It may seem like a good idea. You can save the 15% advertising agency commission and you can save a lot more than that if you end up with an unscrupulous advertising agency that substantially marks up the media time and then charges a commission on top of that.
The truth is that buying your own TV media time is a huge mistake, unless your law firm is large enough for an in-house professional media buyer. Buying your own TV media time is equivalent to your client being his or her own lawyer. Not only does it require experience, knowledge and services you don’t have, but it is much more work than you think, requiring time you don’t have.
An advertising agency will have access to expensive research and monitoring services such as Nielsen Media Research or CMR. An advertising agency will periodically research all lawyers advertising on TV in your market to determine which TV stations and programs competing lawyers advertise on; how many commercials they air per month on each TV station; and the amount they spend for each commercial. You probably thought that you should advertise where there is less competition, but a good advertising agency knows that you want to be where the competition is.
A good advertising agency will not only have the knowledge and experience to choose the right stations, TV shows, days and times for your particular advertising goals, but will also do all of the scheduling work in a changing environment. TV stations periodically change TV shows and times; ratings and prices are always changing; elections and large short-term advertising campaigns can significantly increase costs. A media buyer must constantly stay on top of scheduling.
An advertising agency will monitor your advertising campaign to make sure that your TV spots are run when they are supposed to. The advertising agency will periodically analyze results to determine if expectations are being met and whether scheduling changes need to be made.
If you choose to buy your own TV media time for your law firm, assuming you had the experience and knowledge, you will have to do all of this work yourself. It’s hard to imagine many lawyers who have the extra time to do all this.
When you call a TV station directly, your account will be given to a salesperson whose job is to sell media time on only one TV station. The salesperson at a TV station will not provide you with advertising agency services, except producing an inexpensive and ineffective TV commercial to get you on the air. You may get a good and experienced salesperson or you may end up with a salesperson that is not experienced or is more interested in commissions. In either case, it is unlikely that the salesperson is interested in increasing commissions.
When you call a TV station to purchase your own media time, you will be quoted a retail rate while an advertising agency will be quoted a wholesale rate. Any advertising agency should be able to purchase media time at least 15% less than you can. A good advertising agency will be able to do even better. Consequently, you will get advertising agency services for free. With a good advertising agency, not only will you get the services for free, but you will pay even less for the media time.
When negotiating the price for TV spots, you are at a substantial disadvantage because you do not purchase media time every day. As a lawyer, you do not know how much you should pay for different TV spots; whether you are entitled to free bonus spots; or how many. A 30 second spot is not the same as any other 30 second spot. There are many differences affecting the value, too many to mention here. Imagine allowing a personal injury client to negotiate a settlement for his or her own case.
Hopefully, you have decided to have an advertising agency create a TV advertising campaign for your law firm and do your media buying. Should you call the TV stations first so you know what you should be paying before you call an advertising agency?
Again, that would be a mistake. When you call a TV station, you will be assigned to a sales representative who will quote you a retail rate. When you later call an advertising agency, the media buyer at the advertising agency will call the TV station and be assigned to a different sales representative who will be quoting a wholesale rate. Now, the TV station has a problem. There are two sales representatives fighting for the same account and one quoted a retail rate, while the other quoted a wholesale rate. Which sales representative do you think will get the account?
I have even seen a situation where a law firm called a TV station and six months later called an advertising agency. The TV station had a record of the lawyer calling six months earlier and told the advertising agency that they would not sell TV media time to the advertising agency. They told the advertising agency to tell the lawyer to call the station. The lawyer was forced to deal directly with the TV station.