producing local cable ads
I'm trying to figure out the best way to approach local businesses with the goal of producing local ad spots on cable. Has anybody here done the same with success? What rates have you charged? Also, and ideas on finding good cheap VO talent? Since I work out of my home office, it's better to find VO talent with their own recording set-up, so they can send me a CD or email me a wav file. What should i expect to pay for VO work?
The local cable company produces spots at a low rate, but I think I can match that rate or beat it, and produce better spots.
I really rather not make cold calls, nor spend alot of money sending out sales literature. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
a lot of local TV stations will produce ads for free as part of selling a the airtime.
It's a tough nut to crack. In many markets, the cable franchise uses local production sales as a revenue generator. Also, many markets have a company or two that buy all the availible time at each local station and cable franchise (at a deep discount block price) and then re-sell the air with production in the price - and they're working on such huge volume that it cuts out most of the local producers.
The only real way to make money in most markets is to have a handfull of clients who pay you to produce the type of spot the agencies' creatives have come up with - but that takes a soild track record, demo reels and sales material just to get an in with the agency. In otherwords, it's still a matter of spending money to make money. Remember too, that chains, dealerships, fast food and the like have national and regional spots produced and provided to them, cutting out most local producers.
As far as VO work...a majority of VO talent comes from somewhat naive local radio jocks. Most get a rate between 100.00 and 500.00 per spot, usually unlimited play. Occasionally you'll come across a local theater group that has a few "voice actors" - they rate at about the same, but may ask for per-play deals or limited runs for the fee.
Like Frank said, It's a tough nut to crack.
In my neck of the woods, the local cable company will produce a turnkey ad for $300.00.
And the top rated TV station in the market will produce for free with an air buy.
As far as VO work is concerned, I think union talent like AFTRA are probably out of your budget.
I do voice work nationally, as a non-union freelancer and my rates vary depending on market size.
For example, my talent fee for a small market TV one year use is only $125.00,
while top market TV one year use is $1000.00.
And on top of the talent fee, there is studio time involved at $100.00 an hour.
I would think that it would be tough to try and eek out a living trying to under cut the local cable company's rates,
but Good Luck with your challenge!
Another added thought:
If you can defintely do better quality than the local cable you might actually be better off charging more and going for the clients who are not looking for a "local spot".
As some of the others have mentioned it's extremely hard to undercut the local cable prices. They are looking to sell the airtime because that's where they will make there money, especially if they do the cable insertion. And they will charge extremely low rates to get people to buy the airtime. At the expense of quality sometimes. It doesn't help the client but it gets them more air sales.
In the area I'm in we have a company that does the cable insertion for all the local cable providers (except for there local channel). They are more interested in the air time and keep some stuff in house but there are plenty of businesses that want better production then they can handle.
There are two ways to approach getting the business:
1. Get a sales rep on the inside who sells airtime. Once you've got them on your side they could use you for there production that is over a certain amount.
2. Do the sales yourself. You would still have to go through whoever sells the airtime but you may get a percentage if you get a new client to buy airtime.
Either way your are going to have to do some selling on your own. especially when you are just starting out.
I have to agree, if you're not already wired up with the cable company, breaking into this is very difficult to do and make a profit. No question you could make a better spot, but that's never been the issue, it's about the access to the airtime and the cost of that access. Clients often don't even care as much about quality as they say they do: they'll be happy to run the "free" spots that look bad, as long as they get enough frequency and can point to results (increased sales, "buzz", or traffic or whatever). The cable company counts on this.
But I have another idea or two for you, along similar lines.
Number one, infomercial, a 30-minute chunk of time YOU buy, then you turn around and offer the client a fully produced extravaganza, and the video slaves at the cable co's production office are now working for YOU, with you directing and writing. Might be part live, part taped. I would go for all taped, better profit margin and fewer screw-ups. We had a hardware store chain here in town that would run these horrible live half-hours on saturday mornings, using the otherwise idle local affiliate's production truck on location. The owners would alternate pre taped spots with informational segments on home improvement topics, or lawn and garden stuff, contest giveaways, and the occasional bad attempt at a comedy skit. I told the guy producing it I thought it was horrible.
He said yes, it was, but he was laughing all the way to the bank: the clients loved being the "stars" of their own "show", and the price break on the otherwise dead time was so good, it only took selling a barbecue or a couple lawnmowers to put it in the black, plus it was driving a lot of traffic to come in on the weekends to see the madness and "get on television".
Typically, you see this kind of programming on local cable shopping channels, often fake talk shows with car dealerships, real estate developers, home remodeling guys or snake oil salesmen, but you might try expanding the horizon to look at some places that have natural settings and activities that can be used to host a decent video... like arts and crafts stores/galleries, a spa, the hardware store, the local Tv and appliance guy, a music shop (instant TV battle of the local bands?, heck, the bands might pay YOU to put them on!)... anybody that's still a small business, not part of any big chains. What about getting a tire store or oil change place to sponsor a pinewood derby race at the store, and you make out like it's a big NASCAR real deal, parody stuff, but a legit race with a prize and all... kids, have your folks drive you and your racer down and win your mom or dad an oil change or whatever. Make a 30-minute drama-doc out of it, seasoned with spots for the hosting shop, you'll play it early Saturday or Sunday morning maybe, when the time is dirt cheap... Offer free DVD's of it with any oil change or something. It's hokey, yes, but it is going to work because it ties into people in the viewing area and involves them, plus it's practially "free" to produce, and the stakes are small.
Idea number two, is forget broadcast altogether, and make something awesome for looping in-house play at the client's location. Using the hardware or lawn and garden store idea, you do a 3-minute mini-epic re-creation of a famous genre film, using the store owners or maybe local theater talent, but with a lawn mower theme. I'm picturing a re-creation of the engine-starting scene from "Flight of The Phoenix", only it's about trying to start the rebuilt mower... leads to a pitch on bringing in your mower for a tune up and blade sharpening...
...or the Bobby Duval scene, talking to the car (mower) in "Days of Thunder"...segue to two guys "racing" their push mowers along the property line... (you need this to be a "guy" film you're parodying)... you produce a new chapter or episode every week, with the "premiere screening" advertised to be every saturday noon, bring the kids, have a hot dog and a soda, see our movie, and check out our sale items.....you've made a visit to the store into an EVENT!!!
You would have to be careful not to violate copyright laws, but I've seen local car dealers make much worse stuff than this idea. Nowadays, you can even pay to get such a mini-movie shown before the feature at local multiplexes, using a video projector. Just imagine! Anyhow, that's my pitch on what to do when the cable company has a "lock" on the local spot production...do something they can't or won't or couldn't even imagine, and charge accordingly. If you make money on the ideas, I just want credit for thinking of it.;-)