Broadcast Television as an Advertising Medium

Broadcast Television is "free TV" transmitted over the air and is most commonly associated with large TV networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.


  • TV offers your message sight, sound, motion, color and all the special effects you can afford. It is a powerful medium with sensual impact.

  • TV ads are intrusive in nature. The viewer does not have to be actively involved to receive your message.

  • TV allows for target selection based on:

    • Geography - Where the signal reaches. (Don't forget to check if the station is carried elsewhere on cable TV.)
    • Time of day - Different target audiences watch TV at different times.
    • Program - Certain programs or kinds of programming will appeal to certain groups. Observe the ads carried by a particular show. You can make some assumptions about who is watching, but for certainty about where and when to place your ad, seek the help of a media buyer or a TV rep.
  • TV still has a certain prestige or glamour that can enhance your message. Some consider it the big league of advertising.

  • TV is costly, but because it may be targeted, it may be quite cost-effective.

  • TV ads can engage the viewer's emotions and empathy. You can see joy or hurt in someone's eyes, your can hear a voice tinged with the pain of a headache or the pride of a new parent, you can watch in amazement - or in disbelief - as a product is demonstrated.

  • Most TV is viewed at home. People feel safe at home and they aren't exposed to what others think. If they've been worried about aches and you have a message about how to cure them, you've got a listener and, hopefully, a customer.

  • Because of all the above, TV advertising is especially effective in helping to create an image for a product or company.


  • To advertise on TV, you must produce a spot or pay to use one produced by someone else. Production fees on top of the cost of air time makes TV spots cost prohibitive to many advertisers.

  • TV seems complicated to small advertisers. If you think it is the right medium for your message, don't be put off by what you don't know - call a station or an ad or production agency for help.

  • Messages get "zipped" as viewers click to other channels and "zapped" as viewers mute them or turn them off.

  • Viewers that have grown up with TV and big-screen special effects are somewhat skeptical, if not downright cynical, about what they see. And they don't appreciate gimmicks.

  • Although TV can be targeted by geography, time of day, programs and networks, it is still a broadcast medium with a broad, non-targeted reach. Cable is considered "narrowcast" and is a good, viable medium for reaching specific groups.

  • Audiences are more fragmented than ever as the number of channels increases, not to mention alternative uses for TV sets like video games, computer hook-ups and movie rentals. The days of any message reaching 40 percent or even 30 percent of the viewing audience on one network at one time are past.

  • Commercial breaks in programming are becoming more "cluttered." Your spot may be first, third or seventh in the lineup. The viewer's attention level can be affected.

  • Because TV is still considered by many to be big league advertising, small advertisers run the risk of looking amateurish next to a national advertiser with a slickly produced spot. There is some merit to looking like a friendly, small or local advertiser, but don't accept sloppy production in order to cut costs. No amount of savings is worth the damage you can do to the customer's perception of your business or product.

  • Buying TV time is fairly complicated. The help of an expert adds to your costs, but may cut your losses, too.

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