All commercials are designed to sell something... a product or an idea. They are the financial backbone of radio and television stations in the United States.
There are four main types of commercials:
The station ID- This is the public relations trademark for the station. Generally it includes the call letters, the city in which the station is located, and the channel or dial location of the station. Many times this is done with a jingle of some kind or plug for the station. For example: “The most watched news in the area!” A station ID with the complete call letters, location on the dial or channel, and the city and state where the station is located is required by the F.C.C. (Federal Communications Commission) at the top of every hour.
P.S.A (Public Service Announcement)- The job of the P.S.A. is to sell an idea, not a product. Service groups, government agencies, etc. send P.S.A. copy and sometimes a prepackaged spot for use at the station. Examples include health care tips, home care/ repair tips, services available to the public at no cost.
Network Spot- Created by an advertising firm and fed throughout the country over a network during network programming. Examples include General Mills Cereals, Coke, Pepsi, Nike (etc.)
National Spot Advertising- Created by an advertising firm and ran in select markets throughout the country where it’s practical to do so. For example, we see Kroger commercials in this market, but WBOY or WDTV wouldn’t run Piggly Wiggly spots because there are no Piggly Wiggly stores here.
Local Advertising- Bought and produced in the local area with the local population in mind. Examples include: Harry Green Chevrolet, Glass Doctor, Lizzy’s Attic, (etc.) A local spot can and does run during a network chain break. A chain break is when the network breaks away for 30 or 60 seconds for local spots to be run. This is often done in a cluster or several spots running back to back.
At one time full sponsorship was the rule. Especially during the 1950s, a sponsor would pay for and produce a television or radio series. Production costs escalated, so sponsors went to shared sponsorship (two or more spots in one show) or participating sponsorship (one spot per show.)
60-second commercials (spots) used to be common. Today most are 30 seconds. Sometimes 10-second spots are used.
Spots are sold for a specific day part. A day part is the time that a certain audience demographic is viewing or listening. Spots are also geared toward a certain demographic. A demographic is a group of people generally the same age, sex, and income. One or two demographics make up the target audience or the main demographic you wish to reach with your advertising. Others who may be listening or viewing, but don’t fall into the target audience are considered the shadow audience.
Stations, networks, and advertising agencies know who is watching or listening in each day part. The commercial is always geared to that audience. For example, toys are advertised when children are generally watching. You wouldn’t advertise toys during a football game.
Certain day parts are going to cost more than others, because there may be more people watching at certain times. This is determined by two services Arbitron which is a diary kept by viewers or listeners, or Nielson which is an electronic surveillance. These agencies conduct rating sweeps four times each year: February, May, July, and November. You will notice more “blockbuster” programming during these months.
The popularity of programming is measured by:
Rating- The total audience watching a program for five or more minutes.
Share- The percentage of total households using television (HUT) reached by a station.
A “book” is published shortly after sweeps. The stations develop a rate card based on the findings. The rate card explains how much a spot costs for each program or day part. How much time is still available also figures into the cost. The station salesperson will make up a proposal of his or her recommendations for the best time a business’s spot should run.
If a certain time is not preferred, the spot will run ROS or run of schedule. This means the spots can run anytime during the day or night. This is generally cheaper, but a specific audience is not targeted. If a spot doesn’t run for some reason a make good is run at a later time.
Television relies on visual stimulation primarily; radio has to rely on audio only. Part of a sales presentation for television is a storyboard. A storyboard includes the audio portion of a commercial with the main video scenes. It lets the advertiser know how the spot will look and serves as a guide for a production crew. Storyboards are used in many television productions.
Advertising is a tried and precise enterprise. The smallest detail is never neglected. Commercials have to have an angle in order to sell. Animals and kids are frequently used in commercials because they are often able to tug the viewer or listener’s heartstrings and sell products. The look has to be right. When O.J. Simpson was charged with murdering his wife, Hertz yanked him as their spokesperson. He had developed a negative image. When somebody wins the Olympics, everybody is trying to sign him or her because they are a folk hero... and that sells.