TV for the Rest of Us
Daniel Weiss is the 29-year-old founder of Engineered Protection Systems Inc., a Houston-basedcommercial electronic-security company. EPS has seen sales skyrocket to $1.8 million in 1998 from$350,000 in 1997. Weiss attributes the leap in revenues largely to his ads on cable TV.
Cable advertising has been around for years. But according to Weiss, the secret is in how you use it. EPShas run a series of mostly humorous, low-budget 30-second spots all over CNN and CNBC in Houston.Weiss stars in the ads and has become something of a local celebrity. "We've generated a lot of repeatbusiness from cable," he says. "It's a very powerful medium."
And it's cheap. Ads cost Weiss about $200 to produce and $10 per placement. Compare that with the costof other Houston-area outlets for advertising: A half-page spread in the local business journal can go for$5,000 a week. A 30-second spot on AM talk radio may run $150.
In 1998, EPS spent $50,000, or 70% of its advertising-and-marketing budget, on cable. Weiss expects toincrease that to $125,000 this year. Yet he wasn't always so enamored of the medium. "I figured there wasno way we could afford it," he says. "The big stations were charging anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 forlocal spots. I thought cable would be a little less but still out of our budget."
Then he tried it. EPS ran its first ads during November 1997. Not one customer responded. Weiss wanted tojunk the campaign. "I thought, 'No wonder they're cheap,' " he says.
But he decided to give it another month. A week later a customer who had seen a commercial on CNBCbought a $30,000 security system. "I was sold," says Weiss.
EPS has built a brand name through its cable ads, which have also brought the company a ton of extraexposure. The local news media, including Houston's network affiliates, have all interviewed Weiss aboutsecurity issues. And his own celebrity works to his advantage when he's selling, too. Whenever Weiss joinsa salesperson on a presentation, it helps to seal the deal, he says. "If you've seen me on TV for sixmonths, you think you know me and trust me," Weiss says. "You almost cannot avoid buying from me.There's something about the way TV affects people."