Clients regularly ask me about TV advertising as a means of driving more new patients to their practice. Some have told me that “the competition” has been doing it successfully, so, naturally, they want a piece of the action. But is TV really worth the money you will put into it? Let’s examine this for a moment.

For one, I’m not fond of TV advertising simply because I have rarely seen it work for the average dental practice. And I also flip the channel the moment the ads come on TV in the middle of a movie or show – so I’m not really the right public for it.

But given the sheer amount of advertising on TV, there must be profit in it. If there wasn’t, nobody would put their ads on TV. So I analyzed the pros and cons and this is what I found.

Radio or TV?

That’s the first thing I’ve been asked when clients are wondering which medium would be the best for their marketing campaign. Well, both have their advantages and set-backs.

Radio is cheaper and can be very effective at times when most people are stuck in their cars in traffic. If you choose for radio, I’d suggest you take the popular local music and news stations, particularly those with regular traffic updates, and choose time slots when most people are in their cars trying to get to work or go home. The downside is that during the rest of the day, radio listenership drops dramatically so wouldn’t really be worthwhile.

(Related: 6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Internet Advertising)

TV is much more expensive and over-saturated in terms of advertisements, but more people watch TV than listen to the radio. So if you do it right, you can catch a much bigger audience.

All in all, if you want to try out TV advertisement, there are some crucial things you need to know to make this venture successful for you:

First off, you need an ad to run on TV. It seems obvious, but many people overlook this! Creating an effective ad is easier said than done. Normally, you can buy 15 or 30 seconds of advertising air time (you can do longer ads but these are quite pricey all around). I have actually seen 15-second ads work well, depending on how you go about it.

The question is: How much can you say/show in 15 seconds?

Obviously, it wouldn’t work to try and rattle off all of the different treatments you can deliver, plus your address and phone number, plus, plus, plus… You will need much more time for this and the result will probably be quite confusing. It will work best to advertise only your special offer for new patients, or one particular treatment that you want to deliver for a special price. Remember that close to 80% of the TV watching population will react better to deals and special offers than any other ad content, so offer a special price or service. This is something that can be done in 15 seconds. Surveying your patients will tell you what service they consider is the most important for them.

Next: How do you film this economically?

Here you have to let your imagination work a bit. You can of course spend tens of thousands having a professional video shot of your practice with fancy zooms and attractive patients. But there are other, much cheaper alternatives.

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For example: Some ads simply show text scrolling through with a voice telling your audience about your special or specific treatment features. This can be very effective because it is simple, people can follow what you’re showing and you aren’t “shotgunning” your products to an already overwhelmed audience. It’s much cheaper too, and with some attractive graphics such an ad may work just fine, especially if you use a catch phrase that people will remember. I’ve been told that http://www.Cheap-TV-Spots.com will produce excellent commercials for as little as $500, so you can give them a try.

Going down an economical route like this might not give you a slick commercial that you’re proud to show off to all your friends and colleagues, but I’d rather show off a big increase in new patients and profits than a pretty commercial.

Cable or broadcast TV?

Definitely cable!  Although less people watch cable TV, the ability to target your message to your specific market is an advantage. Would you want your marketing message going to 30,000 teens or to 1,000 adults between the ages of 35 and 55 with incomes $60,000 and up? It’s not the size of the audience, it’s the quality that counts and that’s what cable TV can do for your practice.

Depending on the area you’re in and how many spots you purchase, prime time spots on broadcast TV can cost $2,000 to $3,000 (or more) a pop, while prime time cable spots can average as low as $175, with some 30 second spots running on CNN and ESPN for $25, Nickelodeon can go for as low as $20 and TNN, BET, and VH-1 for $15 per commercial.

You can even expect to get better rates when you buy packages of multiple spots. Small town cable prices are even lower. It is not unusual to buy commercials for $2 to $3 in a town of 40,000 people. While most of the commercials on cable TV programs are national spots for major companies, four to six commercials per hour are made available to local advertisers. New digital technology allows many cable systems to easily and accurately schedule your commercials on specific channels to be seen in chosen communities and neighborhoods.

Survey your patients and pick your airing slots with the cable TV company so you get maximum coverage to your target areas. You can check out what media buying services are available in your area – they can negotiate your airtime and prices for you. And yes, it’s a bit of homework but it will pay off.

(Related: The ULTIMATE Internal Marketing Seminar – FREE 4.5 CE Credits)

When to air?

When targeting your market for television you need to select the right “program” that has a viewing audience in your target demographic. Logic tells you that you wouldn’t advertise dentures during Saturday morning cartoons or children’s orthodontic services during a program that seniors might watch. You obviously want to match your service to the target demographic that will watch a certain program. Mouth guards during sports shows would be entirely appropriate, or dentures during a cooking program (no kidding!) and teeth whitening during entertainment news would be equally fitting. Your media buying service or the cable station itself can advise you on the best times to air your spots.

What should the frequency be?

How many times should you air? Well, with commercials, you want to stand out in a person’s mind and get them to remember you. Most people won’t even notice your commercial the first few times they see it. But after it’s repeated several times it begins to stick in the person’s mind (they may even start subconsciously repeating that catchy one-liner you included in it), and then they start to take notice and think “Hey, that sounds like a pretty good deal.” After seeing it a few more times they might decide it’s finally time to see the dentist and pick up the phone.

Don’t worry about annoying people with a cheesy one-liner because the fact is, if it annoys them it means they noticed it! The point is, you want your public to see the commercial as many times as possible. A commercial that’s only run once or a few times likely won’t produce a big result.

(Related: Dental Marketing 101 – Part 1)

Having said that, it’s not necessarily always “the more, the better.” Your media rep will always try to convince you by logic and by offering volume discounts to buy more frequency. They might give you a great buy on a 100 spots that will run at the station’s discretion. That means they could run your commercial from 2:00am to 4:00am during some odd program when your target market is sleeping. You might be better off paying for a few spots during your peak target market viewing program than 20 spots during odd programs and times. It’s a matter of simple logic – you want your target market awake, watching TV and ready to receive your advertisement. So negotiate times and frequencies that work the best for your practice.

If you’re really clever and do your research you may find a segment of your market that watches certain late night programs, and you may get an excellent deal for those times. Check it out, ask your patients, survey your demographics.

That’s really all there is about TV advertising. By following the above points, your campaign will stand a chance to be successful. And if you are careful not to sign up for a long-term contract but only try it out for about 3 months at first, you can hardly lose. Simply give it a trial run and then crunch the numbers of how much you spent on it versus how much you made from it.

Good luck!


MGE’s Marketing Department provides this general dental practice management advice to furnish you with suggestions of actions that have been shown to have potential to help you improve your practice. MGE may not be held liable for adverse actions resulting from your implementation of these suggestions, which are provided only as examples of topics covered by the MGE program.