TV Advertising: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

by JRO on November 15, 2013

  • SumoMe

Marketing, in its most basic form, has been around since humans started selling and trading with each other. If you have something that people want or need, you have to tell them about it.

A contemporary company’s media package will consist of a variety of campaigns on several different platforms. The modern world affords corporations with radio, print, television, and now “new media” advertising options. Each has its own set of pros and cons. In a broad sense, radio, print, and new media ads are cheaper than television ads. This is premised on the assumption that television offers the biggest audience to which companies can serve their commercials. At its most extreme, television advertising can be outrageously expensive.

A Balanced Approach

Similar to a financial portfolio, it’s not wise to put all your eggs in one basket. Although you can certainly argue that TV still reaches the largest audience in one specific block of time; a company still has to weigh its return on ad dollars invested across all platforms. Sometimes a large number of “eyeballs” simply isn’t enough, and you have to determine exactly what eyeballs you want viewing your ads. This is called demographic targeting or segmenting, and it’s becoming increasingly more popular with tools afforded by the Internet and social media. Case in point, Google made $50B in 2012 and that mostly came from advertising revenue. The ability to specifically target certain individuals is what has drawn many companies to new media advertising.

Television is Still King

The rapid growth of new media is not an indication that “traditional” media doesn’t offer tremendous value. In fact, both television and new media are increasingly blending together as people are consuming TV shows on a variety of different devices, including mobile phones and tablets. It’s also telling that most large multinational corporations still spend the bulk of their ad dollars on television.

In order to have maximum impact with a television campaign, a company must take a very candid look in the mirror, and identify their ideal customer and that person’s viewing and purchasing habits. After zeroing-in on their target demographic, it’s time for production. The company must produce an ad that’s congruent with their core values and target audience.

After the commercial is made, Nielsen has traditionally been the go-to source for television research. Nielsen Ratings has been measuring TV viewership since the 1950s. They can tell you who is watching what program and at what time. Armed with this information, companies can then buy airtime for their commercials during the shows or events where there is traditionally a high concentration of their target audience.

But there is a further distinction between national and local markets that must be factored in. As you can imagine, an ad that runs nationwide is considerably more expensive than one that runs in one specific geographic area. The second variable is length of time. Ads can range anywhere from 15 seconds to a full minute, with cost moving in accordance with time. A third variable is how often the commercial runs during the chosen program (once, twice, every commercial break, etc.). The location, length, and frequency of the ad should be chosen very carefully.

The efficacy of television advertising is based on the law of large numbers; if you pick the right set of variables, the payoff in terms of product revenue can be enormous.


Jonathan Smithers writes on marketing, filmmaking, TV commercials, advertising and other related topics; to learn more about video marketing in general visit

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