets. In other words, if you were to buy the same TV commercial in New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Dallas –- which together represent about 24% of the total US TV households –- you’d be paying the same price as covering 100% of the country with the national cable feed. (These break-evens are all dependent on time of year, TV network, selected programming and markets… which is why you need a good TV buyer in your corner).
The clincher was that national cable will allow “natural” 15-second ads, which run by themselves in the commercial break. The networks will then pair your 15-second ad with another paid commercial or a station promo. Local cable, however, cannot sell “natural” :15s. They can only sell what are called “bookended” :15s, which are two :15s spots spaced out within the same commercial break… so you don’t actually save any money.
To further stretch the budget, we decided to avoid primetime. Cable networks typically air their first-run programming between 8-11pm, then re-run the same show several times over the next week or month. If you take the eyeballs watching these re-runs in non-primetime hours (say, 5-6 pm), the cost-per-thousand impressions (see Ad Man #4 for definition) were much more efficient. In many cases, the savings were 2-3x the CPMs of primetime.
By purchasing network cable, doing :15s instead of :30s, and avoiding primetime, we were able to secure a total of 9 national TV airings –- reaching over 1.6 million impessions to people in MJ’s demographic target – for the price of a small ad in a national newspaper like USA Today.
So then, how did MJ wind up in the Labor Day season-premiere of History Channel’s “Digging For The Truth”? That one was a fluke. Originally, History Channel was going to run a Labor Day weekend marathon of “Digging” episodes from last season, leading up to Monday’s season-premiere. Our buyer had negotiated and purchased a spot in this weekend marathon… but then the station changed their scheduling and decided to run a series of “Mega Disasters” instead.
If you’re a big client like Miller Beer, this stuff happens all the time and you don’t worry about it. TV stations change their schedules, spots get bumped, then are made good in a different program a week later, and it all works out in the wash. But when dealing with a small, targeted cable buy during a book launch, every spot is sacred.
Which is another reason you need a good TV buyer. Ours was able to get History Channel to upgrade our missed spot in the cancelled “Digging For The Truth” weekend marathon into the show’s Labor Day primetime, season premiere. It did take giving up 4 spots in “History’s Mysteries,” but we felt the opportunity was too good to pass up.
If we’d tried to go out and buy that season-premiere before getting our marathon spot cancelled, it was priced so high it would’ve chewed up our entire budget, and we couldn’t have afforded the other spots on “Cold Case Files,” “Crossing Jordan,” “History’s Mysteries,” and “American Justice.” In media buying, sometimes getting bumped is grand.
After putting together this national TV buy with MJ, Chris Grabenstein, Expanded Books, and the media buyer, we’d all be jazzed to do it again. So if you’re a mid-lister on the cusp, or an established author looking for the cherry for your book launch, drop us a line and we’ll get the band back together.
Gregory Huffstutter has been punching Ad Agency timecards for the past decade, working on accounts like McDonald's, KIA Motors, and the San Diego Padres. He recently finished his first mystery, KATZ CRADLE. The first 100 pages of his novel are linked here. For general advertising questions, leave a comment or send e-mail to katz @ gregoryhuffstutter dot com with 'Ask The Ad Man' in the subject line.