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Cable TV vs. Social Media
What is better for marketing your business

Let's clear up a few myths..

Just to start let’s clear up one of the biggest misconceptions is...TV advertising is expensive and social media is free. Well, that scenario can be true, however that is exactly what it is, a scenario. Below I describe what to expect from both platforms including price.


Unlike search engine ads, Cable TV and social media are both mediums that place ads in front of people who may or may not be looking for what is being advertised. Google adwords is an intention-based platform. Consumers see ads that correspond to what they are looking for. I always say, Google Search is the super evolution of the phone book AKA the Yellow Pages. When I was younger, we would look in the phone book to find businesses that was relevant to what we wanted to buy. Today we use search engines.


Before we get into the pros and cons of both, I think it is important to say that when done well, both platforms are extremely powerful. You will find businesses make these common mistakes in the following categories.


Product that is not suited for the platform

    Social Media

    • Impulse buys – apparel items under $100 – e commerce are great

    • Professional services, large buying decisions…not so great.



    • Retail large and small, professional services, local & national are great.

 .  • Business to business, not so great.


Poor execution of the ad / ad placement

     The ad was not well thought out, or the creative was executed poorly.


Not enough resources

   Ad campaign or the ad production is underfunded.


Campaign duration is too short

    Ad campaign does not have enough time to gain momentum.

Social Media Advertising Cost

The cost of social media could literally be free. Most social media platforms offer a business page for free, and this fact alone makes it appealing to new business owners. One could take their smartphone, create some content, post away, and BOOM…they are advertising their company. We see a lot of this garbage on social media, and it is part of the reason why platforms like Facebook keeps changing their algorithm to keep this type of content out of users’ feeds. Not to mention, they prefer to sell you the ad space you are trying to place for free.

Nevertheless, you can absolutely create and execute ads on social media for free. This can be a huge advantage for a small business with a decent personal following to announce what they have to offer and get some real traction. If you have a lot of friends or followers, this could be a great way to launch.

Social Media Advertising Cost

So, you may be feeling really great right now dreaming of all the free advertising you can get from social media. Not so fast…As I mentioned above, business pages that just place ads usually do not get much exposure in the news feed. Another factor is that you are not reaching new people. You will keep showing the same ads to the same people repeatedly. This usually frustrates users and often they end up not following your page anymore.

Although you may think you have the, “next best item that everyone has to have.” I assure you, you don’t. You will most likely be disappointed with how few people share your posts about your product. Post something with a cat smacking a dog, that post they will share. People are on social media to be entertained.


The next option is to place paid ads. Let’s talk Facebook because they are the biggest. Facebook has incredible tools that allow you to pinpoint your market with a very high level of precision. Now that everyone has told Facebook their deepest and darkest secrets, Facebook basically knows who wants what on their platform. Therefore, if you know your market, you can plug in the info, create and ad, plop down your credit card, and your ads are pretty much going to hit your target market. Here’s the problem, just like TV social media is all about entertainment. If you could turn off every ad on every platform, tv, internet, YouTube, social media, digital games, you would. No one wants to consume advertising. It is a nuisance. People's attention spans are very limited and unless your ad is super entertaining, the user is going to swipe right passed it.

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What makes this even more frustrating is if your ad appears on the screen for 3 seconds, Facebook counts that as an impression. Your ad could have passed by 10,000 users and not one of them had really seen it. This gives the platform the ability to tout a very low cost per view. (COST PER EYEBALLS) I am here to tell you that their assessment is not accurate. The average cost per 1000 people on Facebook is approximately $7.42 per 1000. For reference, city street billboards costs about $5 per 1000, Cable TV can be as low as $2 per 1000 and Google Search can be $0 dollars per 1000 views (if you get zero clicks) but that would suck.


Also, Facebook gives people the ability to turn off any given ad. Therefore, if a user stops on an ad, then turns it off, this also counts as engagement. Now this might seem like a bad thing, but ultimately it is one of the ways Facebook gathers data get the right ads to the right people. Unfortunately, they do this on your dime. I find that small business owners seem to gravitate toward social media because they can view the activity, and this gives them a false sense of control. Don’t be fooled, you are not in control.


This all sounds pretty grim, right? Well, it’s really not! It just means you just have to spend a bit more than you initially thought. It is also recommended to hire experts.

You need three key components to successfully execute a social media campaign...


Messaging Expert This expertise is found in all marketing companies. This is the person who creates the story around your product or service. He or she will write a script or creative brief, set the scene mood etc. A creative concept can cost anywhere from $3500 well in to the tens of thousands.



Social Media Strategist – This person will recommend a budget, create a strategy based on demographics, they will develop a schedule and provide reporting based on social media tracking tools. A seasoned strategist will cost you anywhere from $2500 per month to $10,000 depending on the scope of work and number of platforms.


Production PeopleWhether you are producing a video or a still image, you will need people to create this content. It could be a photographer and graphic designer; it could be a small or large video production crew. Whatever ad you plan to run, you need professionals to execute the creative. The cost of production can be as low as couple of thousand dollars, all the way into the millions.

As you can see, a well thought out social media strategy is far from free. Throwing up your smartphone to capture a quick video that makes it to the news feed within seconds is definitely not a viable plan. Social media marketing takes a lot of time, thought and expertise.


Television is still the king when it comes to advertising. For those who disagree, answer this, why does Facebook advertise on TV? Why does Amazon, Hotwire, Travelocity and all of the digital online giants advertise on TV? Because it is the most cost-effective way to reach their audience. It is even more effective than their own platforms. I often hear people say, "These companies advertise on TV, because they have the money.


No dumb dumb, they have the money because they advertise on TV. Believe me, you are not smarter, or more knowledgeable about advertising than the people over at Facebook or Amazon. They are on TV because it works, not because it’s fun to waste millions of dollars.


What does this mean for small businesses who do not have the ability to spend millions on TV ads? What if I told you that you could reach your local market on TV for only a few thousand dollars per month. That’s right…no bullshit. Most cable companies offer ad space for as low as $1 per spot. Yes, you are reading this correctly $1, and I am not talking about 3am on some obscure channel that is never watched. I am talking about a range of times and channels. How is this possible?


Cable TV Companies spread out an advertiser's ad budget across different channels & programing based on the audience they want to reach.

There was a time when TV ad space was sold according to the programming. Today it’s sold according to the viewer. EffecTV has a data collection system that tells them who is watching what programming when. Now, this is not as accurate Facebook's targeting, but I have found that the data is reliable enough to make ad placement decisions with confidence.

Realtime Example

Let’s say you own a local restaurant, and you want to advertise to women between the ages 30 – 55 with a household income of $85,000 or more in a 2-mile radius. Depending upon the cable tv zone, you could purchase 1000 spots for a few thousand dollars per month. You can expect your ad to run in the morning, at night, and during primetime. Most importantly it will be running in front of the people you choose. These people will see your ad over and over again, making your brand memorable.

Production Warning

Now we have all seen terrible cable TV spots that have the opposite effect. Here is a warning, NEVER LET THE CABLE COMPANY PRODUCE YOUR SPOT.

They may offer it for free or a few hundred dollars and it will suck, and your company will look like it sucks too. 


Cable companies are not in the video production business, they are in the ad space business.

Even the EffecTV cable company television ad is terrible, they have no clue. They are not creatives, they are businesspeople, remember that. Ad space salespeople work on commission, and I have generally found that they are only interested in filling ad space. Of course, they want the ad to work, because that is how they will get repeat business. However, if they need to offer crap production to make the sale, they will. So, beware!

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Now if you avoid the cable company production trap and hire an excellent group to write the message, and produce the spot, you will be in great shape. 

Your ad salesperson will be relieved that he or she does not have to get involved with end of it, and they will be eager to get you the best deal. You just cut their work in half, and they know you are serious about investing in your success. This will most likely inspire them to invest their own excitement into your success as well.


What about video on demand? How will people see my commercials if they only watch TV from the VOD service. Most cable companies will run unskippable ads during VOD programming. These ads have been proven to be even more effective. The reason is the viewer intentionally chooses the program, instead of arbitrarily landing on it.



As you can see social media marketing can be inexpensive or very costly, just as television advertising. The key is to drill down what you can afford to spend, what kind of return you need to profit from the campaign, and then pick the appropriate platform. Picking one or the other based only on what you think it may cost is simply a fool’s errand.


Salvatore Marotta

Creative and Film Director

SM Media Group

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