TV Ads for Little Guys


Cable and Internet veterans are helping shrink the pool of businesses who’ve never advertised on television by introducing them to a Los Angeles-based company called SpotRunner.

Using digital footage and other creative materials, the firm can craft an ad and media plan for a neophyte business for as little as $1,500 — $499 for the ad and a $1,000 minimum media buy. SpotRunner can also help local business across the country find airtime to buy on local broadcast stations and cable networks.

The founders of the firm are Nick Grouf, who developed the Firefly Passport Internet security software that was sold in the mid-1990s to Microsoft Corp.; and David Waxman, who with Grouf built PeoplePC, an Internet-service provider since sold to EarthLink Inc.


“For little guys, TV can be tough to access,” said John Gentry, chief revenue officer of SpotRunner and a veteran of Discovery Networks U.S. and Disney/ABC Cable Networks.

“We want to be the agency of record for local businesses,” he said.

Not just individual businesses patronize SpotRunner, which officially launched last January. Realogy Corp., the parent company of such Realtors as Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, has contracted with SpotRunner, which created a Web portal for the corporation.

About 300,000 of the company’s local Realtors can go to the portal for corporate-approved creative, used to design localized spots to promote their hometown agencies. At the portal, Realtors can also design ads for specific properties to be advertised on local broadcast or cable, Gentry said.

SpotRunner is now placing ads in all 50 states, in categories from small restaurants to doctors and lawyers. Though the minimum recommended buy is $1,000, the actual cost of the media plan depends on the market the advertiser is accessing and the size of the ad flight. Most clients buy more than the minimum, Gentry said.

SpotRunner has attracted clients by attending trade shows, and by creating and buying ads of its own.

Asked if local cable ad-sales executives see SpotRunner as competition, Gentry said his company has received good response from cable systems.

“We’re an advertising agency,” he said. “We bring them a different client base.”

Clients embrace the service too, he noted.

“TV [advertising] adds an aura of success,” he said. SpotRunner has already experienced clients returning for subsequent ad flights, and the cost of the creative is so low, they are shooting updated spots, he said.