Avoid the "Paid Media" Trap

Friday, September 11, 2009 18:14
Avoid the

In today's ever-changing media landscape, we're bombarded with an increasing number of messages that span a growing number of platforms, ranging from the familiar TV and newspaper, to newer tools like Twitter and Facebook. This has led to a growing number of firms claiming that they can help you cut through all this clutter and reach a number of potential customers by purchasing airtime on a TV or radio outlet. However, as the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.


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I'm not sure why, but it seems that almost every former famous athlete around at some point in retirement converts to a paid pitchman for some product or service. The trend has even grown to include a few former journalists, mostly former TV anchors who've been out of the game for quite some time. These individuals work on behalf of a variety of production companies that buy television time when rates are cheap and relatively few people are watching. The goal of these companies is to sell these blocks of time to a business that's essentially buying a 30-minute commercial.


The programming itself consists of a spokesperson extolling the virtues of the client whose product or service is being promoted. This ranges from the kind of products traditionally hawked on informercials -- such as cleaning products -- to financial products and services touted to be the next great thing. While they don't generally violate any laws governing the marketing of products or services, they don't generate a bonanza of returns either.

They exist in print form too, only in this instance they're required to be labeled as advertising supplements due to special requirements the U.S. Postal Service places on print media outlets in order to qualify for preferred postage rates available only to them.

It might be surprising to know that it's not just big businesses that are approached engage in a paid media campaign. Because they're cheap, relatively speaking, a variety of my small business clients over the years have been targeted by companies producing the broadcasts or special sections. The sales person will lead with the fact that you'll be "guaranteed" to reach a phenomenal number of people. It won't be until much later in the pitch that you'll be told the story will actually appear in an advertising supplement or as part of a paid media buy. 

Because they're cheap to produce, the companies who make them can cut their traditional ad rates significantly and still make a lot of money. Unfortunately, for the client purchasing the space or time, the returns generally won't be any near as great.

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