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Pick A Program | The How & Why of Sales

This past summer, I visited the Nielsen Technology Center in Oldsmar, FL. If you’ve never participated in a review of the actual Nielsen diaries, you should—it’s an eye-opening experience. At times I felt like an anthropologist, examining the written records of the daily television viewing habits of people in my market. This is important business; the data recorded within the diaries has important implications to my TV station, our advertisers and quite possibly my personal income!

I learned some new things from my visit, all while reinforcing some existing beliefs. The trade magazines (including this one) have been covering the story of the fragmented media marketplace for some time. We all talk about it. Remember when a “hit” primetime TV show had a 25 share? Now that label gets applied to any program that garners a 12 share or higher. People have more choices, which can make them more difficult to reach.

Paging through handwritten diaries made it abundantly clear that many consumers consider television to be a tool. It’s there when they need it to do something for them, much like the pliers and screwdrivers on my workbench. The tool analogy is quite accurate. For example, I use a can opener every day at 5am to open pet food containers. I also record The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams every night at 6:30pm, so that I can watch it later after dinner.

There’s a difference between tools and TV shows, however.

Television programs benefit from the element of emotion. People are connected to their favorite programs. I’ve got a drawer full of can openers; I could care less which one I use. But I feel a certain disappointment when I’m busy at night, and unable to watch the most recent Nightly News recording.

Examining how people use television, and comparing those habits with my own, helped to reinforce this conclusion when it comes to SELLING television advertising: you need to Pick A Program.

There are a variety of approaches one can use when selling television advertising. Different stations and different salespeople all have their own styles, and usually seek to sell on a position of strength. In the competitive media sales world, everyone says that they are NUMBER ONE—as if that fact alone will be the magic pill, and provide the final key to success for the beleaguered business owner.
I don’t get hung up on the whole #1 thing. That’s not for lack of having that ranking—my station earns that distinction many times throughout the day, and frequently in weekly audience cume delivery. But who’s got an ad budget sufficient enough to exploit that massive market coverage to its fullest potential? In other words, even if your station cumulatively reaches 80% of the adults in your market in a given week, are your advertisers spending the dollars that it takes to connect with that many people?

In most cases, an advertiser’s campaign on a single station “reaches” fewer people than that station’s maximum delivery potential.

That’s why I say “Pick A Program.” Or even two. I’ve been recommending this approach to new television advertisers for years, but it’s worth a reminder as we talk about HOW television advertising works, and WHY it works. This tactic can work for any station in any market.

I’m partial to Live with Regis and Kelly. Here’s why:
- Fresh episodes daily.
- Broad audience appeal.
- It’s a LIVE program (I like that real-time feel).
- Consistent, quantifiable audience delivery.
- Time period coincides with regular business hours.
- “Double Spotting” (two commercials per day in program) not excessive.
- Engagement? It’s got it! Viewers get involved with the program.

Most advertisers would rather add a 2nd program to the schedule, rather than use a double spot approach. I agree with that, if they’re into advertising for the long haul.

But if they’ve got a special weekend sale, or an OTO event (concert, event, etc.), why not TRIPLE spot in an hour? 20 minutes separation is possible, if you try.

This works. I can name all the regular advertisers in the NBC Nightly News, as well as in my other favorite program, CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer. These programs are ones that I use as tools, making my TV viewing habits similar to those that I witnessed while at Nielsen.

When you Pick A Program, the issue of audience fragmentation is mitigated. Of course, you’ve got to pick the right program; Regis wouldn’t be my first choice for the local launch of a new beer label, or the latest male pattern baldness cure. When you know your programs (and more specifically, their viewing audiences), you’re one step closer to creating success for your advertising clients.

Jeffrey Ulrich is the new business development manager 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,, or at