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This is the latest in our Vantage Points series. On a semi-weekly basis, it will tap the perspectives of various lookout points from around the local media and tech sectors. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect that of BIA/Kelsey. Please contact mbolandATbiakelsey if you have insights to share. 

Ten Tips for Broadcasters Selling Digital Advertising

By Tim Reynolds


A recent article in TV NewsCheck explored the changes in local TV sales departments due to ad dollars shifting to digital media. Stations are launching digital ad agencies, increasing training in digital products, using CRM to track clients, and generally undergoing massive changes to pursue local ad dollars.

For the past 60+ years, local TV stations entertained and informed communities, with whom they also connected advertisers. As digital media emerged in the late 90’s, TV stations adapted by adding web sites, e-mail blasts, and later, mobile apps. More recently, stations expanded into ad products fully departed from television, with the exception the same account execs selling them.

Becoming IAB Certified to sell digital ads is good for such account execs, but it can also exceed their financial and bandwidth realities. Speaking from ten years experience training broadcast account execs to sell local digital ads, here are 10 tips.

1. Audit the client’s digital presence. I once heard a Google employee say that if a business doesn’t have a mobile optimized web site, advertising was like flushing money down the toilet. Check to make sure a given advertiser has a web site, or a Facebook page, or a destination to send traffic. Maybe you can create a landing page for them using your station’s CMS. Maybe they can create a simple business page using Wix, or Squarespace. It is a huge hurdle to get businesses buy digital advertising if they don’t believe in it enough to invest in a digital presence. Google “Teach a Pig to Sing.”

2. Don’t forget, it’s all about results. Just like a rating point has never purchased a car, neither has an impression. Ratings, page-views, and impressions are measurements for media companies. But sales are measurement terms local advertisers understand. Make sure you know what their expectations are, and why they are considering advertising. A needs analysis goes a long way.

3. Choose the right KPIs. Building from the previous tip, how is the advertiser measuring campaign results? The digital jargon for that is “conversion.” But make sure you’re speaking their language. It might be a ten percent sales increase, or newsletter signups, or Facebook likes, or website appointments. The best way to reach their goals is to make sure you’re measuring the right things.

4. Choose the right targeting scope. There are many ways to target local consumers. Think through how much targeting is necessary. Geotargeting can be more precise, but can also narrow the target area too much. One tactic is to geotarget the same area with the same message using both digital and traditional media (a.k.a multi-platform). That way a broader base of consumer media habits is reached.

5. Behavioral targeting has its limits. Ever since Edward Snowden became a household name, consumers have become more aware of privacy issues. There is a middle ground between basic demographic targeting and the level of targeting that creeps consumers out. Target just enough to reach your audience.

6. Over-explain and constantly reinforce. It took decades for most advertisers to understand reach and frequency. Explain how a banner ad is similar to a terrestrial billboard or a print ad… and the copy should be just as concise. Explain how e-mail marketing is like direct mail, but it gets opened more. Admit that pre-rolls are potentially annoying but effective, and that’s why they need a custom 10 or 15-second spot, rather than recycle a 30-second TV spot.

7. Consider your role as educator, not sales. One of my favorite books is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Its major principle was to think of things from the other person’s perspective. Explain digital products to advertisers in the context of how it will benefit them. And explain it in ways they’ll understand, such as traditional media terms they know. Eyeballs are still eyeballs… they are just looking at more and different things.

8. It’s all in the reporting. There is benefit to providing digital reports, but it also requires more in-person explaining. That can provide a great excuse to get in front of advertising clients, which is still important in this texting, Snap-chatting, Facebooking age. If they understand the reports you provide and it correlates with the sales results they’re separately measuring, they’ll renew.

9. K.I.S.S.. Digital marketing is overwhelming to most SMBs. Start simple with one new product, ideally added to a traditional spot schedule. Then add different products as success dictates. Don’t try to boil the ocean.

10. Allow extra time. Display ads take longer to create and approve than a TV spot. Don’t rush advertisers, because they’re in uncharted waters. Allow time for the ad to rest, or for them to show it to front-line employees for discussion. Buy-in for the creative is essential.

Despite lots of differing opinion, local digital advertising can be sold successfully by traditional television account executives. But it takes some work and common sense. The key: be seen as a marketing consultant, not just another peddler.

1d88a76Tim Reynolds is a 15-year digital media expert.  He has  participated in the growth of the digital media as far back as the early days of Quantum Link. Today he is a published thought leader who speaks at major media conferences on trends and successes with digital revenue.   

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. From the perspective of a broadcast/digital sales person- these tips resonate well and capture some of the challenges faced. Notably, attempts for campaign’s effectiveness being the ocean was not ‘boiled’, as expectations are not thoroughly established/examined on the front-end. The time to allow for equity, adjustment and ultimate ownership of the creative can be mistakenly overlooked in the rush to post… good points.

  2. The real story is that the emperor has no clothes. TV station groups are simply buying digital agencies and charging higher prices for Demand Side Platform advertising. Most agencies, and even some direct advertisers, are catching on that they can handle the Digital placement and do it for less. The turnover in TV Station Digital clients is enormous, whether it is their Website or DSP/Ad Network advertising.

    The only thing a TV station can do that others can’t is sell you their Broadcast Inventory and the Prime positioning on their own website. Everything else can be accomplished by someone else for less money.

    How is that a competitive advantage?

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