5 Reasons Why Local TV or Cable Commercials Are So Bad


Would you buy a business suit at Wal-Mart?

If so, then hiring the local TV station or cable provider (Time Warner, Comcast, etc.) to produce your commercial would make sense.

How much do they cost?  For a limited time only, these guys will shoot and edit thousands of cheap commercials for only $750 each.

Here’s why that’s a bad idea:

1) Just like Wal-Mart, they don’t care as much

Their primary job is selling you ad space, not making effective commercials.

2) Producing commercials at Time Warner Cable isn’t a dream

Nobody likes cable companies.  The best and brightest directors, editors, and producers don’t want to work at Time Warner.  Nobody does.

3) You get what you pay for

Pure and simple.  They don’t charge enough.  When you only charge $750, you can’t deliver much.   They don’t charge enough to have good people working on your commercial.  Cheap price, means cheap equipment and cheap people.

4) Cheap people means a cheap look

The best and brightest designers and creative folks like to get paid accordingly.  At $750 per commercial, there’s no way anyone with any lick of talent will work that cheap.  I know film school grads from Milwaukee living in their car because they refuse to work for Time Warner.

5) Bad commercials won’t help you

Just a like a cheap business suit, a cheap commercial makes you look unsuccessful.  Customers might talk about the commercial, but only because it’s a joke.  Most people will just ignore them.

Unless that’s your goal, I highly recommend finding a focused director or producer for more than $750.


Still not sure?  Ask yourself one question.

Do you think these commercials (or the bad ones you see on local TV) help the businesses sell more to their customers?


Elvis at Paradise Motors (2012)


Crazy Gideon “If You Don’t Buy From Me!”


Norton Furniture “Frog on the Couch”


Hudson Valley Pawn “We Pawn Everything”


TDM Auto Sales “Cuban Gynecologist”


Imperial Auto “Scottie the Crusher”


Dan Porter “Rob Gets Run Over”


If not, then you probably shouldn’t have your commercial produced by the cable guys.  I don’t think it’s bad to run ads on cable or local TV, but then don’t have them make the commercial too.  There are always talented local producers that will fit just about any budget.

I’m not trying to be mean, but I don’t want other small business owners to waste their money.  A good commercial can be used on YouTube and will attract views long after the cable company or local TV station stop running the ads.

The future is YouTube.  It’s worth the investment.

Thanks for your attention and let us know if you have any questions.

– Aaron @Biebert and the Attention Era Media crew

PS. If you love video, social media, marketing, or business leadership, please subscribe to our blog for free.

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  • Trey Cochran

    What about the people who argue they don’t want a business suit at Wal-Mart, but they would kill to have their product on their shelves? These small businesses are probably viewing their investment more along that sense. Using their “channels” (no pun intended) to promote their product/service. Just a thought!

    • Most of us buy things at Wal-Mart that we need:  socks, t-shirts, cereal, etc.  However, when we’re trying to sell someone an image, very few people (if any) buy a suit at Wal-Mart because they don’t offer the quality image most people will need to make an impression.

      Funny thing is that probably nobody sells products to Wal-Mart wearing a suit from Wal-Mart.  🙂

      Thanks for the thoughts.

      • K

        This reminds me of my recent career pursuit, and how significant my reference choices have been. Although I convey to the multidisciplinary team during the interview who I am and allow them to examine my professional experience via communication with me…they still want to seek solid references who can articulate once more in detail the character behind the person they’re considering to hire. Why? There’s value on having a quality & honest employee. I likewise value my reputation and trust the consent of my carefully selected references.

        This is a similar concept with having a business or agency know who they are, know their mission statement, and know how they want to gather a crowd to fulfill their aptitude as a business. The business can tell the potential consumers how great they are, yet it isn’t enough to accept their word without further screening. One way to validate a business or agency’s word is to see them be consistent with they value they place on themselves-hence it can be perceived that value will be reciprocated onto the value they have for the costumers. Attention Era can be seen as a trustworthy reference to a business/agency. As a median to channel information most credibly, there’s no value lost while conveying, highlighting, and communicating to the costumers the benefactors and purpose of the business/agency. Thus possessing a level of integrity that is akin to the measure of integrity the business accounts to holding.

        Another quick example is, facts never speak for themselves. If this were true, we wouldn’t need a jury and lawyers after gathering evidence when a crime occurred. Information, or facts, are gathered and interpreted into a model to have 100% clarity for the common consensus to discover and conclude truth. No one wants to have a reputation of a crooked lawyer or an apathetic judge. You want a team that gives their all to find truth.

        In layman’s terms….. Clarity is crucial.

        Thank you Attention Era.

  • John

    Having run a Cable ad company for over 5 years, I might agree with you on some points. Certainly the production quality is not as strong as an ad agency or production house might produce but I think we may be missing the whole idea of the local commercial.
    1. It is aimed at a very defined geographic area. ( one of the advantages of advertising on Cable TV)2. It is produced inexpensively because it is cost prohibitive to use a production house when the local Cable or TV station is willing to a less expensive production BUT still advises the customer about how to create an effective ad.3. Generally the owner or some of the businesses’ customers are put on the commercial to create that hometown, I know that person, moment (local PR) 4. Local Cable & Broadcast TV handle both highly produced National & Regional commercials as well as the local commercials when they run back to back in a stop set it is truly noticeable. Probably more by those of us in the business than those that are not.Your argument is correct as long as you do not take into consideration, the very reason “local” TV & Cable exist for ad sales.–John

  • James

    I disagree. There are a lot of talented Indie film makers shooting commercials who have cinematic quality equipment. Yet the commercials end up looking like they were shot with a webcam. I recently produced a commercial with a BM 4K URSA and sent it to Comcast with all the broadcast standards set according to Comcast technical documents. Still looked like garbage. So money is not everything (at least on my end). There is some magical settings that only a few guys know about or they have to pay extra to Comcast to get them to broadcast it in HD. I can only assume this to be true, as there is another local film maker who made an ad for a local attorney that turned out gorgeous (I’m truly jealous), and his equipment is not as good as mine. So there’s something going on behind the scenes that these cable providers are doing that make the end quality look hokey or big budget…My guess is that they downscale to 720i if you don’t spend a lot of money on broadcasting or have a long term relationship with them (like run ads for 5 years). Which in either case means, you have to spend more money (just not on production).

    • Field

      Equipment is only about 20% of the battle, maybe less. The other guy’s commercial probably looked better because he knows what he is doing, broadcast specs and getting stuff to deliver the same way each time from platform to platform is complicated. You can shoot in 4K on the URSA Mini, edit in 4K, and have a final render in 4K and then downscale to 720i without it looking like garbage when you understand the settings for the final part of the pipeline. There are dozens of things that could go wrong from the second you turn on your camera till the point where the video actually is broadcast. I would say the OP is spot on with his assessment. At least locally, here all the people who are worth their salt in video production don’t work at the news stations because our skills are not appreciated. They can get by with paying half-interested media students to do a mediocre job and 95% of the 30+ year olds watching the news can’t tell that anything is wrong. Our news station still brags that they broadcast in HD and its 2017. The talented people are charging much much more for much much better work which includes special attention to the client and actually working with them to better their business.

      • James

        Undisputed, the other guy knows what he’s doing. I’m just starting this career. So how do I discover those “magic” settings to make commercials look good on TV without having to go through $$$ and years of trial and error? I think the footage looks great on the PC and if I play it on the TV in HD. Comcast says they broadcast in HD (1080i), but it looks like SD. I’m sure I’ve set something wrong.
        Undisputed, the other guy knows what he’s doing. I’m just starting this career. So how do I discover those “magic” settings to make commercials look good on TV without having to go through $$$ and years of trial and error? I think the footage looks great on the PC and if I play it on the TV in HD. Comcast says they broadcast in HD (1080i), but it looks like SD. I’m sure I’ve set something wrong.

        • Field

          The magic of delivery is an advanced form of knowledge simply because its a lot of boring math-type information. Delivery is just like most of the industry, unless your learning directly from a mentor, where a lot of what you do will be trial and error and learning as much as you can from any resource you can get your hands on. There are so many variables that can change the way your footage looks on different mediums. For instance one export may look stunning on your pc but horrible on a projector. Another may look great on an HD tv but horrible on a movie screen. Depending on Comcasts specs, picking the right file format and codec will be your first level of defense against garbage video. Make sure you pick the codec that is most native to their software and has the least amount of compression, this will retain the highest amount of quality. The next step is setting up bit-rate settings to make sure you get all that data flowing through. The higher the bit-rate, the more information that can be displayed. Of course you will reach a point to where your bit-rate is more than the information you have in your footage unless your shooting in something crazy like 8K RAW. If your editing software does not let you control these export settings I would look into Compressor or a software similar to it. MPEG Streamclip is free and does a decent job. Mostly you want to make sure your footage stays as clean as it can from the moment you shoot until you export a final. You can find videos explaining how to do this on Youtube. The magic settings will mostly depend on your editing software and the limitations in the Comcast specs.

          • James

            Thanks. I’ll look into that software you mentioned. I feel that Adobe Media Encoder is not up to snuff as some of the requirements/settings mentioned by Comcast are not available on AME.
            I guess its like that magic difference between Mac and PC. I remember working with Photoshop on a PC and the other artist in the cubical next to me was on Mac. We were both working on banner designs (nothing earth shattering), but his end product always seemed to be more polished even though the design and concepts had the same quality. Like the anti-aliasing was more refined or had more color data.
            I also heard about Sony software that is used to compress movies onto Blu-ray and DVD which costs about $100,000. Clearly, there is an upper end to this compression issue as people in the industry are able to put two hours of UHD imagery on a disk or stream.

  • Field

    Just so everyone is aware, you example of the Cuban Gyno commercial was intentionally produced that way to make it memorable. Its from two guys who, now, have a very successful Youtube channel. (Rhett & Link). They have many many more like it and play on the idea of local ads being horrible. They are hilarious in my opinion.


Attention Era Media is an award winning film production company based in Milwaukee, with our work on televisions & theaters in five continents. In addition to filmmaking, we also have the capabilities to add support via LIVE broadcast, photography, music production, cinemagraphs, timelapses, aerial, & other visual tools.