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Small firms: Buy TV ads without busting your ad budget

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TV advertising isn’t only for big businesses. Cable providers want your business, and they can help you create affordable commercials.

Cable systems offer commercial production services to create 30-second spots starting at $500 to $1,200, including scripts, voice-over, local talent and a jingle. Run the ad several times per week for about $1,500 a month.

While cable advertising is obviously cheaper because of its smaller audience, cable also lets you target local geographic and demographic groups. That’s because specialized programming breaks audiences into narrow segments according to age, income, interests and other characteristics.

Cable companies sell advertising according to regional zones. Example: A cable company with 150,000 subscribers might consist of five zones. You can place ads in as many or as few zones as you want.

To explore cable advertising in your area, follow these four steps:

1. Write a profile of your target market, including age, gender, household income, education, hobbies and interests. Decide which geographic area to target.

2. Contact your local cable provider, and request a proposal that includes names of programs matching your customer profile. Examples: Accountants can target talk shows about investing; golf courses can target sports programs.

3. Know the difference between fixed-position spots and run-of-station spots. Fixed spots cost more because they air during certain programs at specific times. Run-of-station spots cost less because they run during any program at any time, even overnight. Advice: Buy the most number of fixed spots at the lowest cost and specify the times you want them to run. (Track whether the stations follow through.)

4. Shop around for production work. Local freelance producers sometimes charge less than cable companies to create TV commercials.

Online resource: To obtain a quote, contact the sales department of your local cable provider. Three national firms: Comcast (, Cox ( and Time Warner (

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