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16 Television Advertising Advantages and Disadvantages

With over 1,500 commercial television stations broadcasting in the United States, with countless more broadcasting around the world, TV advertising is a fast and effective way for your message to be heard.

Television advertising offers an average reach of 85% for adults across all age demographics. With that kind of influence, the advantages and disadvantages of this marketing option cannot be ignored.

Over the years, the format of television advertising has experienced some dramatic shifts. In the 1950s, companies were using single-sponsor TV programs in the U.S. to promote their message. It wasn’t until the 1960s that commercial breaks became a standard part of the television watching experience.

Since then, the average time dedicated per hour for commercials on TV has risen from 9 minutes to 19 minutes. Even with streaming, on-demand, and other television watching options that are available to consumers today, the structure of the commercial break remains the same.

The only difference? Streaming services and some TV stations have incorporated timers to let consumers know when their show will return. That timer increases the chances for brand exposure during the commercial break.

Here are the key points to consider if you’re thinking about a TV advertising campaign.

List of the Advantages of Television Advertising

1. It is a medium which offers immediate trust to consumers.

According to regular surveys published by Nielsen, over 60% consumers in the United States say they trust television advertising when they see it. The highest percentages are found in the most lucrative groups, such as Millennials, where 2 out of 3 people say they trust TV adds. In comparison, just 48% of the people in the 65+ age demographic say that they trust television ads.

2. There is a strong penetration into targeted demographic households.

In the United States, only 2% of households say that they don’t own at least one television. The average home today owns at least two TVs. 3 out of 5 households report that the purchase cable television packages, while another 30% say they use an alternative method to watch TV, like using a satellite. With the right indoor antenna, free television is still a possibility as well. You also have TVs in bars, restaurants, doctor’s offices, local stores, and more. With that much exposure, you have a lot of potential.

3. People watch a lot of television today.

The percentage of people who say they watch TV regularly is very high. About 90% of adults in the U.S. watch television, with the average person viewing 25 hours per week. People in the coveted 35 to 49 age demographic watch about 29 hours per week, while Baby Boomers (who control about 70% of the discretionary spending in the U.S.) watch almost 50 hours of TV each week. Purchasing advertisements gets your message right in front of those who would be interested in your commercial.

4. It is an opportunity to tap into a captive audience.

The cost for television advertising during the Super Bowl is higher because the audience for the broadcast is captivated. People might be multitasking, but they will also stop to watch a commercial when a message which is valuable to them airs. That is why television advertising is such a powerful medium. Even when the data suggests that people are not watching, they are still in the vicinity of their TV. They’ll return to hear something that is interesting.

5. There are multiple ways to broadcast your message.

Unlike most advertising mediums, TV allows you to broadcast a message with two options instead of one. You have access to visual and sound influences that encourage people to see and hear your message. That combination makes it easier for people to remember the message presented to them, which increases the likelihood that your advertising will create a conversion for you at some point.

6. Unlike with streaming services, you get your cake and eat it too.

Let’s say that you want your television advertisement to be seen during a specific program. If you purchase that commercial for an NBC program in the United States, then you can expect a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) of $35 or more. Now let’s say you want to advertise on Hulu, which is partially owned by NBC, during the same show. Guess what? You can’t do it. With the online platform you can only purchase demographics. You can purchase shows and demographics still when you’re working with TV.

7. Cord cutters aren’t watching much television anyway.

There is a lot of concern in the TV world about cord cutting, but from an advertising standpoint, companies shouldn’t be worried. Most of the households which decide to cut the cord weren’t watching much TV in the first place. Compared to the hours spend watching programming for regular TV viewers, cord cutters watch 100 minutes of streaming TV per week on their tablet and 60 minutes per week on their smartphone. You’ll still reach your engaged demographics when you purchase a television advertising spot.

8. You are able to create a personality that matches your brand message.

Think about the memorable TV advertisements that you’ve seen over the past 30 years. What comes to mind? Is it the Taco Bell Chihuahua? The various GEICO commercials that always seem to make you laugh? Maybe it is the AFLAC duck. Good commercials can make a big impact, even if they haven’t been seen for awhile – and they don’t need to be funny to create a big impression. The 9-11 tribute advertisement filmed by Budweiser, when their trademark Clydesdales went through Smalltown America and across the Brooklyn Bridge to dip their heads in respect to the NYC skyline and it still makes people cry almost a generation later. That is why the power of this advertising medium cannot be ignored. If your ad is memorable, then it won’t be forgotten at all.

List of the Disadvantages of Television Advertising

1. There is no guarantee that the advertising will be viewed.

Although people watch a lot of television these days, they also have lots of options when there is a break in their show. 8% of viewers in the 55+ age demographic say that they change the channel when commercials come on the TV. There are on-demand and streaming services which allow consumers to skip commercials altogether. Even though just 2% of Millennials say they change the channel when commercials come on, 38% say that they use their smartphone during commercials until their show comes back on.

2. People can become numb to brand messages.

When people are exposed to television commercials repetitively, then the effectiveness of the message is reduced. Time limits the exposure of the message as well, especially for consumers who watch television in a linear fashion. In the 18 to 24 age demographics, a 7% drop in linear TV occurred in just one year (from 2015 to 2016). Since 2011, young adults are watching 40% less television.

3. There are limited community influences to consider.

At the local level, television advertising is most receptive when it airs during local news broadcasts or during local programming. That also means up to 30% of the local population may not be watching TV at that moment. You’re also going to pay more for these spots because they are such an effective advertising tool, even though there is no guarantee that anyone in your targeted demographics will actually see the spot. This risk is often why companies will think twice before investing into this type of marketing campaign.

4. Television advertising isn’t cheap.

In 2016, the cost of a 30-second spot on local television, during local programming or an assigned local spot during daytime or prime time viewing, ranged from $200 to $1,500. That price isn’t for the entire campaign. It is for that one advertisement to view that one time. If your company broadcast an advertisement at the national level, the average cost for a 30-second spot was $123,000. If you wanted to advertise during the Super Bowl, your placement cost might exceed $4 million some years.

5. The costs of television go beyond the air time.

For television advertising to be effective, companies must pay for the production aspects of the content first. To produce a TV ad, you might be forced to hire a script writer if no one internally can do the work. You might need to hire a spokesperson and actors to be in your spot. Film editors are required to put together the various takes which are filmed. Then you might need to work with an advertising agency to get this talent put together before you get started. Even if your local TV station has internal production capabilities, it may cost several thousand dollars to just get started.

6. It requires repetition to be effective.

Although some television advertising efforts are effective immediately with consumers, most ads require repetition to be effective. That means your 30-second spot costs must become a recurring expense. If you can source a $200 spot, then you have something which is reasonably affordable. Even at $1,500, just 10 spots will incur a cost of $15,000 without a guaranteed return.

7. Television advertising is difficult to change.

Once you have your television ad filmed and airing on local stations or national broadcasts, you will find it difficult to make any changes to it. If you run rotating discounts or have a special offer, different advertising options might provide better results. To change a television ad, you must either edit it again, film new segments, or start the process over from scratch. Just one audio hiccup can be enough to cause future customers to think that your product doesn’t offer what you promise.

8. Even with proper research, reaching your core demographics is uncertain.

Let’s say you know for a fact that people in your targeted demographic, the 18-49 age group, always watch a specific show each night. You decide to put your advertising dollars into a TV spot that runs during the critical time slot. Guess what? You still don’t know if people saw the ad. Phones ring. People need to use the restroom. The family might be having a political debate. They might be cooking dinner during the commercial break. There are so many different factors which can affect viewership that there is always the possibility you could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on this marketing effort to receive minimal results.

These television advertising advantages and disadvantages are essential to think about as personal viewing preferences change. By the end of 2018, over 33 million people are expected to “cut the cord” for their cable or satellite television. Figures released by eMarketer suggest that viewership in 2018 declined by 3.8%, which is steeper than the 3.4% decline experienced in 2017. With streaming options expanding, TV viewership might continue to take a hit. That is why each key point here must be carefully examined to determine if this medium is right for you.

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