Planning TV on a shoestring

From concentrating your efforts, pulsing and sponsorship, to optimised spots lengths, here’s some advice on how to approach your TV planning on a challenging budget that is lower than your ambition.

There are many ways of making your budget stretch further by maximizing the best value parts of TV.  As long as you’re not compromising your target audience, bargains can be found by optimizing your seasonality, regionality, day-parts and channel or platform selection.

From concentrating your efforts, pulsing and sponsorship, to optimised spots lengths, here’s some advice on how to approach your TV planning on a challenging budget that is lower than your ambition. 

Almost 60% of TV advertisers spent less than £250k on TV in 2018

Stretch the campaign

We know from research that TV advertising, if it is engaging, lives for a long time in our memory. In order to lengthen the campaign, you could adopt for a ‘pulse’ strategy where you advertise week-on week-off in order to ‘top-up’ that memory.

Optimise your time lengths

There is no point using short time-lengths, just to ‘save’ money if the creative idea demands a longer execution. However, having established a campaign, it might be possible to build frequency by introducing a cut-down length, either to run alongside the longer time-length or on its own.

Consider sponsorship

Sometimes, TV sponsorships cost more than the airtime equivalent. But, often, sponsorships cost less, particularly if the programme has specialist appeal. However, the ‘specialists’ may be exactly who you are looking for. Although sponsorship works in a different way from advertising, if used correctly, it can achieve many of the objectives that a spot campaign would address (e.g. awareness, establishing or changing brand image, response). It also has the potential to give you extended TV presence, if you sponsor a long running programme, and can be a great way to bridge the gap between TV bursts.

Beauty Bay sponsored Girls Aloud Christmas Special on ITV1

It may be better to sponsor a programme that has a smaller, but highly loyal audience. Thinkbox research – Get With The Programmes - showed that there was a significant uplift of metrics when comparing fans of the programme to other viewers.  Therefore, it may be that a programme that has a smaller but passionate audience may be as/more effective as a programme with a larger but more ambivalent audience and will almost certainly cost less.

BeautyBay and Chambord is a great example of an advertiser who used TV sponsorship to build their brand.

Concentrate your efforts

With smaller budgets it is often better to try do an effective job on a smaller segment of your target audience rather than maximize coverage but at an inadequate frequency. Classic tactics to achieve this include topping and tailing breaks, advertising in a limited number of programmes or limiting the range of channels. Condensing the time frame is also likely to achieve this effect. Great value can also be found by optimising your seasonality, regionality, day-parts and channel mix. Find out how Bulldog used clever targeting of dual viewing occasions to stimulate conversation between female buyers and male users.

You can also find out how Churchill drove spontaneous awareness, reduced their CPAs and helped to keep children safe by concentrating their efforts exclusively on Channel 4.

The Churchill Lollipopper campaign

Investigate incentives

Some TV companies offer incentives for first time advertisers or to advertisers who have not advertised on TV for a number of years. This may be an airtime discount or it may be an offer of funds to help you produce a commercial or research the campaign. If you qualify, make sure you investigate all potential incentives from all TV companies before you conclude your deal.

Different business models

On occasions, TV companies have shown themselves willing to trade in innovative ways to encourage new advertisers. These might include payment by response, substituting equity shares for cash or barter arrangements.

Capture the effect

TV generates instant responses as well as long-term brands. These can come via a variety of channels like retail or online. It’s important to be prepared for the effect TV will have. Make sure your retail distribution is adequate to meet the extra demand that is likely to be created. Your website should also reference the TV campaign, both to maximize TV’s positive effect on natural search and to lead online response to the correct section of your website. Sometimes a unique URL, rather than a generic corporate one, will achieve this best.

Creative integration

Research shows TV has a strong influencing role on all other media. If you hear a radio ad, it will resonate much more clearly with you if you have seen the TV ad before. It is important to ensure, in all the other media you may use, that your creative executions have consistency, visually and aurally, via branding, icons, characters and music.

You might also like

Audience profiles

Headline facts and figures for the key TV buying audiences, from their universe size to the average number of ads they view per day.


New to TV Training

Thinkbox’s free training workshops are designed to give you a really good grounding in the essentials of today’s TV and what the medium can do for advertisers – SIGN UP HERE


Introduction to advertising on TV

Some first words on getting your brand on TV plus some pointers as to what you’ll find throughout this New to TV section