For the last 19 years I’ve been in the local television advertising business. First as television advertising account executive for eleven years (I sold airtime). Now I own an advertising agency that creates local television advertising campaigns. A local television advertising issue that I’ve dealt with daily for 16 years is “free production”. Free production meaning an advertiser gets a television station or the local cable operator to produce their television commercial for free in exchange for an airtime purchase.
I think it’s a lousy short sighted business practice for both sides of the exchange. But it’s especially misguided for the advertiser. Think about it. For a business that advertises on television, their commercial is their image. Their commercial is the most important business presentation they will make. In terms of sales and marketing their commercial is everything.
Do you get your haircut for free at the barber college? Do you buy a suit for the big job interview at the second hand shop? I’m guessing probably not. Then why would a business go to the “barber college” of advertising production to create its’ image? It’s not hard pick out the commercials you see on television that were produced for “free”. We laugh at those commercials all the time.
Bottom line the businesses that go for the “free production” aren’t really saving any money. What they’re doing is wasting a significant percentage of their airtime investment presenting a cheap image of themselves to their prospects and customers.
If you’re going to advertise on television hire professionals to write and produce your commercials. Then devote a significant amount of your time communicating to them what’s special about your business and its’ products and services.
After you’ve hired professional script writers and producers, you should also delegate the purchase of your airtime to media buying professionals. But if you find yourself negotiating a media buy, tell the sales rep that since you aren’t using their free production you want to be compensated for the production services you’re not using with equal value on their airtime rates.