When I began buying television time for my company in the late 1970s, I learned quickly there were rules. Then I learned that some of those rules could shift depending upon what company was buying the airtime and how much they scheduled. The rate for each commercial would change by the minute depending upon demand. We all know how that works now but back then, when a media like the newspaper in town, set the rate per column inch for ads, then it was the price for everyone.
Rate sheets by the dozens were kept in locked desks. Sheets – as in hand written charts, yes. How did we know if our station was competitive? Each of us were assigned a competitive television station in our market and we were to get close with our salesperson counterpart. We’d go to lunch. Get friendly. Exchange pictures of our kids or dogs or vacations. Slowly the subject of clients and pricing would inevitably come up.
Now, before you go calling the FCC or some consumer watchdog organization, we are all savvier today and I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations is up for doings such as those. Plus, computers made the stations wacky smart and a whole new pricing world dawned.
One rule was never broken. Advertisers selling the same type of product could not run in the same commercial break – period. Kinda made sense not having your competition 30 seconds away from your message, right? Long after I left that side of the advertising world, the rule broke down. Now we have Honda, Chevy, and Ford airing in succession. We certainly have pharmaceuticals lined up at early news hours being a bit obscure about the ailment they strive to cure but holding nothing back when speed-talking the potential complications. My favorite is “could cause diarrhea and death.”