Your TV Media Buyer Books Your Law Firm Advertising. But Then What?

Man looking out window

If you’re responsible for your law firm’s television advertising, you may hire a media buyer or marketing agency to negotiate with the television stations for the best possible schedule at the lowest possible station rates.

To get the very best rates for your TV ads, your media buyer may recommend booking for a whole year at once. Sounds good.

Book ‘em, Danno.

But then you might wonder: What happens AFTER they buy my ad time? Do they work just once a year? Do they do anything for my law firm after that?

Attorney Merryl Jones, whose plaintiffs’ law firm is in Waco, Tex., looked at her advertising media plans for the year and brought those very questions to her law firm marketing agency, Firmidable.

Here’s what she found out:

  • TV schedules undergo constant changes throughout the year—including pre-empted spots.
  • More than you might imagine, TV stations fail to run your schedule properly. Somebody—a media auditor—better review your invoices, line by line.
  • A good law firm marketing agency monitors changes and errors, and then negotiates to compensate you for unapproved deviations from your media plan.
  • With active negotiations with stations, you can get more value in lawyer ads than what you originally invested—sometimes by A LOT.

In this blog post, we’ll let you in on the inner workings of TV station schedule disorder and what knowledgeable legal marketers can do about it.

7 TV Station Errors You Can Turn Into Free Law Firm Advertising

You negotiated and booked your media plan. It aired.

If you or your media auditor closely examine the station affidavits—essentially detailed paperwork listing line by line how your TV spots actually ran—most of the time you can find multiple ways to step up the performance of your campaign.

In a perfect world, your commercials all appear as ordered. Potential clients are watching a favorite television show when they see and appreciate your message and style. They give you a call from the number on the TV screen or look you up online.

But in the real, not-perfect world, much can, and does, go wrong with your television commercial schedule. You may not get what you expected and paid for.

And since you’re either a lawyer or you work for a law firm, when someone harms someone else, someone needs to pay, right?

Below are seven common examples of TV trip-ups. (But just between us, these are also openings to sharpen your legal marketing campaign):

No. 1: Commercial Doesn’t Air

Your attorney TV spot not running can happen for many reasons, ranging from breaking news to programming changes, to the station simply making a mistake.

And one more common source of pre-emptions: Sometimes the diligent station sales representatives sell more advertising airtime than they have available as “inventory.”

In that case, unless you negotiated expensive non-pre-emptible rates, or unless you are a political campaign which has its own set of unique advertising laws, the advertiser paying a lower rate will usually get pre-empted by advertisers who agreed to pay more to air in that very same program.

Dude, you just got bumped.

Actually and fortunately, it’s not the worst thing. It’s possible that if you never get bumped, it could mean YOU are the advertiser paying more than everyone else. That’s fine if you have a limited time to advertise, e.g., you are promoting a concert. In that case, your spots must run this week.

In contrast, “Our attorney advertisers air month after month,” explains Firmidable media director Mandy Lee.

“Our goal is to negotiate for the lowest rate in the market that should air at least 85% of the time. It’s more work to handle the pre-emptions when they happen, but it’s worth it if the spots that air cost less. If spots on a given station fail to reach the 85% run rate, then we can re-negotiate a different price, or we move that portion of the campaign budget to another station.”

When a spot is preempted, stations usually offer replacement spots to run at a later date. These are called “make-goods.” Their purpose is to restore the brand exposure your law firm missed.

In the case of Firmidable, a media auditor follows up on the media buyer’s work by reviewing these make-good offers daily and ensuring that the stations are fairly compensating for the original plan.

You wouldn’t want to accept a make-good offer for a program with a smaller audience, nor would you want to jam in a make-good to a program where you were already buying a sufficient frequency. Both would represent less value for the advertising law firm. This can often lead to more back-and-forth negotiations between the media buyer and the station.

After your media buyer finishes negotiating your make-goods, your TV advertising team should update the future media schedule to ensure that the make-goods run as promised.

And if your media auditor finds remaining pre-emption credits not made good, the media buyer looks for opportunities to reinvest that money on a different station—sometimes in ways that are even better than what was initially planned.

No. 2: Commercials Air at the Wrong Intervals

The science of media buying involves “frequency” (how often do your commercials air) and “reach” (how many different people see the commercials.) Television advertisers need the right balance between both.

To help get the widest “reach” for your ads, a media buyer may establish rules and parameters for the stations to follow regarding how close to each other your ads can air.

For example, Firmidable may request that your stations only air one of your commercials per TV program, if the goal is to maximize reach. This spreads out your exposure and avoids oversaturating the airwaves. (However, sometimes more than once per program may be permitted, or even encouraged, if the strategy is more to focus on frequency.)

But here’s what sometimes happens: After ordering one commercial per episode, an invoice shows that your TV commercial aired twice during one episode of The People’s Court.

You got the exposure, but this isn’t what we negotiated for. So now we negotiate a credit from the station for your firm for one of the two spots.

No. 3: Newly Produced Commercials Don’t Get Swapped In

You have a campaign running already, but remember those amazing new ads you just shot? The ones you’re excited to get on the air?

The agency sent them off the stations. The CW station confirmed they would begin airing when instructed.

But when the station affidavit comes in, your media auditor sees that it’s your old commercials that aired.

You received exposure, but this still isn’t what you paid for. Once again, the media buyer should ask for credits.

No. 4: Ads Erroneously Run when They’re Supposed To Be Paused

Let’s say you’re closed for the Fourth of July, or you’re on vacation for a week, or you’re short-staffed.

You decided to cut back on airing during those times. So your media buyer instructed the stations not to air then.

Guess what? CBS aired eight of your spots during your vacation. Again, you got the exposure, but this isn’t what you wanted.

Yep, more credits due to you.

No. 5, 6, 7 and Counting…More Credit for Your Law Firm Advertising

Many other types of errors regularly happen.

Stations may bill a 10-second spot at a 30-second rate. Your ads may air outside of the designated time period. We’ve even seen stations bill for a commercial that doesn’t belong to our law firm client!

In each of these cases (well, not the last one), you get the exposure, but it isn’t what you paid for.

But now, you may be able to get MORE than what you paid for…

Living room with TV playing an Ad


How to Break Free of Cookie-Cutter TV Lawyer Commercials

Beyond Media Buying: Get (Even) More Lawyer Ads

Aside from correcting errors, as good regularly repeating customers for the stations, seasoned media buyers can even negotiate free “bonus” spots.

“Bonus” spots are commercial airings that the stations may grant as a gesture of goodwill.

Sometimes they have unsold advertising time they need to fill, so we can grab some of those slots for attorney advertisers.

For example, Firmidable typically is able to negotiate many thousands of dollars of free airtime for its law firm clients—just by skillfully working our relationships.

Professional Media Buying Adds Up, Like For This Attorney

Some of the techniques in this post may sound modest, even incremental.

But they add up.

Remember Merryl Jones, the lawyer in Waco, Texas? After her question about what Firmidable’s television media team did for her throughout the year, we ran the numbers—in terms of spending time on account stewardship and getting free station exposure.

Here’s what we found:

  • In one recent year, Firmidable tracked all changes made to her TV campaign—the report came to 86 pages.
  • In that year, Firmidable disputed 41% of her TV invoices because our team found errors by the station.
  • Through daily stewardship and monthly reconciliation, we got $1,130 in TV credits for her to reinvest.
  • Additionally, we negotiated 1,449 bonus spots. Those bonuses came to more than $17,300 worth of spots above what she paid for!

Behind the scenes, as your TV schedule plays out, your law firm marketing team should be busily steering your advertising campaign around snags toward the best results—more incoming cases to your firm.

“I like the fact that I have someone who’s a watchdog for me,” Jones said. “There is value in that, and I appreciate it.”

Conclusion: Why Have a Law Firm Marketing Agency Handle YOUR Media Buying?

In the past, Jones worked directly with station account sales reps to place her law firm’s ads.

The station reps are helpful, friendly and professional. But in the end, they work for the stations, not your law firm.

“The station account rep is not going to be as aggressive in getting me make-goods and negotiating bonus spots,” she said. “They’re not going to be as aggressive as Firmidable can be to make my advertising dollars stretch.”

“I don’t have time to police it,” Jones said. “Firmidable is a better advocate for me.”

Thank you, Merryl.

Readers, your attorney advertising budget is a significant investment of money. If you want to talk about making your ad dollars stretch, reach out to us at Firmidable.

Firmidable has been a national expert in legal marketing for over 30 years. It brings law firms customized, data-driven marketing strategies and services, including online and traditional media for a wide range of legal practices. From Maine to Hawaii, it has transformed the lives of attorneys—and their clients.

Share This Article

About the Author: Mark Waller

Mark Waller is the senior writer/editor at Firmidable. He has written book-length websites for law firms, enhanced content on dozens of law firm sites for search engine optimization, written and optimized law firm Paid Search ads and developed scripts for law firm TV ads—helping firms across America grow their caseloads. Before he started in legal marketing, Mark’s writing and communications career included working for a university president and as a local journalist. He was a member of the staff at The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

+ Sign Up!