Specialty TV Services: Media buyers want more than standard rate card

An appropriate editorial environment, preferential treatment for charter advertisers, sponsorship opportunities and audience guarantees are some of the things media buyers say they want before they will commit their clients' advertising dollars to the new specialty tv services.In the absence of...

An appropriate editorial environment, preferential treatment for charter advertisers, sponsorship opportunities and audience guarantees are some of the things media buyers say they want before they will commit their clients’ advertising dollars to the new specialty tv services.

In the absence of verifiable audience research data – both quantitative and qualitative – in the months leading up to and following their launch, the specialty services must be prepared to bring more than a standard advertising rate card to the table, experts say.

‘Normally, when we buy, we look in terms of the performance,’ says Florence Ng, vice-president of broadcast services at Toronto-based Optimedia, the media buying arm of Foote Cone & Belding.

‘But if the service is new, there is an element of risk involved,’ Ng says.

‘For us to set aside the element of risk, we’ll be looking for a little bit extra, something that conventional television cannot offer, or is unlikely to offer,’ she says.

Ng says that little bit extra might take the form of a product placement, in which the producers of a home improvement show, for example, would agree to use Black & Decker products on air, in addition to the booking of regular commercial airtime.

‘Anything to get the product a bit more exposure,’ she says.

And given that many of the programs to be aired by the new specialty services will be produced domestically, the likelihood of putting together such a package is greater than that with the conventional tv networks, which buy much of their programming ready-made from the u.s.

Even so, Ng says the single biggest factor in deciding whether to advertise is the programming – whether it speaks to the same target audience as a particular client would want to reach.

Bruce Baumann, vice-president and director of media services at Toronto-based ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, says he wants to see whatever preliminary audience research the specialty services can provide, but cautions that he, for one, will be taking any such findings with a grain of salt.

Baumann points to a study presented at a research symposium in France earlier this year by Barry Kiefl, director of audience research at cbc.

‘One of the major things [Kiefl] identified [with respect to new tv properties before they launch] was that a lot of people say they are going to watch something, and then they don’t,’ he says.

‘A lot of people say they are going to watch [The] Discovery [Channel], Bravo!, or whatever, and the reality is, they’d much rather watch Gilligan’s Island.

‘So, any kind of proforma research on what people are going to watch can be flawed, depending on how the questions are asked, and how the consumer places himself, or herself, in terms of how they want people to think about them.’

As a result, Baumann will be looking for audience guarantees.

‘If the network is going to attract advertisers and buyers who are going to feel comfortable about the purchase, if they are willing to make estimates of their audiences, they should be willing to guarantee those estimates, and provide compensation if the numbers don’t bear up,’ he says.

‘That’s fair and proper, and it puts them in a light that we can then sell to our client.’

Donna McDougall, group manager, media buying at Toronto-based Initiative Media, says she, too, will be looking for a risk-free advertising buy.

‘Anything they quote us, we want it guaranteed 100%,’ McDougall says.

‘Let’s say we buy for widgets and gadgets, and their audience projections were based on 50,000 viewers,’ she says.

‘If, when the numbers come in, they deliver only 25,000, they are going to owe us those impressions later on down the line.’

As well, McDougall wants clients who sign up as charter advertisers to be offered first right of refusal on new programming of the same nature in subsequent years.

Most importantly, McDougall says, she wants the specialty services to approach her with sponsorship and promotional opportunities that are custom-made for her clients.

‘If they came in here and said, `This is our rate card, this is our [run-of-schedule,] let me know what you think you would like to buy for your client,’ I would put them at the bottom of my pile,’ she says.

‘But if they came in here with a specific campaign for Maybelline, and knew about some of their products, that’s a different story.’

McDougall says if an idea is exciting enough, it does not matter if the client’s advertising budget is already committed.

‘Clients will find the money if the opportunity is there,’ she says. ‘Or they will earmark it for down the road.’

David Stanger, senior vice-president and media director at Toronto-based advertising agency bbdo, says, as far as he is concerned, the new specialty services have already taken the first step in convincing him to advertise.

‘They got themselves approved, which means that somebody, rightly or wrongly, thinks they have viable concepts,’ Stanger says.

Ideally, Stanger says he would first like to meet with the program directors of the specialty services to have them explain how they arrived at their program schedules because ‘that, in itself, reveals to me who they think they are going to be talking to.’

Ultimately, he would like to identify opportunities, where, at the ground level, he could involve his clients with specific properties, from a titling perspective, or even get them involved in product placement, if that makes sense.

‘I’m excited about this, because any time you get new players in the market, they are open to innovation and suggestion and to a relationship,’ Stanger says.