How To Fight The Cost Of “Free” Media

There’ IS a price to “FREE” media production; while it may not show on the books, it will show on your brand.

Buying radio or television media production is every creative’s worst nightmare. The schedules are hard to plan – especially in the “Political” and “Sporting” blitz months. Any positive calendar can be preempted at the drop of a very well financed hat.  Budgeting is often a guessing game and costly without the right media partner or a person at the station “going to bat” for you. And God forbid if the spots are produced at the station…   (think all “As Seen On TV” Ads).

Let’s put it this way. Why does virtually every marketing resume START with television and radio and newspaper production as the first job out of college and not END with a long tenure and a mass of accolades? Do you want your company’s public brand perception in the hands of 20-year-old-Timmy-Something right out of the local community college and chomping at the bit to try the newest puke-inducing filter he discovered in Final Cut Express last night?

Cue lens flair and glow effect…  *gag*

While CreateWOW manages a lot of social media marketing as well as traditional advertising and production, a majority of our clients leave final scheduling, video and audio production up to the stations. We have warned against this practice, but often times, with small businesses come smaller budgets. With that, most stations will produce a spot “at no cost” just to sell the air time, so WHY NOT, right? While the creative may be strong and the client loves the direction, once they’re produced by “KXYZ’s” latest video phenom, they tend to lose their appeal.

We call that “A lesson learned in ‘You Get what You Pay for…’”

Here are five simple tips to fight the cost of “Free” media:

  1. Show them the brand map. Provide EXPLICIT guidelines for use of your client’s brand including what to do and specifically what NOT to do.
  2. Hand them a FINISHED creative plan. Make sure your video script (or audio or print ad) contains all visual cues and language that would best represent your client’s brand BEFORE sending it to production and do not allow for post editing or deviation. If you leave ANY room for interpretation, you have failed!
  3. Proof…  Proof… Proof…  NEVER let something go to final production without a signed approval from you AND the client.
  4. Be fearless in the face of bad production. When it comes to protecting your client’s public brand perception, you fight until the last drip of ink flows from your little red pen. NEVER let a mistake get through. NEVER let quality lapse – not for a second.
  5. When in doubt, refuse their crap and do it yourself. While not an ideal solution, if you have the technology and the time, eat the cost and produce a spot (or spots) that will benefit the client.

How We Fought For The Client’s Brand And Won

The following spots are a result of CreateWOW opting for #5 above. Again, while this is not the ideal solution, what we were being presented by local production departments for both radio and television were … well… offensive.

By doing the spots ourselves, CreateWOW was able to maintain brand consistency throughout the spots and platforms by:

  • Properly presenting the client’s logo mark and contact information
  • Using the client’s jingle in lieu of the station’s choices of music (each station gave us a uniquely horrendous ditty…  while they had, in-house, the approved jingle for the client!)
  • Created a consistent campaign tie-in with the visuals of the Valentines Day APP promotion we have been running on the clients blog
  • Created a visual spots that could easily be translated to radio at no additional cost in time or cash…

While the stations each provided their “interpretations” of our creative, it was finally CreateWOW’s responsibility to tell the client’s story. (By the way, the stations all proposed ONE spot…  we did FIVE!)

Valentines Day Spot 5


Valentines Day Spot 4


Valentines Day Spot 3


Valentines Day Spot 2


Valentines Day Spot 1

With that, we thank you and our clients for letting us go to battle for good branding, good marketing, good communications and good production.

This is what we love.

How do YOU fight the cost of “FREE” media? We’d love to hear your story.

Until next time…

Keep Cooking!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

2 Comments
  1. “Free” ads are always costly because they look “free”, which means some percentage of the ad buy is wasted due to bad impression of the brand. The spots you produced are simple, effective, and look anything but “Free”.

    Quality doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require giving a damn.


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