11.11.2003 07:04 PM
New Ideas For The New Year
Anyone with a Magic 8 or crystal ball, or an Old Farmer's Almanac has already tried to predict how the business of television advertising will perform in 2004. Whether you use the TVB's forecast of 7-8% growth for local spot revenue, or the even rosier numbers being painted by some financial analysts, it's clear that expectations are high for the year ahead.

The January 2004 broadcast month begins on Monday, December 29. We all have lofty goals for the year, so we can't afford to waste a single day! Here's an idea that can help you hit the ground running that week:

Ask yourself: Who doesn't make a few New Year's Resolutions? For example, "This is the year that I'm going to lose 20 pounds, read more books, volunteer in my community, etc." While these resolutions may be well-intentioned, most are never carried out for a variety of reasons.

When I worked in the Syracuse market a few years ago, I had a small health and fitness club as an advertising client. They had just one location. Their advertising budget was a mere fraction of that of their bigger competitors.

We brainstormed for ideas that could help them differentiate themselves, knowing that in their business, January is a BIG month for new member signups. Then it hit me! Why not take ownership of the airways on January 1? If everyone is saying "I'm going to lose weightÓ when they wake up that day, why not be there to say "I can help you lose weight (if you commit to a one-year membership by 12 noon today)"?

I explained to the client that New Year's Eve is not the same for everyone: While some people may enjoy a late night of merriment and amateur overindulgence, there is another segment of the population that calls it quits at 12:01 a.m. after watching TV coverage of the ball drop in Times Square. All those people need to see the next morning is the right offer, because there's never going to be a better time to reach people looking to lose weight than the morning hours of New Year's Day.

Our TV commercial's message was clear: "If you've been thinking of joining a fitness club, NOW is the time to do it! Make your resolutions become reality! But this special offer is valid only until Noon TODAY!"

We aired a series of commercials heavily between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. on January 1. The result: the owners, who had intended to close the gym at 12 p.m. that day, had to stay open an extra three hours to process all the new applications! Their television advertising investment paid off in a big way, setting new records for membership sales.

If all the fitness centers are covered in your market, then choose another category. While weight loss is a popular resolution, there are others to consider. I just read that 57% of Americans do not have a will, potentially leaving them without a say over issues involving their assets or care of any dependents after they die. While a "Hurry, offer ends at 12 noon today!Ó approach may not be recommended for that category, simply addressing the topic could be the catalyst that gets people to take action, and have a will prepared (by YOUR new client).

Here in the Northeast, I know some home improvement contractors who sit idle during the first three months of the year. They say it's foolish to spend money on advertising when credit card bills from holiday shopping are arriving. They believe that "everyone is tapped out." Maybe they just like being broke and bored. Me? I think there's nothing that says "new basement remodeling jobÓ faster than hosting a couple dozen people in your home for the holidays!

The other side benefit that comes from creating new television advertisers in January is the fact that they can usually get MORE airtime for LESS money as compared to the rest of the year. You know your inventory better than I do, but let's face it, anybody who wants to get on the air in January can. It's up to you to manage the client's expectations as far as rates are concerned. The same schedule you run in Q1 may cost 40% more in May. That's why a detailed value summary should be part of the post-flight discussion. Position Q2 and Q4 rates as "normal," and Q1 and Q3 rates as being "on sale"--that's an analogy that any retailer can understand.

While my first idea was limited to a January 1 execution, the others are not. However, the time to pitch these ideas is NOW... before everyone's burning off their vacation time before December 31.

Jeffrey Ulrich is a member of the sales team at WHEC, Rochester, NY. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the position of HBI, Inc. He can be reached through his website, www.hidefjeff.com, or at julrich@uemedia.com. Your comments and suggestions are welcome: Please email webmaster or editor


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