To be or not to be ... on the box

YES folks, it’s fast approaching – the 50th anniversary of the first television commercial to go to air in this wired brown land. Millions of TV ads have flashed on to our screens since, some great, some aggravating and others just forgotten. Former adman and creator of Life. Be in it, Phillip Adams, observed on the 30th anniversary of the launch of the little box in the corner of the living room that: “We haven’t had 30 years of TV, we’ve had one year of television 30 times”. Today, that little box is more likely to a wide hyper-plasma home entertainment unit that might set you back somewhat more than the family car, but it’s still television. And it’s spiced – often too liberally – with those TV ads that we also love or hate. The medium launched in Sydney on September 16 1956, at a time when there were only 5,000 TV sets in existence and expanded state by state to reach Perth the next year. It caught on quickly. By the mid-1960s more than 80 per cent of Australian households owned a set. In the advertising world, it is often said that if your product isn’t on the TV, you haven’t made it. Now, those who publish newspapers and magazines, run radio stations or advertise on the internet may disagree, but there is no denying that television – because it involves both sight and sound – is incredibly powerful and communicates on an emotional level that no other medium can match. The very first television ad to go to air was for a long-forgotten analgesic called Vincents APC (APC stood for aspirin, phenacitin and caffeine, the three active ingredients of this potent white powder). This, the very simplest of television ads, was actually three slides. The first showed the letters “TV”, comprised of packs; the second revealed that TV stood for “take Vincents”, and the third showed the slogan “for quick three-way release”. Advertising quickly became a little more sophisticated. Any small business person reading this column is likely to be thinking, “should I be on the box?” The answer is both simple and complex. The most important goal of a television commercial (or a radio commercial for that matter) is to get the audience’s attention so they can feel they are part of the message and that the message is directed at them. Good television advertising is simple, and single minded. This is because you normally only have 30 seconds to tell your story using clear language and delivering your sales message in a memorable manner. Imagine for a moment you only had 30 seconds to convince an interested prospect in your product or service. Could you do it? Are you that good a salesperson? It’s for this reason you need a professional and reputable advertising agency to follow your brief and refine the essentials of your sales message into those precious seconds. How precious are those seconds? Can you afford to be on television? On a smaller scale, TV costs can be surprisingly low. The price of television time depends on several factors: the size of the market; the length of the ad; the time of day it appears; the rating of the program during which it appears; the number of spots to air; and a handful of other factors. It’s up to you, the advertiser, to decide just how much money is available for advertising. But don’t forget the costs involved in the production of a commercial, which can range from a few hundred dollars for a station-produced announcement to thousands of dollars for an ad produced using professional studio techniques. The final factor to determine is when to use television advertising and just how often to run the ad. Frequency is just as important as the time of day the ad is run or on what station. Ads that are run only a few times a week will probably never generate much response. According to the advertising industry, the average viewer needs to see an ad three times before being affected by it. Knowing this, selecting a good number of times to run your television ad is of critical importance. Is TV always the answer? No. A recent US Business Barometer report revealed that small and medium businesses are increasingly relying on the internet for business growth. The US survey of 780 leaders of organisations with less than 500 employees found that 72 per cent had a website and of those who had websites, an even larger percentage said their company was healthier – had a competitive advantage or stronger economic footing – because of their website. More than three quarters said their website was a tool that generated business leads, while 57 per cent said they generated monthly revenue through online or offline purchases influenced by their website. The most common website success measure was customer and prospect comments, followed by site traffic, sales leads, online sales and internal business process efficiencies. Figures like this explain why TV commercials today often launch on the internet. Fifty year ago who would have imagined lap tops, websites and the internet. The times are a’changing.

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