Most local TV marketing executives have few media advertising choices to reach news consumers to convince them to watch newscasts on their stations. A former station CSD turned media buyer gives her insights into what’s new, what’s changing and what her top recommendations are for local TV stations when it comes to paid media.
by Paul Greeley June 28, 2021 7:33 EDT
If you’re a local TV creative services director/marketing director assessing your media advertising options to reach news consumers to convince them to watch your newscasts on TV, you have only two choices.
Your own on-air and social media platforms, which are essentially free for 365 days a year, and paid outside media, which is usually tied to network and syndicated co-op dollars offered only during the three ratings months.
How effective is your own airtime on your station? What about your station’s Facebook page? And is sweeps-only media buying still the norm? What about digital?
Lauren Ridgley is in a unique position when it comes to local TV media buying. She’s a former CSD and promotion manager for Cox, Hearst and CBS O&O stations around the country. She was an account manager and media buyer at a media buying company, handling accounts for broadcast and network TV. She’s bought media in more than 35 markets including 14 of the top 20 markets in the country.
Ridgley is now out on her own, the CEO of Left Hand Agency, which she started three months ago.
“My agency is new, but my experience is not,” she says. “What I bring to the table is a really good understanding of what local TV marketers are dealing with on their side, in addition to a big understanding of the landscape of whatever market they are in.”
I tapped Ridgley to get her insights into what’s new, what’s changing and her top recommendations for local TV stations when it comes to paid media.
But before we get to paid media, what about stations’ own air?
The viewing audience is shrinking. According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, the “Big Four broadcast networks all fell at least 10 percent in total viewers from 2019 to 2020.”
So as the only media platform available to local TV marketers all year long, Ridgley says it’s imperative that local TV marketing executives know their on-air schedule inside and out.
One recommendation she makes is one that I practiced and advocated when I was a local TV marketing executive. Make friends with one of your station’s sales executives and ask for help.
Ridgley says they have access to analyses that do a great job of looking at reach and frequency. Measure your schedule “down to Targeted Ratings Points (TRP) since you are promoting a lot of different objectives. Are you giving enough reach and frequency to the ones that matter the most?”
What about Facebook as a platform to convert users into broadcast TV news viewers? Many stations have hundreds of thousands, even millions of followers on their Facebook page, so isn’t that a free, target-rich environment?
Ridgley says even if you have a million followers on Facebook, “on any given post you might reach 10%-15% of them at the most. Some of them are much, much less.”
But Ridgley says she buys a lot of Facebook for her clients. And that’s the difference. With paid ads on Facebook, she says, “you can set up special targeting and do dayparting. We talk to stations about how to do Facebook to get your audience back to linear and to get the reach that you need. That is part of what I do for our clients.”
What about sweeps-only media buying? Are stations still tied to network and syndicated co-op dollars?
“The ones stuck in sweeps-only mode are the syndicators and the networks,” Ridgley says. But station GMs and sales departments are also “stuck in that mode,” she says, because during sweeps months are when the stations’ rates are set.
And who can blame them? Co-op money from networks and syndicators gives stations up to 100% more buying power during times when viewership is measured.
But Ridgley is seeing a shift “because it does benefit stations in the long run to build your brand and strengthen it across the whole year.”
The days when 100% of local TV stations outside media dollars are spent just during sweeps has changed in the last five years, Ridgley says, although she admits many stations won’t “ditch co-op dollars entirely.”
“They are all starting to shift a little bit of their strategy to get out of the just the sweeps mode,” she says.
“My job is looking at their priorities, seeing what we can do with co-op dollars, but also is it actually worth it to not have co-op and do exactly what you need to do for the station. I think you see that across the board. It’s not just a book world anymore.”
That said, Ridgley says she doesn’t see a scenario in the near future where sweeps go away.
“But eventually different measurement systems that are more reliable on a daily basis will eclipse the need for a set ratings period,” she says. “I don’t see that happening for at least 5-10 years.”
NOTE: Tomorrow in part two of A Guide To Media Buying For Local TV CSDs, Ridgley reveals her recommendations for stations on media buying and placement.
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