When I first started Gary Davis Media in 1988 I put a bankruptcy lawyer on TV in a medium-sized market. She had a tiny ad budget and nothing that made her stand out from any other lawyer. We made a spot and ran it two or three times a day on one small independent station. The first time her spot ran, she said all her phones “went off”. Every line she had lit up at once. And it happened every time.
That sort of TV response for a law office was not unusual in 1988 but it’s a lot harder to get today, with a hundred times more channels and a hundred times as many attorneys advertising. There are many prospective TV advertisers out there for whom TV, which might have worked a few years ago, would now just be a waste of money. Too few prospects watching, too few of them paying attention to any commercials, too few who will remember or respond to a TV commercial. Too many mute buttons, too much Netflix — and almost everybody has now learned how to use Google to find any information they really want.
If that meant that TV did not work anymore for anyone, the answer would be easy: don’t even consider it. But that’s not the case. Look at daytime TV, which was always my specialty area. How many advertisers on your local TV do you see who have stayed on the air continuously for months or years? Would they continue to run if they were not making money? I doubt it. It may just be that these long-time advertisers are getting a “branding” advantage from being on a long time which new advertisers, who depend solely on viewers using TV ads as a kind of catalog, do not get. It’s hard to say. Certainly, response to TV commercials, while declining overall, is extremely variable from offer to offer, from market to market. What works well in one city may not work at all in another.
Making money with any kind of advertising today is complicated, confusing and difficult! And it’s not going to get any easier. TV, radio, the web and print are all just going to get more fragmented into more and more tiny parts, each aiming at a smaller piece of the population. And people are just going to become more and more resistant to the barrage of advertising they have to put up with.
One thing’s for sure: Today, whatever and however you’re advertising, you need an offer that stands out from the crowd. You need to advertise in more than one medium. You need an informative website. You have to be willing to try different things. And always test, test, test before you commit your whole budget.
If you get it right, you may still have a shot at making serious money with TV. But if anyone tells you that TV — or any other advertising — is a piece of cake and they know for sure that you’re going to be successful — throw them right out of your office! Those people are not even attempting to tell you the truth. They are just telling you what they were told to say in the sales meeting!