The Average Cost of National Advertising Campaigns
The cost of doing business is not cheap, and one of the largest bills that a small business will have to pay is that of advertising and marketing. If you want to stay in business and make money, you need to get your business in front of the eyes of prospective customers. In today’s digital media-rich landscape, that’s not hard to do, but it's expensive to keep their attention, get them engaged with your brand and make them want to buy what you have to sell among a sea of competitors.
Print advertising is one of the oldest forms of advertising, but it has also become somewhat of a dinosaur with the advent of the internet, digital media and social media platforms. However, despite the ubiquitous nature of digital advertising and social media ads these days, there will always be an audience for those who prefer to pick up a newspaper or magazine.
If your product or business appeals to a niche audience – say, a certain trade organization – a trade magazine may be the way to go. And unlike astronomically high national tv advertising rates, newspapers generally are reasonably priced.
Print publications make their money, and set their editorial space, according to the number of ads that they sell, so they are more than happy to help you come up with an ad and a campaign that can fit your budget. If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll likely be able to find a weekly newspaper that will sell you an advertisement for under $1,000. That’s not likely to get you much.
For that low price, you’re likely to get a small ad without graphics placed in what’s called the “run of paper,” wherever the editor decides he has space, or a “fill ad” randomly in the paper, as the name suggests, where there is a hole to fill.
The problem with advertising in newspapers is that you are limited in views, both in the number of people who pick up the paper and then those who actually look at the advertisement. It’s all about location, and advertisers will pay premiums for prime real estate in some of the country’s biggest newspapers (and in front of the eyes of some of the wealthiest people).
A full-page black-and-white ad in the Wall Street Journal, for instance, currently costs around $164,300. If you want color in that ad, your price goes up to around $210,000.
Magazines have largely survived the advent of the internet by reinventing themselves with digital editions and an online web presence, but for those that still have print editions, it’s the same story as newspapers. If you want prime exposure for your business in some of the largest and most popular magazines, you’ll pay for that real estate. One of the factors to consider – that will drive costs up – is the fact that magazines tend to publish fewer times a year.
Many of the most popular magazines have weekly or monthly runs, and while that may make for fewer insertion opportunities, these publications tend to have larger circulations than newspapers.
Like newspapers, advertising costs depend on factors such as the publication’s popularity and circulation, the number of insertions, graphics and placement in the magazine. Many publications have what’s called a “rate card,” which outlines costs and all specs of an ad, including size, color options and how many times you can expect to see the ad (number of insertions).
Depending on the publication, and how complicated an ad you’re running, setup and design costs for the ad today can run anywhere from $500 to $400,000, depending on whether you are using an agency to help with those services.
If you’re going for a popular magazine such as Vogue or Vanity Fair, you’ll pay for that. As of 2019, a full-page, four-color ad in Vogue runs around $180,234.
If it’s maximum bang for your buck that you are looking for, social-media advertising may be the way to go. Social-media advertising is great if you are on a tight budget, or if you have a very specific audience that you are trying to reach.
Social media combines the content of text ads with the visually appealing graphics of digital media, and combines that with the 24/7 immediacy of online media. In addition, social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook offer access to demographics that other media may not.
Younger crowds tend to use social media as their way to communicate and express their “likes” of a certain product or post. If they like you, they’ll tell their friends by reposting your ad. That immediately means more exposure for your brand.
The good news about social-media marketing is that the upfront cost is usually quite nominal. Most platforms such as Facebook or Instagram allow you to pay for your advertising campaign on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, and others charge based on what your ad accomplishes – for instance, if your ad results in someone going to your website (usually called cost-per-conversion).
Essentially, this means every time someone clicks on and views your ad, you get charged a fee for it. Some estimates range from 51 cents per click on Facebook to $1.28 on Instagram, and even as high as $5.61 per click on a networking platform such as LinkedIn.
Advertising with Facebook and Instagram
If only it was that easy. Facebook and Instagram both don’t advertise how much an ad will cost on a per-click basis. Instead, they offer packages that work with your budget.
For instance, you can use what’s called a “bid strategy” on Facebook, in which you set either an advertising campaign limit or a maximum spending limit of what you want to pay, and Facebook will help you design an ad. You can tell the platform who you’d like to target (age, location, gender, etc.) and they can tell you how many people you could potentially reach.
Instagram works in largely the same way, but as it’s a photography-sharing platform it’s better for sharing things like photos and videos – perfect if you’ve got cool visuals or videos of people using your services. You can create ads using carousels of photos, slideshows and videos and it’s easy to choose who your ads will target.
If you want to reach the largest audience possible, getting an advertisement onto a commercial spot during a nationally televised show or event on a public national network such as ABC, NBC or Fox is the best way to target a captive audience, but it’s also one of the most expensive ways to advertise.
Before your ad ever makes it to broadcast, you’ll have to get one designed and produced, and you’ll want to go to an agency to get it done right to justify the TV commercial cost. That setup cost alone could run you anywhere from $63,000 to $8 million for a 30-second spot.
From there, you’ll have to get the networks to run it and that will cost an average of around $112,000 to $342,000 for 30 seconds of airtime during prime time. That TV commercial cost goes way up if you want your commercial to run during a special event, such as during the Super Bowl or the swan song episode of a much beloved sitcom such as "Friends" or “This is Us.”
During the 2019 Super Bowl, a TV commercial cost $5.25 million on CBS for a 30-second spot, a cost of roughly $175,000 per second. Even a spot during "Sunday Night Football" runs for $665,000 and a commercial during “This is Us” in 2018 cost about $433,000. It’s not hard to see why only big brands with deep pockets advertise during these programs. Many smaller businesses find it much cheaper (even free!) to produce their own video and post it on YouTube or another digital-video platform to do their advertising.
Cable television is the smaller cousin of network TV, sort of like the community newspaper is to the major national publication. While national TV networks are great for reaching mass audiences, cable networks are great for reaching a demographic of certain interests.
For instance, it makes a lot of sense to advertise on the local cooking show if you are a local restaurant looking to bring in more customers. For that reason, cable television networks are usually tailored to a smaller, more localized audience and therefore cable TV advertising rates are usually significantly cheaper.
In many ways, as a smaller business, this will be the cheaper way for you to advertise if you are looking to target potential customers in a localized area. You may also be able to target more people, as many local cable stations run 24-hour local news coverage in local establishments, or what is known as a “cable crawl,” a banner along the bottom of the TV screen to advertise local business. This means you are more likely to hit the eyes of the people who need your services the most, and in most cases, it can cost as low as $10 per day.
Most cable TV advertising rates are based on a certain dollar amount per 1,000 viewers. Ad Age estimates that advertisers could expect to pay cable TV advertising rates at a minimum of $5 per 1,000 viewers for a 30-second commercial in 2019, much less than the average $115,000 for the same spot on a national network.
A cheaper way than paying national TV advertising rates to reach the masses, radio advertising could be the way to go if you’re looking to reach a broad audience in a largely captive environment.
According to Nielsen, radio advertisements reach about 93% of American adults weekly.
Think about it: When’s the last time you were stuck in traffic on the highway and had to listen to the same advertisement over and over again? If you’ve caught yourself singing the catchy jingle of a local furniture dealer, you know that radio advertising works.
Radio ad costs are largely driven by the size of the market you are located in, demand and the demographic that listens to the radio station you advertise on. A station that plays pop hits, for instance, has a younger demographic with higher purchasing power than a suburban station.
In addition, just as in television, you’ll pay much more for a 30-second spot during a special event such as the World Series or during election night, when the audiences are likely to be larger.
Like national TV advertising rates, radio stations generally sell advertising in 30- or 60-second spots. Depending on your location, radio advertising can cost anywhere from $200 to $5,000 per week, and in major markets such as New York or Los Angeles that cost can balloon to $8,000 or more. That doesn’t cover the costs of design and production services to get your ad made.
For that, you’ll need to factor in the cost of copywriters, voice talent and any audiovisual services (to get that jingle written and recorded, perhaps). That could run you another $300 to $1,000 or more.