Skip to main content

Ultimate Guide to TV Advertising

TV advertising has the potential to reach and engage mass audiences through its ability to immerse the majority of the human senses. This medium has also, time and time again, proven to be a great sales converter that generates excellent ROI (Return on Investment). In order for advertisers to take advantage of print advertising and use it effectively effective, a few key considerations are necessary:

  • What makes a good TV ad?
  • What are the various types of TV ad formats available?
  • What will it cost you to create and place ads on TV?

Ultimately, developing a winning TV advertising strategy will ensure that you’re well placed to do this.

In this ultimate guide, we’re going to unpack TV advertising and provide insight on how to get the most out of it as an advertising channel.


What is TV Advertising?

TV ads are a method of advertising that has been around since the 1930s, where advertisers pay for and create a body of content developed specifically for television. They naturally aim to convey a brand message, promote a product or service and ultimately drive sales for a company.

Television advertising involves three main tasks:

  • Creating a television advertisement that meets broadcast standards
  • Placing the advertisement on television to reach the desired customer
  • Measuring the outcomes of these ads, including a return on investment

Advertisers make use of TV ads because of their amazing ability to reach millions of viewers who are captivated by the screen and receptive to brand messaging. When advertising on television, you need to make sure that your ad is aired at the right time on the right channel to reach your desired target audience. Various channels will be able to provide you with the necessary data about their viewership numbers and their audience types, these will help you to make sure that you place your ad where it will make the most impact.

TV Advertising Terms

If you are thinking of exploring this advertising medium for your brand and you just simply aren’t sure where to start, our team at Empire would be glad to walk you through it and help your brand meet its objectives. In the meantime; before we jump into the meaty stuff, we’ll introduce some terms that you will come across when working with this form of advertising:

  • Impressions
    Impressions refer to the total number of exposures to your advertisement. One person can receive multiple exposures over time.
  • Day-part
    Day-part is the process of dividing the television broadcast day into different blocks of time, or parts, and adjusting advertising strategy based on programming and demographics of viewers.
  • Frequency
    Frequency refers to the number of times that a consumer will be exposed to an ad message.
  • Penetration
    The number of people or households who own TV or subscribe to cable.
  • Reach
    Refers to the number of viewers that have the opportunity to view an ad during a given time period.
  • Gross rating points
    A metric that measures the size of an audience reached by a specific media vehicle or schedule.
  • Cost per thousand (CPM)
    This refers to the cost of getting your ad in front of a thousand people. By doing this you are able to ascertain how much you are spending on your advertising per eye.
  • Sweeps
    TV sweeps is a defined time period that rating surveys are sent to local markets to measure program viewership.
  • Share
    Share is the percentage of households or people who are viewing a TV ad at a specific time
  • Rating
    Ratings are a measure of a broadcast or cable program’s listening or viewing audience. They are expressed as a percentage of a specific target audience.
  • Run of schedule (ROS)
    ROS is an airing time of a commercial on a radio or TV left to the discretion of the station.

Types of TV Commercials

Although there is no set standard to producing a television commercial, there are various types of identifiable television adverts that we’re about to outline. Make the most of your TV advertising budget by choosing the most appealing TV ad for your target audience. Let’s take a look at a few types of TV ads.

The USP Model

The Unique Personality Property composition focuses the ad on a unique selling point of your product or service. What makes your product or service stand out from the rest? This type of TV ad shows the viewer why they’d need your offering. By showing your unique selling point, you’re identifying an issue and how you solve it better. This commercial format is most popular amongst electronic ads.

The Solve-the-Problem Ad

One of the more simpler (and common) TV ads are the ones that show a problem, or a need and then demonstrate how the offering advertised solved that. Almost every industry, from electronics, entertainment, cosmetic and even insurance have used these types of TV commercials. Here’s an example.

The Analogy

Offering room for humour, these TV ads use analogies or exaggerated graphics to prove a point. Think of extreme exaggeration. For example, the well known Mercedes Benz Intelligent Drive campaign.

The Before and After

Just think of almost any detergent television ad and you’ll have an example of this format. Typically this TV commercial will show the before, and the after. The after demonstrating the benefit of the product or service. Vanish often releases TV ads of this nature.

Exemplary Type

The Exemplary television commercial draws focus on the after effects of using the advertising service or product. It shows how the consumer has benefited from using the product. For example, an insurance TV ad, that shows how their members benefit from cash back. Take a look:

The Testimonial

Testimonial ads are widely used in television. In the TV ad, an actor or a real user will share their positive experience with the viewer. This is a great way to start a campaign to get your customers involved in the promotion of your offering.

The Benefits

The classic Benefit format shows how using the product or service will cause something great to occur. An example here would be buying a coffee from Starbucks and you end up meeting your soulmate. You could take this a step further and incorporate humour, where the viewer understands these results are unlikely, but your point still comes across. A great example? All the Axe deodorant “Axe Effect” TV ads.

Character or Celebrity endorsement

Television commercials that use characters and celebrities can leverage their star appeal. An expensive TV commercial format, but with the right celebrity, you’re sure to get engaged views and return on investment. Take a look at a few different TV ads that feature well known celebrities.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the best TV advertisements, we compiled a comprehensive list of the 101 best TV commercials of all time.


Is TV Advertising Still Effective?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Television has been a staple in advertising since its inception and still has an undeniably massive reach. TV is a trusted source of news, information and entertainment for almost all households. There are no ad blockers for TV advertising, and viewers are more likely to be heavily engaged whilst watching the TV. This makes for a very effective medium for advertisers.

Here’s an example of a TV advertisement that had massive impact and exceeded expectations:

Who can deny the Old Spice TV ad “ The Man your Man Could Smell Like”. After airing the ad went viral online. Initially starting as a TV and print ad, it soon took on a life of it’s on online, having the brand working overtime to create more material to keep momentum. The viral success of this TV ad teaches us that if you see your campaign gaining momentum, take it further by keeping your brand image and messaging consistent.

Below we explore a few more reason that make TV a popular choice with advertisers:

  • Sporting events
    TV commercials are particularly popular during popular sports shows such as the soccer world cup and the olympics. People will be glued to their TV sets during these events, making it the perfect time to slip in and grab their attention.
  • Older audiences
    If your brand is more geared toward an older generation, TV is one placement you can’t miss. They are less likely to be fully engaged online, and more so using TV at the end of the day to unwind and relax with their favourite show or catch up on the news. Advertisers can take advantage of this medium to reach an audience with a high purchasing power and disposable income.
  • Engaged attention
    In today’s age, audiences’ attention is split between various devices at the same time. People usually have their mobiles closeby whilst watching television, giving them the ability to search online for a product or service that’s caught their attention through a TV ad.

How is TV reach measured?

Let’s explore some detail around the concept of TV reach. Reach is a metric used that refers to the number of viewers that had the opportunity to view the TV ad during a given time period. This is where media planners have the upper hand, as they would know a station or programmes data to make informed decisions about where a TV ad will be placed. Reach also contributes to the calculation of gross ratings points, which is a metric often used when looking at the impact of broad TV campaigns.

GRPs (Gross Rating Points) measure the size of an audience reached by a program and/ or schedule. It is the percentage of the target audience reached by a TV ad, multiplied by the frequency of its exposure during the schedule.

For example, a TV advert that is aired 5 times reaching 40% of the target audience, would have 200 (GRP = 5 × 40%) i.e., GRPs = frequency × % reach.

How Effective is TV Advertising compared to other methods?

Amongst a plethora of advertising mediums, TV still has its place in the world of advertising. Compared to other advertising methods, TV is most suited to delivering your message if your audience is a mass market segment. Audiences are more likely to be highly engaged whilst watching the TV, compared to other formats, ensuring higher recall and memorability. . The effectiveness of TV advertising can be measured through various metics. Let’s explore.

How do you measure the effectiveness of TV advertising?

In order to know whether or not your TV ad campaign had an impact, you’re going to want to find out if the campaign caused any of these key statistics. Sales, revenue, organic website traffic. These metrics will tell you whether or not there was a spike before and after the campaign aired.

  • Website traffic
    Has your website seen a spike in people visiting it since your ad aired? This would mean people actively searched for you after being exposed to your TV ad. Indicating interest and the first step in the consumer journey.
  • Direct response to unique phone numbers and emails
    If your TV ad had a unique call to action – texting a word to a unique number, for example, have you seen an influx of these actions?
  • Total purchase data after ad runs
    Analyse your sales before and after the time your TV ad ran. Was there a significant spike in sales?

Advantages of TV Advertising

All advertising methods have their various benefits and pitfalls, depending on your industry and what your business goals are. You may find that taking only one approach doesn’t necessarily meet all the objectives that you have set in place. Which is why it is important to make sure that your advertising strategy incorporates an appropriate mix of the different media available. Let’s have look at some of the benefits of Television advertising:

  • TV ads provide a multi-sensory ad experience. Viewers hear, see, and read your advertisement, meaning they digest the information (and the feelings it provokes) in many different ways.
  • TV ads have a wide reach.1.67 billion households have a television. Assuming even half of these watch TV during prime time, reach is undeniable.
  • TV ads are impactful. They reach your audience when they’re attentive and focused.
  • TV ads allow your brand to establish a brand identity and expand your brand awareness. They give you a chance to be creative and attach a personality to your company or product.

Challenges of TV Advertising

  • TV ads can be more expensive than any other marketing medium. Depending on the network you choose, prime spot or not, perhaps a more niched channel, networks charge for airtime. Other factors such as hiring writers, actors, producers, and editors can add up, too. For example, with radio we could run a successful campaign from $3,000 and TV would need a budget of at least $20k – very dependent on time slots, station, production of the ad.
  • TV ads are hard to change. Unlike display ads, social media posts, or even print ads, you can’t hop in and change a TV ad without shooting a new ad or at least contacting the network. If you do choose to change anything, it’ll cost you more money.
  • TV ads are avoidable. Although your audience is attentive and focused while watching TV, they might choose to skip over or ignore the commercials. With technology like DVR and streaming on Netflix and Hulu, TV ads can be entirely eliminated if a viewer so chooses.
  • TV ads can’t be targeted like other marketing channels. You can, however, choose to run your ad on channels and during day-parts that reach your audience. If you sell products for stay-at-home moms, you might run your ad during the day; if you’re advertising a service for working parents, you might run it during night-time programs

How to advertise on TV

Before you launch a television campaign, you need to formulate a plan of who you want to reach, their location and when you want to reach them. Once you have this information you can look into how to make your dollar stretch to achieve your goals.

How to buy TV advertising

There are three approaches that one can take when buying tv advertising.

  • Remnant approach
    This approach allows you to buy spots from the tv station a week before your ad airs, however, there is no guarantee that your ad will air with this approach because other advertisers could out-bid you for the spot. When the ad isn’t aired, there is no “clearance”. Clearance is a term used in the remnant market to show the percentage of purchased tv ads that have aired. Advertisers only pay for cleared ads.
  • Non-pre-emptiable (NPE)
    This approach is less flexible than the remnant as the advertiser has to buy a spot one quarter before airing. However these buys offer 100% clearance, meaning your ad will definitely be aired, thus making this the spot more costly than remnant buys.
  • Upfronts
    In this approach, advertisers have to buy their ads at least 6 months before they air, which obviously doesn’t leave much room for flexibility, and yet they are the most expensive. However, they do allow the advertisers to choose the specific programs which will offer guaranteed impressions. If the particular network isn’t able to deliver on the chosen spot, they offer the advertiser an alternative that will garner the same results.

TV Advertising Scheduling

You want to make sure you maintain a top of mind awareness with your tv ad campaign, and this means making sure that you spread your ads effectively across the tv schedule. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your tv advertising schedule:

  • Schedule Horizontally
    Take advantage of those daily programs such as the news, and popular soaps which have guaranteed audiences and run 5 times a week, 52 weeks a year. Book at least 1 ad per day, 5 days per week, 52 weeks a year. You will definitely get great frequency with this approach.
  • Make use of Roadblocks
    A Roadblock is a media planning strategy where all networks air the same ad at the same time. Including these into your tv commercial schedule results in two main benefits:
    1. Everyone who is watching television at the time of the roadblock is exposed to the ad.

    2. No one is exposed to the ad more than once because no one can watch two programs at one time.

What Does it Cost to Advertise on TV?

The costs of advertising on television are dependent on various factors. There are a few things to take into account when planning a TV ad budget; outside of the cost of actually producing the commercial, factors such as the channel you will be advertising on, the time your ad will air and the broadcast network you intend to use (local vs national).

Let us take a look at some of the rates you can expect to pay based on these different factors.

National broadcaster vs Local broadcaster

Advertising on national tv broadcasters will cost more than advertising on a local broadcaster, this is due to the simple fact that the national audience is larger than the local audience. Advertisers can expect to pay anything from $115,00 for a 30 second ad on a national broadcaster, and $5 per 1000 viewers on a local broadcaster

TV Airtime (time of day your ad airs)

Different spots throughout the day have their own costs, and these costs are due to the number of viewers tuned into programs during that time of the day or day of the week. Primetime is the spot many want to be on, but it doesn’t come cheap. According to Nielson, traditional prime time is 8pm to 11pm.
Ads aired during the primetime slots can range anything from $200, to $2000.

Broadcasted events such as the Super Bowl

Sporting events such the Super Bowl are watched by millions of viewers around the world, and they are a great way to get your brand in front of many eyes at the same time and even after the event on channels such as youtube. The cost of airing a tv commercial during the super bowl can come up to millions of dollars. In 2019 advertisers had to pay 5.25 million US dollars for a spot during the super bowl broadcast.


What does it cost to create a TV Advertisement?

Television ads are considered to be one of the more costly mediums of advertising, and this is true in many cases, because there are various things that you should factor in when shooting a television commercial. If you are going to be using top celebrities with extravagant stunts then, indeed, your cost of production will be high. However, there are ways to achieve a good quality television advert without breaking the bank. One of the sure ways to spend more than you have to is to go into tv advertising without the know-how; at Empire our team is able to guide you in producing a quality, relevant commercial for the best possible price.

Factors Influencing TV advertising Cost

Here are some of the factors to take into consideration, which contribute to the overall cost of your tv commercial:

  • Shots and Location
    If the commercial has many different shots, this means the crew must set up and take down equipment and lighting multiple times, which will lengthen the process. The same when you are shooting at multiple locations, moving from one location to another can add to the production length.
  • Production time
    As mentioned, various things can impact production time. Time is money. The longer you are shooting the greater the bill will be.
  • Commercial length
    When shooting a tv commercial, make sure you consider the length of the commercial. If your message can be captured in 30 seconds, your costs won’t be as high as that of a 60 second commercial.
  • Number of crew
    Crew sizes vary depending on the complexity of the shoot, but at the very minimum there will be a director, a producer, a DP (Director of Photography), camera operator, and a production assistant. Each of these people play a vital role in getting your commercial shot.
  • Equipment
    The type of equipment you will need, will depend on the type of shots and the location of the shots. Small shoots can get away with a simple setup including camera, tripod, simple lighting and lavalier mics. But for shots with movement and special angles, more advanced equipment may be required and thus more crew to handle the equipment.
  • Weather
    The weather must always be considered when planning a television commercial. Particularly if the location is outdoors. You don’t want to find yourself shooting a summer barbeque commercial with ice cold drinks and then it starts to rain, resulting in rescheduling and reshooting.
  • Media costs
    Once the commercial has been shot, you need to get it in front of the consumers eyes. Which means buying airtime, which alone also has various factors that one should consider; these include the length of the spot, the frequency, local or national broadcasting, the day-part and so on.
    Empire has years of experience in the television commercial space and we are able to get our clients great media rates.

What makes a good TV ad?

TV advertising can take your brand message and reach to the next level. Before you embark on your TV advertising journey, it’s important to know what elements make a TV ad great. Let’s explore some of the points that explain the necessary elements of what makes a TV commercial good.

Create an emotional connection

Tv advertising is highly effective in utilizing the power of words, imagery and sound to trigger connections. Two of the most common emotions to capitalise on with TV ads are humour and empathy.

Here’s a TV ad that evokes humour:

Here’s a TV ad that evokes empathy:

Tell a story

Marketers and advertisers understand the impact of storytelling. Use your TV ad to tell the ultimate story. Consumers respond well to this type of advertising. Success stories are personable and forge emotion toward a brand. You want to create a sense of loyalty to your business and by telling your brand story, can do just that.

Be memorable

A catchy jingle, an iconic character, something that cuts through the noise and makes your TV commercial stand out. You want people to keep watching, even when the ads start rolling. Memorable TV ads are highly effective. Think here of Terry Crews and the Old Spice TV commercial. It went viral online. Be memorable so you can be effective.

Have a clear Call to Action

So you got their attention, now what do you want the viewer to do? Call or text a number?Visit a website? Find you in stores?


How to Create a TV Advertisement

Creating a tv advertisement depends on what your resources you have available, as well as how much you are willing to spend. A television ad needs to be of great quality, and if you want to ensure this quality, hiring a production company would be the best move. However, if your budget can’t cover a production company, you could always look at hiring some freelancers in the industry, set up a team and shoot the ad inhouse.

Here are some steps to look at when creating a TV advertisement.

Step 1: What’s the Big Idea?

TV advertising can be expensive, you want to make sure that you are spending on ideas that will have people talking about your product or service.

Remember the first Dollar Shave Club ad? The founder of the company starred in his own ad and proceeded to go way over the top. The title of the spot said it all: “Our Blades Are F**cking Great!” It wasn’t an expensive commercial to shoot, but it got 22.5 million views on YouTube.

Step 2: Write a Great Script

So now that you have thought of the big idea, it’s time to create a script for it. You might want to watch commercials with a similar concept to the one you’ve thought of to help you get a sense of tone & possible direction. Keep in mind the length of your ad, keep it punchy and make sure the message comes across clearly. Anyone should be able to tell what you are advertising from just hearing the ad from another room and not seeing it on the tv.

Step 3: Will You Put People in Your Commercial?

Some ads can do without people and be a great success, but people tend to relate to other people. If you decide to go with people in your ad, make sure you use professionals who will get your message across in the best way possible.

Step 4: Hire a Production Company

Hiring a production company ensures that your commercial is professional. They will handle all the production aspects of your ad including writing, shooting and editing . Make sure you have a look at the company’s past work and if it’s in line with what you have envisioned for your ad.

Step 5: Plan out Your Shots

If you are showcasing various products, make use of wide shots that put the products in one frame. Keep in mind your time frame and remember that someone might not be in front of the screen when they hear your ad, so let the audio describe the images well.

Step 6: Audio and Video Must Match

Merge and match your audio and video to create a powerful sales tool. What you audio says is what the audience should see.

Step 7: Stick to Time

The last thing you want is for those last digits of the important phone number to get clipped off on air because you didn’t stick to the time.

Step 8: Always Use a Call to Action

A call to action prompts your consumer to take on the information that has been served to them. A call to action also allows you to track the success of your ad campaign.

Step 9: Schedule Your Ad Strategically

Placement of your commercial is very important as it determines who will see it and how much you’ll pay for the airtime.

Step 10: Ensure Frequency for Maximum Impact

Identifying the best times to air your commercial and the right frequency will result in maximum impact of your tv commercial. Also remember to put support materials for you ads, such as a website or landing page or brochure to capture the consumers that take action.

How Do you Write a Good TV Ad?

Now that we have an understanding of what makes a good TV commercial, it’s time to write it. You can always leave this to the production company but if you would like to be part of the process and help them see the vision you have and the direction you want to with the ad, here are some points to help you draft a TV ad.

  • A TV script is two columns. On the left, you have the visuals and on the right, you have the audio.
  • At the top, you put the client’s name, your name, and the job ID for tracking purposes.
  • Give your spot a title that describes the ad – for instance, “NEW IPHONE 12 COMMERCIAL .”
  • Specify how long the spot should be. Most TV and internet ads are a minute, thirty seconds, or fifteen seconds.
  • Put the length of time you think each visual shot or moment should play.
  • Read the script aloud a few times at the pace you think makes sense within the commercial. That can give you an estimate for the duration.
  • For the characters: make sure to delineate the name of the speaker, and match that name with how you describe the action in the left column.

Why Hire a Professional TV commercial production company

TV commercials need to be of the highest quality to have the desired impact and effect. That means expensive equipment, highly skilled editors, professional lighting, directors and a production crew. Unless you work in a production house that can cater to all these needs, finding a company to assist you with the production of your TV advertisement would be a good idea.. Empire has years of experience in the world of TV advertising and we’d be more than happy to help. Simply reach out here.


Video advertising vs Traditional TV Advertising

With traditional TV advertising, advertisers buy media space based on GRP data which measures reach and frequency. With video advertising ie: Youtube advertising, advertisers can buy ads based on a greater pool of data, which allows you targeted advertising to your desired audience. Another difference between the two mediums is the costs involved; while video ads can cost less than traditional television commercials, the guaranteed clearance that TV ads offer make it worth the cost.

With any advertising medium, there is no standard this or that. If a large part of your target audience fits in the ages of 35 and older, you would want to approach your campaign with an integrated approach. Using different mediums to best match and in turn, meet our audience where they are more likely to pay attention.

It is worth considering a combination of both video and traditional television ads if you have a broad target audience that includes youth and older people. You can reach the older audience effectively on television and the younger audience with video ads.

While with video advertising you are able to make longer ads which can even go up to 3 minutes longer than traditional tv advertising, it isn’t to say that tv ads aren’t as effective. TV doesn’t offer lengthy commercial spots, but your ad has guaranteed clearance whereas with youtube consumers have the option to skip longer than 6 second ads.


Your International TV Advertising Partner

Television advertising can give your brand or business the edge it needs to get ahead of the competition, increase brand recognition and expand its customer base. It’s a great option for both large corporations and smaller businesses.

While the basic concepts of goal setting and brainstorming can be done in-house, it is a mammoth task to take on if you don’t have the experience to back you up. So if you find yourself plagued with uncertainty, don’t be afraid to consult the experts. Our advertising team at Empire will guide you through the process of TV advertising, from creation to implementation. Reach out today to make all your advertising goals a reality.