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Decoding TV Advertising Costs: A Comprehensive Guide

The cost of TV advertising is within reason for most businesses. Contrary to popular opinion, TV ad buys do not cost five or six figures. Rather, there is the potential for commercials to cost as little as a couple hundred dollars on local stations. This is your guide to TV advertising costs.

Advertising on National TV

It typically costs five or even six figures to run a commercial on national TV. As an example, the average cost to place a 30-second commercial on national TV is $342,000. However, costs differ by channel, airtime and other factors.

Part of the cost of airing an ad on national TV is the production of the commercial. Designing and producing a commercial for airing on a nationwide TV station has the potential to cost thousands of dollars. From the cost of actors and designers to the set itself and beyond, it will take money to make a commercial look professional.

The post-production process also requires time, labor and technology. Editing the footage has the potential to cost thousands in and of itself. Add up all the costs to film, produce and air an ad on national TV and you might find it sets you back hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Though the average rate to air a commercial on national TV is around $350,000 for half a minute of airtime, the time that the ad airs and the channel it appears on also play a role in determining cost. As an example, it is cheaper to run a daytime ad on the Hallmark Channel than it is to air a commercial on ESPN during prime time viewing hours.

Airing a Spot Ad

A TV spot, meaning an ad that airs during a regular commercial break, is a viable option for most businesses. TV Spot ads are purchased for specific times of day, typically prior to or after a program.

Spot ads are not restricted to certain geographic regions. Some spot ads are nationwide while others are local. It is possible to air a local TV spot on network TV channels like CBS, then transition to a single airing of the same ad on a nationwide channel such as TBS.

In general, the runtime for TV spots are typically 15-30 seconds, though some can go on for as long as a minute. Some companies optimize the value of commercials by editing them into two distinct versions with differing lengths. As an example, some spot ads are provided to TV stations with different cut-down lengths that can be used in several places.

Examples of Commercial Airtime Costs

As noted above, there is the potential for a nationwide TV commercial to cost several hundred thousands of dollars. The cost for a locally placed TV ad is significantly less, typically averaging $10 per 1,000 views. Alternatively, there is also the option of advertising on YouTube where it costs an average of $20 for 1,000 views. The average cost for 100,000 views on YouTube is $2,000. Hulu typically averages out to $30 for 1,000 views.

Additional Factors That Play a Role in TV Advertising Costs

For most businesses, spending on nationwide ads is not worth the money. Instead, local TV ads tend to make a significant impact on target customers without draining a marketing budget. Moreover, it is also cost-effective to advertise on the internet where one can reach locals and buyers across the nation as well as those across the globe.

Aside from target demographic reach, supply and demand also shape the cost of running an ad on TV. As an example, a half-hour sitcom or drama typically has eight minutes of commercials. The availability of slots for ads is limited based on existing reservations and other factors.

Moreover, the time of year in which ads air also plays a factor. Commercial air rates differ by season, with TV ad costs being higher when the holidays roll around as opposed to the dog days of summer when people are out and about, vacationing and living life to the fullest.

Is TV Advertising Worth It?

The answer to this question differs by company. In general, TV ads are worth the cost. However, there is an argument to be made that advertising on national TV is not worth the exorbitant cost, especially if those ads air during prime time.

Start out with an affordable TV commercial on local TV, gauge the results, and consider pivoting to national TV for maximum exposure in the future.

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