National TV Spot
Long post. Please bear with me.
Last year I sold a documentary to Discovery Communications. They now own the exclusive US TV rights for four years with a fifth year option. We retain the Blu-ray/DVD/Online streaming rights to the film. Discovery is planning to air the film on their Destination America network on a Saturday night at 10 PM later this summer (I am not at liberty to give the exact date). The film is 90 minutes, but the network is cutting it down to a broadcast hour (42 minutes). The network gets full creative control regarding what is kept and what is cut from the 90 minute feature. The network is also changing the title of the film for their broadcast. Naturally, we are looking to get maximum exposure for the film through the broadcast with the hopes that the broadcast drives traffic to our web site. Essentially, we want people to know that there are 45 minutes to the film that they are not seeing on TV. Obviously we're hoping people buy the Blu-ray/DVD and streaming options. However, with the changing of the film's title, I was concerned that people may not find their way to our site. So I had an idea to produce a 30 second commercial that we would run on Destination America during the broadcast of the film. To avoid violating the existing contract (which prevents me from showing any clips of the documentary on TV in any fashion) I produced a 30 second spot using an on-camera talent delivering the message. The spot does not feature any of the 90 minutes licensed by the network. Here's the spot.
To my surprise, the spot has been approved by the network (I was willing to bet my life they'd see it as a conflict even though it's technically not in breach of contract) and they sent me a quote for what it will cost to run it. They said the spot has to be run a minimum of two times. It will air once during the 10 PM broadcast and again during a re-broadcast at 1 AM. Their quote was for $2,178. Basically I am wondering if that quote is high, low, or in the ballpark. I'd essentially need to sell a minimum of 150 DVDs to break even. With a nationally broadcasted spot on a smaller network like Destination America, do I stand a chance of selling enough Blu-rays/DVDs/Internet On-Demand views to make running the spot worth it?
I welcome your thoughts and feedback. I have ZERO experience in buying air time.
It's hard to say.
To be honest, I've never heard of Destination America so I don't know what the reach there is. But, on the surface it seems that $2K could be fairly cheap for :60 of time on any kind of national cable channel, even a low-tier one.
Remember, you are not just paying for time, you are paying for eyeballs, so what is important is not only how many potential households the channel reaches, but how many people actually watch it. They might be on every cable system in the country, but if they are Channel 938 and literally no one even knows they are there, that's a different story. Or they might be wildly popular, I just don't know (I watch broadcast television at home and don't even have cable... which I realize is quite hypocritical for someone who produces it for a living).
They can tell you that popularity though... what you are looking for is GRP (gross ratings points) of the channel and you'll be able to determine how many viewers are actually being reached, and how much each set of eyeballs is costing you. This might be the time to use a media buyer, if you can find one that will help you. A buyer will instantly be able to read through their propaganda and marketing mumbo jumbo and let you know if this is a decent deal. On the upside, it shouldn't cost you anything to go that route, as a buyer will get an agency rate (lower than the one you were quoted) yet charge you the full rate, and they pocket the difference for their time. On the downside, it might be hard to find one that is all that interested in making a buy just for two :30 spots. If you have any friendly connections in any advertising agencies in your area, maybe their buyer would help you out just as a favor (or at minimum, give you some advice).
Now, of course they can't tell you ratings points for your actual film, because it hasn't aired yet... obviously. But they can make an educated guess based on the channel's overall numbers and past performance of similar productions.
If they give you any say as to when your spot airs, I would request placement as deep into the show as possible (definitely in the second half hour). If it hits in the first commercial break, it might be lost on people who aren't really committed to or invested in the movie, they might simply have not changed channels yet. One that is deep in the show is more likely to be watched by people who are sticking with it, engaged in the film and want to see more. Whatever break you get though, obviously the first spot in the commercial break is the most desirable one, but they might not go as far as letting you pick that exact position.
On the "unsolicited advice" front though, one question I'd have is whether the commercial you've produced will be effective. I don't know your film or what it looks/sounds like, but in the commercial after the first :02 after the talent says "If you've enjoyed what you're watching here tonight" there is absolutely nothing that connects the two separate films... the air version and the director's cut... that could be wildly problematic since the titles are different. If the titles are very similar or associated (if they are calling it "Bridgewater: A Triangle of Doom") and are using very similar graphics and logotypography, then you might have a good association. If however, they are calling it something completely unrelated (i.e., "Mysterious Worlds," or whatever), and their marketing efforts look and feel completely different from yours, then my big concern would be whether any viewers actually associate the two together, much less realize that it's actually the same project. Just something to think about.
It probably frustrates you that they changed the title, but I understand it. The "Bridgewater Triangle" is no doubt well known in that area, but most of the rest of us elsewhere in the country have never heard of it... and you wound up with a long seven-syllable title that doesn't mean anything to people unfamiliar with it, to them it's just clunky words. I'm always reminded of The Hudsucker Proxy, which was an absolutely fantastic movie that was totally killed by a clunky hard-on-the-ear title, that just sounded like a movie no one would want to see. Which is a shame, because it's fantastic.
Hopefully the two projects will be closely associated with each other enough that you'll get great benefit from the airing.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thanks for your feedback. Yes, the title change is frustrating, and the network will not be using our logo for their broadcast. And as of right now, I'm still not sure what their title will be. As far as the commercial goes, due to the contract, I am not allowed to use any footage from my own documentary on TV, thus the use of a talking head and graphics. But here's what I do know . . . Even with the title change, the term "Bridgewater Triangle" is referenced dozens of times throughout the film. Viewers are going to have the term "Bridgewater Triangle" imbedded into their brains. I am hoping that when they see the spot, they'll immediately recognize the connection. Also, we, as the filmmakers, did not invent the term "Bridgewater Triangle". It's a concept that's been around since the late 1970s. There is an endless sea of information about the Bridgewater Triangle online. Our film has been successful enough that a Google search of the phrase "Bridgewater Triangle" (with and without quotes) winds up in our page showing up number one or number two in the organic search results. If any viewers are interested enough in the topic that they take the time to Google it, they are almost guaranteed to find out page. Of course our page will say "see the full 90 minute Directors' cut not featured on Destination America".
I think that's an amazing price. We deliver spots to/for Discovery networks all the time (check out our Ant-Man and Minions spots for Shark Week!) so I'd say that even on one of the smaller networks this is a good deal. I'm happy to give you some tips to get this to pop a little more that aren't too painful if you'd like.
John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.
Thanks for your feedback. I'm all ears on suggestions as well.
Here's one simple suggestion for improving the odds that your spot will get results. The promo code is up so briefly that by the time the viewer understands that it will get them something it's gone. Keep it up for at least half the spot. Yes, on the surface it seems like a low-rent / buy-it now / late night kind of thing, but those spots do that because it boosts sales.
I haven't bought media in the past several years, BUT... frankly one spot per airing isn't likely to get you enough of an impression on the viewers to generate the kind of sales you're hoping for. IMHO. At least double down so that the viewer seeing the spot the second time is more likely to get the pitch. Again IMHO. Can you put both spots into just the first run or are they making it a requirement that you be in both?
The promo codes come on the screen 11 seconds into the spot and stay on until the spot ends. Maybe I need to make them more obvious.
Having both spots run during the 10PM run is a great idea! I will inquire about that.
Oh. On re-watching I see what you're talking about with the "deal" being on the bottom of the screen. Not really able to notice it because there is so much copy. So yes, you need to make the code more obvious as in extending the time it's on screen after it's spelled out by the talent.
It would also be a better idea, although perhaps too late, to reduce the offer from 3 options down to just one for the spot, as in "go online and see how you can see the entire documentary." That way your three options are presented at the speed the reader takes to review it rather than speeding past in a :30 spot. (One again IMHO.)
[Aaron Cadieux] "Having both spots run during the 10PM run is a great idea!"
Yep, Nick is on to something there, I should have thought of that option myself. Definitely see if they will let you do that, you'll be much better off.
One of the big things that makes television advertising effective is frequency... the more often you see something, the better, even if it is not for as long a period of time in the long run.
You probably think you see McDonalds commercials all the time, right? Sure seems that way... but you don't really. McDonalds (usually) only advertises in alternate months... in the months they do advertise, that allows them to cram tons of spots in, very high frequency, and gives you the impression that McD's is on the air constantly. They sacrifice alternate months in order to increase their frequency 2x during the months that they do advertise... for the same yearly budget.
So yep, if they will give you both spots in the same show, I think that's the way to go. Personally I'd also see if they'd give you both of them in the second half hour.... not in the same break, of course, but in adjacent breaks would be fine. Actually, even in the same break would be ok if they will let you "bookend" them (the first and last spot of the break).
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Todd Terry] "So yep, if they will give you both spots in the same show"... Actually, even in the same break would be ok if they will let you "bookend" them (the first and last spot of the break).
Aaron, keep your fingers crossed on all of this media buying advice. The buyer of two spots doesn't have much power... at all. This makes Todd's earlier suggestion of an agency or a media buying firm all the more worthwhile.