Everything you need to know about Advertising on Linear and CTV
In recent years, the media landscape has continued to undergo seismic shifts in the technology available to advertisers, viewing behavior, and how individuals respond to advertisements. Whereas the golden era of television brought families together into one room around a single screen, today's world of content is very fragmented.
For most of TV history, traditional broadcast television, or Linear TV, dominated the airwaves. Linear TV, which follows a predetermined programming schedule is now sharing the stage with Connected TV (CTV), which refers to any device that streams on-demand content like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, ROKU, Xbox, etc.
At the same time, the social media platforms that dominate culture like TikTok and Instagram have introduced new video formats that challenge both traditional and CTV for consumer attention and advertising dollars.
There are more choices than ever, and it can be a confusing soup for advertisers looking for the best way to reach their target audience.
As the lines between Linear TV, CTV, and digital marketing via social media blur and converge, growing businesses face a perplexing dilemma: When exactly is the right time to introduce TV as a marketing channel? And how does TV fit within the broader digital marketing ecosystem?
For this article, we've sought insights from Marketing Specialist Avital Caspi to offer readers a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the TV advertising landscape. Caspi acknowledges the challenges in today's market, noting that the abundance of advertising avenues can be daunting.
With CTV still carving out its niche and Linear TV seeing a dip in viewership, advertisers might feel they're navigating murky waters. Caspi emphasizes that "both channels, if harnessed correctly, can yield substantial returns, propelling a company's marketing endeavors to unprecedented success."
In this guide, we’ll help you and your business to identify the right moment to utilize TV as a marketing channel. We will also compare Linear TV and CTV with social media advertising and look at the potential of TV in the context of a diverse digital media landscape. To learn more about crafting successful ads for TV and CTV, don't miss our blog on how to write engaging D2C video ads that convert.
Linear TV, characterized by fixed, scheduled programming on specific channels, has been a cornerstone of advertising for decades. If you aren’t Gen Z, then it’s just the normal the way you grew up watching TV. Linear TV’s vast reach and the emotional impact of big memorable campaigns, especially during prime-time shows or major events, have solidified its cultural status as the gold standard for advertising the biggest brands or for those brands looking to make it big. Linear TV gives your brand credibility, huge reach, cultural impact, and hopefully a large amount of revenue!
However, as viewers migrate towards on-demand content and newer platforms emerge, businesses must reassess Linear TV's role in an evolving digital landscape.
Connected TV, or CTV, brings together the familiarity of television with the flexibility of digital streaming. Using internet-connected devices like smart TVs or streaming sticks, viewers can choose what they want to watch when they want to watch it. For advertisers, this means more targeted ad placements and detailed analytics similar to digital campaigns.
As CTV grows in popularity, businesses have the opportunity to combine the precision of digital marketing with the broad appeal of traditional TV.
Check out our guide to CTV campaigns and audience targeting here!
Why advertise on CTV or linear TV instead of other platforms? Here's a concise list of the main benefits. For a deeper dive into the main benefits of CTV specifically, check out our comprehensive guide on reasons to run ads on CTV and OTT.
The biggest strength of TV advertising is its vast reach. A single TV spot has the potential to be seen by millions of people all at once, a powerful tool for maximum exposure. The best commercials create a common cultural experience that people will talk about the next day with their coworkers or friends. In an age where social media platforms offer niche audience targeting, TV continues to stand out as a medium that can effectively amplify a message across a broad, expansive viewing public.
As businesses expand, their marketing strategies must also evolve to match their growth objectives. TV advertising offers exposure from local to regional and national levels. Before jumping into a channel with so much at stake, businesses must assess their operational readiness. Can their production handle a quick and large uptick in demand or interest? Are systems and processes equipped to scale? Committing to TV advertising without the infrastructure to support potential growth can lead to missed opportunities and customer dissatisfaction. It's crucial to ensure that scalability aligns with marketing outreach.
TV advertising combines both visual and auditory elements, delivering a multi-sensory experience that leaves a lasting impression on viewers. This engagement can lead to better message recall and emotional connection with audiences, setting TV ads apart from many other advertising mediums like purely visual website banners or purely audio radio spots. In today’s cluttered advertising landscape, the immersive nature of TV commercials provides brands an edge in capturing and retaining viewer attention.
Despite the surge in digital and social platforms, many consumers continue to perceive TV as a trusted source of information and advertising. Historically, TV channels and broadcasters have been held to strict standards, giving commercials aired on television an inherent level of credibility. For brands, this translates to an opportunity to build and maintain trust with a wider audience by leveraging the longstanding reputation of the medium.
Almost everyone watches some form of TV! There are shows for every demographic and interest. This diversity ensures that brands can target both general and specific audiences. Whether aiming for the broad reach of a national campaign or the precision of a targeted CTV ad, TV caters to a vast and varied viewer base. The challenge for advertisers is to decide how to match their goals to the right TV strategy. It’s easy to go too broad or too narrow and achieve bad results.
TV advertising can come with a hefty price tag, especially if you want to advertise during prime-time dayparts or popular events. Before diving into TV as a marketing channel, businesses must evaluate if they have the financial means to sustain a TV campaign.
A financial analysis doesn’t have to be complicated. At a basic level, just compare initial setup costs (creative production, agency fees) plus the required media budget over the campaign time period against the potential returns (sales revenue, value of more users) plus any long term benefits (brand awareness, market share). If that estimate is positive, and if the cost is within the means of your business, then TV is probably worth a test.
Of course, for the above calculation, you need the knowledge to accurately assess all the cost inputs and variables. For example, a TV commercial can cost anywhere from ten thousand to one million dollars, and a test to advertise on CTV might cost $10,000/month vs. Linear TV at $50,000/month.
This complexity is the primary reason to work with an agency who can accurately assess your strategy.
Marketing Specialist Avital Caspi offers her insight into financial planning and budgeting for TV, "A robust budget is necessary. While initial trials cost around $20,000 per week, I would push for a more substantial spend of around $50,000 per week. A larger investment makes airing ads easier and also ensures you collect enough data to measure ad efficacy."
For many enterprises, the prospect of such a large financial commitment is the most daunting hurdle to advertising on TV. At the same time, gathering the resources and taking that initial risk can lead to incredible gains and exponential returns on the initial investment.
Caspi’s experience in the trenches also challenges the belief that higher production costs equate to better advertisements. She says that cheaper advertisements have often outperformed more expensive ads, driving home the point that the success of a TV ad isn't solely tied to its budget. Although TV commercials typically need higher production costs than digital ads, pouring more money into an ad doesn't guarantee its effectiveness. The true reasons for an ad's success are a sound media strategy, strong concepts, and spot-on creative execution. By working with an agency that knows how to plan smart and capitalize on insights, a business can create a powerful ad within a reasonable budget.
Businesses must understand where their target audience spends their viewing time and how they consume video. Are they traditional cable subscribers or have they migrated to streaming platforms? An agency can also help analyze viewership data and trends to ensure that ads connect with the intended demographic. Missing the mark can mean wasted investment. Audience research is pivotal in choosing the right creative concepts and transmission medium.
What’s the right mix? Linear TV, CTV, digital platforms, or a combination of all? Avital Caspi points out that "Traditional TV predominantly attracts an older demographic compared to CTV and, while digital platforms skew young. Offers and advertising on TV must resonate with an older viewership in both content and presentation. For businesses aiming to reach an older demographic, TV is a golden opportunity to engage their target audience."
Even if a business has the budget to advertise on TV, it does not guarantee success by any means. Budget allows you to buy timeslots and programming, but without high-quality video content and strong creative, you are bound to fail.
There is not one single approach, and the key again is finding the right creative strategy for your brand and business goals.
The real art of creating a successful TV commercial is the right blend of storytelling, aesthetics, and clear messaging. A big-budget commercial can still fall flat without those elements. That’s where the right production partner comes into play. A strong creative agency that understands your brand and business will produce a commercial that resonates with your target audience and engages the viewer.
Stop! Before you break the bank on that million dollar Super Bowl ad, you may already have your hit commercial. Many brands have video content from social media or paid digital platforms. A creative agency can take your bank of footage and repurpose it into a TV commercial. Repurposing content is an easier way to dip your toes into TV advertising, and you might even end up with a hit. That said, it really doesn’t matter if you are repurposing content or crafting something new, a successful video is synonymous with a well-produced video.
On the flip side, shooting a new spot specifically for TV might be wiser than repurposing old content. Marketing Specialist Avital Caspi cautions that "Social media ads are often created for specific circumstances. For example, digital videos are often designed to work with the sound turned off, since many digital platforms like Instagram or YouTube automatically play videos without the sound off. In contrast, TV and CTV platforms are “volume on” platforms. Viewers are actively listening, and the audio must be front and center to any creative concept, not an afterthought. Sound, including voiceovers and music, should complement and elevate the visual narrative."
Frequency is how often an individual sees your TV ad within a certain period of time. As a rule of thumb, higher frequency leads to higher brand recall, but as usual, it’s not that simple! In the pre-internet era, the “rule of three” was generally accepted: If a viewer saw your ad three times, say within a month, then they would remember your brand. Then in the 2000s, during the internet age, marketers changed to the “rule of seven.” With more distractions and advertising on the web, your brand needed 7 views to cut through the noise and make a lasting impression on the viewer. As we move through the 2020s, with ubiquitous content and advertising everywhere we look, we have the “rule of 21.” That may sound crazy, but it’s becoming the new normal. In today’s congested ad space, you may actually need to reach a viewer 21 times if you want them to remember your brand.
It might be tempting to think “Ok so let’s just get in front of consumers as much as possible!” But while frequent airing can establish a brand's presence, overexposure risks viewer fatigue or annoyance. Imagine seeing the same ad 50 times in a week. You may recall the brand but with a bad taste in your mouth. Determining optimal frequency involves analyzing the campaign’s goals, audience engagement metrics, and budget constraints to ensure that a brand remains top-of-mind without becoming overly repetitive.
In today's multi-platform environment, standalone strategies often fall short. Businesses need to think about how TV advertising can work in tandem with their digital campaigns. Integrating TV spots with social media, search engine marketing, or online video platforms can create a cohesive message across different mediums. It's about ensuring that a TV ad doesn’t exist in isolation but is part of a larger, interconnected marketing strategy, amplifying the overall campaign impact.
Advertising on TV reflects a level of growth maturity for a business. New startups or small businesses with smaller budgets might find better ROI in grassroots campaigns or targeted online advertising. As a brand grows, achieves stable revenue streams, and aims for broader brand recognition, TV advertising becomes a logical next step. Understanding your company's stage of growth and market presence helps determine if it's mature enough to benefit from the vast reach and prestige that TV offers.
How to assess: Review the benefits of TV. Decide if they align with your business goals or if your resources are still better allocated to targeted digital advertising.
One hallmark of a mature business is the accumulation of large amounts of data from many marketing campaigns. Whether from digital advertising, email marketing, or even grassroots efforts, this data offers invaluable insights into customer behaviors, preferences, and conversion metrics. Before transitioning to TV advertising, a business should have a reservoir of data to:
Understand Audience Profiles: Knowing who your audience is and what they resonate with can guide TV ad content and placement decisions.
Forecast Potential Impact: Past data can help businesses anticipate the potential reach and conversion rates of TV campaigns, allowing for more informed budget allocations.
Benchmark and Measure Success: Having historical data gives businesses a benchmark against which to measure the success of their TV campaigns. This aids in assessing the ROI and making necessary adjustments in real-time.
Venturing into TV advertising without sufficient data can be like navigating unfamiliar terrain without a map. The data, in this context, not only informs the journey but significantly enhances the probability of success.
How to assess: Create a few personas that you would like to reach with TV and go through their journey. What do they watch? Where do they watch TV? What action will they take? How many will take the action? Will the results of those actions bring you the success you’re looking for?
On TV, time is limited to a few expensive seconds, and a brand must engage viewers quickly and powerfully. An instantly captivating message can both grab attention and remain memorable, the key to increasing brand recall. Clarity of message is also the key to drive viewers to take a desired action, whether that’s visiting a website or making a purchase. A business that has done the work to refine their core message with clarity is ready to build a creative concept around it.
How to assess: Can you say exactly who you are, what you do, and the action you want your customer to take in a few sentences? Will your message resonate with your target audience if they see it on TV?
Businesses must be sure that TV is the right medium for their business goals.
TV is exceptional at driving broad awareness, creating a powerful brand presence, and reaching diverse demographics. TV is probably the wrong channel if your primary goal is capturing web search intent, generating targeted leads, or driving immediate online conversions. For these goals, a digital strategy is likely better.
Conversely, if a brand is seeking wide-reaching recognition, credibility enhancement, or aims to break into new demographics, TV advertising can be a game-changer.
How to assess: Businesses must thoroughly evaluate their goals and compare TV’s potential with other advertising channels like paid search or social media.
As an agency, we recommend the following approaches and strategies to give your business the best chance of success on TV.
Even if your goal is clear for TV, it's best to apply the “test, learn, adapt” framework. Begin with a small targeted campaign, then analyze the results to gain actionable learnings and make any adjustments to your campaigns before testing again. If the results are poor, you can keep the budget small and adjust dayparts, test new networks, or refine the creative until you feel confident in scaling your spend. If your results are good, then you can be confident to spend more on the campaign.
Any brand who has advertised on digital understands A/B testing, and the same methods can be used on TV. Your media buyer can split spend between different creatives and pit them head to head. By scaling the winners, dropping the losers quickly, and rethinking what isn’t working, you will keep moving in the right direction and avoid wasted spend.
Marketing Specialist Avital Caspi points out that "Testing on TV poses a challenge due to the substantial advertising costs. I suggest a minimum run of two weeks to gauge the effectiveness of a TV test, but a full month-long cycle is even better to gain enough data for actionable insights."
Caspi also recommends a thoughtful approach. "Don't just apply the exact same strategies that work on other channels like social media to TV. Try a cross-over approach. Test the core messaging and conceptual themes on social media first, and apply them to your TV creative. Social media’s rapid feedback loop and low cost are an ideal to test fundamental creative elements like value propositions and slogans. Brands can quickly find out which messages resonate with their audience and apply those insights to their TV strategy."
TV does not exist in isolation. Nowadays, all channels work together to form an omnichannel marketing surface. Your TV campaigns must work together with your digital campaigns to provide a unified, seamless experience for your audience, no matter where they encounter your brand.
For example, someone will see your TV ad, then search for your brand on Instagram, click on a profile link to your website, not take any action, and then search for your brand on Google a month later and finally make a purchase. This modern typical user experience will break if your TV and digital aren’t built in harmony.
Avital Caspi draws attention to a key distinction between TV and social media marketing: "TV often shines in building brand awareness, while social media excels at direct response initiatives. But this doesn't mean they operate in separate spheres."
In fact, if a TV advertisement proves successful, its effect will ripple across multiple channels. Caspi emphasizes that "positive brand sentiment and recognition generated by a compelling TV spot can bolster the performance of campaigns on other platforms, particularly digital (check out our guide on creating great digital video ads here). The synergy between the two means that a well-received message on TV can catalyze engagement and conversions on social media, and vice versa."
The bottom line? TV has the power to boost your digital marketing, so think about how your audience will experience your brand and make sure messaging is aligned wherever they encounter your business.
TV viewer preferences, peak viewing times, and the type of creative that works is evolving constantly. That’s why continuous measurement is essential to know your return on investment and if it’s time to adjust your messaging, placement, or frequency. There are a variety of measurement tools that can also allow you to monitor how TV lifts performance on other marketing channels like web search or social media engagement.
New technological innovations, shifts in viewer habits, and emerging platforms can transform the rules of the game overnight. That’s why it’s essential to have a partner that knows how to take advantage of the latest developments can give your business a competitive advantage.
Many agencies just focus on creating a commercial, but at Filmkraft, we believe you can’t hit a homerun unless you also understand your client’s goals and current marketing strategy. We also pride ourselves in staying up-to-date and understanding the evolving TV landscape and passing that knowledge on to our clients. Our team includes marketers and media buyers who can assist with strategy planning, and that experience means we know how our videos actually perform in the context of a marketing plan.
In short, we do all the things we spoke about in this guide. So if you like what you read, get in touch with us today and let’s talk about how Filmkraft can help your brand connect with your audience through the power of video and TV.
Venturing into TV as a marketing channel for the first time is filled with make or break decisions. For clients new to TV, we can help craft a strategy and answer any questions about the intricacies of the medium.
We have a passion for working with our clients as allies, committed to ensuring your message resonates, your brand stands out, and your investment comes good. So if you’re ready to leverage the power of TV and elevate your brand to new heights, get in touch!
We want to thank Marketing Specialist Avital Caspi for her insights in this guide. Beyond heading her own business, Caspi Growth, Avital offers her TV Ad buying expertise as a consultant for Filmkraft. Currently based in Tel Aviv, Israel, her contributions have been invaluable in ensuring that our clients receive the best guidance for TV advertising.