TV Advertising for Lawyers: Broadcast or Cable Advertising?

Opting for broadcast and cable TV media buys as TV advertising for lawyers is a smart way to expose your brand to a mass audience. Broadcast and cable each offer specific benefits and disadvantages worth considering with legal media buying. We’ve laid out arguments for each; you be the “judge” as to which one (or possibly both) is the best fit your firm’s marketing needs.

Facts of the Case:

It’s no secret, television has penetrated our homes. A considerable majority of US households, 97% according to the Nielsen Company, have at least one television. The average household spends about almost 8 and a half hours watching television each day.

Largely because of this penetration, television ad spend reached about $78 billion in 2013.  TV advertising for lawyers can benefit firms and solo practitioners in the same way as other companies.

Reach: Cumulatively, CBS, the broadcast network with the largest reach, is viewed in more than 73% of households each day. ESPN, the cable network with the highest reach, is seen by 35% of TV households each day.

One reason that cable audiences like ESPN may be smaller is that it is a paid subscription service and not everyone subscribes. Broadcast on the other hand is free to anyone who owns a television. Even the highest rated cable shows receive considerably less viewers than a cable show. This is slowly beginning to change with the success of shows like the Walking Dead. Last year the show boosted ratings rivaling popular broadcast shows like American Idol and Modern Family.

Another reach factor to consider when buying cable advertising is that you are also limited to just the subscribers of that particular cable service. If you advertise with Comcast, you may not be reaching anyone who subscribes to satellite or a competitor cable service.

–          The Verdict: For larger reach, broadcast is the winner here. Cable ratings still have a long way to go before the bulk of programming reaches the level of viewership that broadcast does

Cost: Broadcast delivers large audience and viewership, but in most cases it also comes with an equally large price tag. Prime time broadcast is among the most expensive dayparts for media buying. A 30-second ad during broadcast television’s most watched show this season, Sunday Night Football, would have cost your firm close to $600,000. By comparison, the highest rated show on cable, “The Walking Dead,” costs between $200,000 and $400,000 for a 30-second ad.

Cable advertising rates are traditionally considerably less than broadcast. Law firms looking to advertise on television can lower their costs by advertising in other dayparts. Airing ads during daytime or overnight hours is a less expensive media buy in broadcast or cable.  Ads can be purchased as low as $25 per spot for overnight and remnant ads.

–          The Verdict: Cable can offer less expensive advertising.

Audience Targeting: What cable lacks in large audience numbers, it can make up for in a large selection of lower costing buys that can be targeted by niche and audience type. Like we mentioned above, airing law firm advertising during the day saves money on the media buy. However, one additional benefit of airing daytime ads is that often your target audience, such as a person suffering from a personal injury, is home or in a hospital during those hours and not working due to their injury. Strategically, it also allows your ads to be shown during the time when the firm is open for business and taking calls.

When it comes to psychographics, cable allows advertisers to target a particular audience based on interests. Perhaps you want to reach extreme sports fans (maybe your research has found they are more likely to have a personal injury than the average population); there’s a network for people with that interest.

–          The Verdict: It depends on your audience. Broadcast may be a better fit for someone looking for a wide, general audience. Cable is a better fit if you are looking for something more specialized.

Market Targeting: The intended audience for your law firm advertising is likely people in your local community. It is for this reason we recommend a local campaign over a national one. There are opportunities for local advertising in broadcast and in cable.

Broadcast TV advertising sales are primarily based on the DMA (designated marketing area), while cable advertising tends to be broken up into a smaller area reaching a smaller zone of people. For example, if your firm is looking to advertise to a small community, county or zoned area that has been exposed to a harmful toxin but not the larger geographic area, you can pinpoint that area closer with cable advertising. However, broadcast allows for larger reach within a geographic area.

–          The Verdict: This is a toss-up. Broadcast provides law firm marketers the opportunity to reach a larger area, while cable is smaller and more geographically targeted.

Closing Argument:

There is no one-size-fits all media plan for TV advertising for lawyers. We understand every firm is different and so are their specialties and needs. For some, broadcast will be the optimal way to reach their goals. For others, it will be cable or a mix of both. For more information on legal media buying check out our whitepaper, Personal Injury Law Advertising & the Media: How to Win in Your Market.

Capitol Media Solutions can customize a media strategy tailored specifically to your firm. For more information, contact us here.

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