3 Tips for Buying Media in the Scatter Marketplace

With cable and TV upfronts wrapping up, marketers are entering into the scatter advertising season. Networks usually hold back 15-35% of their ad inventory for the year to sell outside of the upfronts, usually for a markup. This is called the scatter market. Scatter advertising is sold before or after an upfront period (which is typically second quarter, early spring to early summer).

Scatter advertising has come to be synonymous with high-priced, less desirable advertising left over from the upfront.  While there is certainly some truth to this, strategic buys placed with a knowledgeable media buyer can allow advertisers to reach their target audience without breaking the bank.

1. Understand the Terms of Your Buy

Networks can award space of equal or higher value to an advertiser who has purchased advertising in an upfront for an event or program that  was once a hit show, but perhaps a change in time slot or new more popular show has caused a significant decline in ratings. This can mean an ad in a more premium slot or it can mean two ads in exchange for the one ad. These types of deals are negotiated with upfront deals, but they rarely occur in a scatter market.

Scatter advertising does not come with the guaranteed ratings. Nor does it entitle the buyer to a make good, or a supplementary ad, to compensate for a ratings or audience shortfall that does not fulfill the contractual terms. Scatter advertisers also don’t have the demographic targeting that comes with an upfront buy.

The good news is, because scatter advertising can be purchased closer to the intended airdate and not a year in advance, an advertiser has more flexibility. It can monitor a program’s popularity and make decisions with more accurate ratings data, versus forecasting far in advance

2. Sometimes Local Spots Are A More Effective Buy Than National Scatter

Depending on your product or budget, you may not necessarily need a national TV media buying campaign for effective product reach. Sometimes, a local market can drive the same results for considerably less money. SQAD research has found that in some dayparts it’s actually cheaper to buy local spots than to buy in the broadcast network scatter, particularly early mornings and late nights. For other dayparts, the difference was nominal.

Consider national political ad campaigns, which often opt for spot buys in select local markets over national scatter for their political media buys. In the most recent political election more than half of political advertising spend went to three states: Ohio, Florida, and  Virginia. Campaigns will spend little to no money in a state which leans decisively opposite to them politically, since it’s unlikely to change the outcome.

They will instead invest in swing states, and they invest most of their ad spend in buying ads in those markets. When designing your plan, weigh the cost of placing ads in targeted local markets over going totally national. You might be surprised at your ROI, perhaps more, while spending less money.

3. Understand Seasonal and Economic Conditions

Political climate, the stock market, even the weather are all good indicators of whether to expect high or low ad rates. A huge, but generally rare, benefit of the scatter market is the opportunity to negotiate and score great deals when a last minute ad slot opens up and needs to get filled. If a network finds itself in this situation, it may opt for selling the space at a loss rather than not at all.

Here’s an example of how this can work to your advantage: an advertiser’s budget is cut after an upfront buy. It has to cancel the some or all of the buy. This leaves an open slot for someone else to purchase, and the need to fill it can score another advertiser a significant discount.

The scatter market doesn’t have to be a scary place to buy advertising. Capitol Media Solutions has experienced media strategists that will help you navigate the field and create custom media plans and buys designed to reach your marketing goals. For more information contact us here.

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