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Tuning in to the advertising bargains

Monday, 15 August 2011 | By Oliver Milman

If you live in central Queensland and watched the grand final of MasterChef last weekend, there’s a good chance that you saw a rather dynamic local small business among the scenes of Matt, George and Gary toying with the emotions of the finalists with their painfully-drawn out judging.


The Rockhampton franchise of hair and beauty brand Hairhouse Warehouse managed to bag a 30-second commercial during the coverage for a paltry $460.


With an estimated seven in 10 viewers of the 250,000-strong central Queensland region tuning into the show, the return on investment was impressive, especially considering that six extra TV spots were thrown into the bargain, during other Ten Network shows such as Renovators and Modern Family.


So how can small businesses get such great bargains and punch well above their modest marketing budgets?


For Hairhouse Warehouse, the deal was the culmination of a long-term strategy. Although the franchise pays a weekly 3% marketing fee to head office, it also sets aside between 3 and 6% of its weekly revenue for extra campaigns.


“”We always commit long term to marketing, not just one or two months at a time,” explains Jason Kliese, who co-owns the franchise along with his wife Jodie.


“We signed a 13-month deal with Channel Seven last year. We also advertise on (local radio station) Hot FM and their sales rep rang up to say that there was space to fill on Ten during the MasterChef grand final.


“I believe that you need to see or hear about a brand 21 times to respond to it. If you just do it once or twice it doesn’t have the cut through.


“It was phenomenal exposure for us. Last week, our sales were 27% up compared with the same week last year. A few people have come in and mentioned the ad.”


In for the long haul


Kliese’s long-term focus on marketing has two key benefits – it allows him to plan for periods of year when cashflow is weak, such as in the months following the Christmas surge, as well as help foster long-term relationships with media sales reps.


“When you look at the marketing spend of Harvey Norman or Good Guys, I’d say that we punch well above our weight,” he says. “You have to form a good relationship with the reps and make it a win-win – they hit their targets and get guaranteed business, while you get the fantastic offers given to you.”


“Once a week I will see the sales rep for Hot FM and Ten, and then every three weeks I’ll see Channel Seven.”


Given the rates that Kliese pays, it’s easy to see why he puts in the effort with the reps. Radio spots can sell for as little as $20 for 30 seconds, while TV will be upwards of $35. Production costs for a 15-second TV spot are around $200.


The Queensland floods deterred many local small businesses from marketing themselves, pushing down the prices for those looking to continue advertising.

However, it’s not just in the sunshine state where marketing bargains can be sniffed out by start-ups. Ongoing consumer conservatism across Australia has seen rates for media space drop as big brands trim their marketing budgets.


Ben Willee, managing director of media buying firm Ikon Melbourne, says that savvy small businesses can land very attractive deals.


“It’s a very difficult time in the media marketplace because consumer sentiment is so crap, so a lot of advertisers are standing aside,” he says.


“The market is soft but a lot of small businesses make the mistake that volume is more important than quality, All airtime isn’t equal – you need to see where your audience is and what media they are consuming.”


Getting your targets right


If you want to hone in on a particular demographic, the way TV is split up and sold can suit you. In Victoria, for example, the state is split into five different TV markets, which are aggregated and then sold off, meaning that SMEs can get an ad for $100 in a small sub-market.


Willee contends that Google Search is the best bet for cost-conscious start-ups, but more traditional media can help build your brand, rather than just sales.


Newspapers, for example, can prove a fertile hunting ground for start-ups. A half-page weekday ad in a section of The Age, for example, costs $8,825, while a quarter page of the Daily Telegraph’s magazine is about the same.


While these rates may seem a bit steep, small businesses can take advantage of ‘distressed’ rates, where publishers try to shift unsold space at a last-minute, discounted rate. The savings can be as much as 80%.


However, as Willee points out, these offers aren’t open to everyone. “You need a relationship with the sales reps and be spending in the market for a long period before getting those deals,” he says. “You need to be fair dinkum, not a tyre kicker.”


Aside from working the phones with the sales reps, you need a solid marketing strategy. There’s not much point picking up a bargain if it doesn’t reach your target market.


“You need the mindset of ‘what is it going to take to get exposure in front of my target market?’,” says marketing consultant Michael Halligan. “Once you think like that, opportunities will open up. Businesses that get deals are constantly badgering people for exposure. They are like bulldogs.


“There’s not one person you can go to get exposure. You need dogged determination and quickly identify opportunities that come up.”

Thinking creatively


Halligan recommends using Twitter as a tool to unearth good deals. By following the key figures in the local media market, you should be able to get a sense of discounted rates or events that you can capitalise upon.


You can also get decent PR exposure from following outlets such as Sourcebottle, which is regularly used by journalists seeking small businesses to cover in stories.


Don’t be afraid to fashion marketing opportunities out of nothing. Halligan says a great example is a small food brand that parked its heavily-logoed van outside the MCG during the two AFL grand finals last year. For a $20 parking fee, the brand was exposed to a large chunk of the 100,000 crowd.


“Develop a checklist of the key characteristics of your customers – such as geographic location, age, sex and habits,” says Halligan. “Then think about where these people are and what media they consume.


“Try and do something creative and different. When an SME goes above and beyond, people have a better reaction than a large company with lots of money. You can gain a lot of respect and amplify your message far beyond the original campaign if you are creative.”