The importance of TV advertising is that even in the age of YouTube and corporate Facebook pages, nothing packs the punch of a TV commercial. Despite the competition from streaming services, an ad on a popular show can present your message to millions of viewers. The advantages of TV advertising don't come cheap, however.

The Benefits of TV Advertising

The advantages of TV advertising aren't just that TV can deliver a massive audience. It also introduces your pitch to customers at a time they're enjoying themselves and paying attention to the screen. That contrasts TV with radio advertising, where their attention is probably focused on driving.

Television ads can do more than print, digital or billboard messages. They combine visual and sound and include movement instead of static images. The same is true of online advertising, but it doesn't yet have the marketing impact of TV commercials.

Cable TV specialty channels also make it easier to target a particular demographic than it used to be. A publisher promoting a new history book might find a better response advertising on the History Channel than ESPN, for example. The ability to target audiences adds to the importance of TV advertising.

The Price of Commercials

Despite the benefits of TV advertising, it does have a downside. The big negative is the impact a TV commercial will have on your bottom line as buying airtime is expensive. Making a good commercial is pricey too: There's writing, acting and camera work to pay for.

There are ways to reduce the cost, however. Making a 15-second commercial is cheaper than the conventional 30-second length. Putting your money into less popular shows or local syndicated programming with the right viewer demographic can be more cost-effective for small businesses than targeting airtime on the biggest hits.

Another drawback to TV is that no matter how popular the show, viewers aren't a captive audience. They may get up and run to the kitchen or bathroom during commercial breaks. If they DVR the show, they may fast forward through commercials. That can cost you a chunk of the audience you're paying for.

Planning Your Advertising

To gain the benefits of TV advertising and avoid the drawbacks, you have to plan your strategy carefully.

  • Target the right audience. Is your dream customer a widowed senior, a millennial STEM nerd or a sports fanatic? Cable and broadcast TV have more than enough demographic data to help you pick the right show to connect with your targets.

  • Shop around. If there are multiple local stations, ad agencies or cable operators, get quotes from more than one. Look for more than money: Some stations will co-produce your commercials for free if you commit to a big enough ad buy.

  • Start slow. You only have a limited budget, so don't try airing multiple commercials right away. That can actually confuse people about your brand and message.

  • Settle on the message you want to send. Are you competing on quality? Undercutting the competition's prices? Do you just want to build brand recognition? Your commercials need to be in sync with your goals.

  • Determine a budget. Ad agencies and TV stations may push you to exceed it, but that's usually a mistake.

  • Watch commercials from your competition. See what they say about themselves and what they want customers to know. You can either follow that model or go in a different direction, but it's good to know what you're up against. 

  • Monitor your results. If the commercials don't generate more profits for you, identify the problem and start over.

Diversify Your Strategy

Despite the importance of TV advertising, you can save money by spending some of your advertising budget elsewhere: social media, online ads, radio or print. Even if your primary focus is TV, a digital ad presence, for instance, can complement television's impact and boost sales further.