In many ways, video ads and TV commercials are two sides of the same coin. They’re both powerful ways to use video marketing to your advantage as a brand, and they both have unique benefits that marketers can leverage.

At the same time, they also have clear differences that set them apart. And if you have specific goals or constraints for your next video marketing campaign, it’s essential to know which approach will get you the results you’re looking for.

Below, you’ll find five of the key differences and the considerations that may sway your selection process in one direction or the other. Up first: how the two video types differ in their target audiences and reach. 

Target Audience and Reach

The first key difference between video ads and TV commercials is the ability to connect with a specific audience. Video ads can be targeted to a specific audience based on user demographics, interests, and behavior. Knowing that this targeting is available, you can also use more specific messaging in your video ads to reach ultra-specific audiences, which may improve your engagement rates and conversions.

On the other hand, TV commercials are broadcasted to a broad audience. While you do still have some targeting considerations, like the demographics of different networks or programs, you won’t see the same granularity that’s available with video ads. As a result, TV commercials may not resonate with some of your viewers because they’re just not the right target audience for your content. 


Next, let’s consider the pricing models for video ads and TV commercials. Video ads tend to be more cost-effective than commercials, especially for small businesses and startups with limited budgets.

These cost differences apply to both the production itself and the cost of distributing the final video. TV commercials tend to be lifestyle productions, which may include actors, multiple locations, and other details that expand the scope of your shoot. And while video ads can technically be any style of content, they tend to be product or brand videos that aren’t as expensive to create.

On the distribution side, a large budget is often required to air commercials on national networks. According to Statista, the average cost of a 30-second TV commercial in the US in 2019 was $104,735, and that’s actually significantly lower than the average cost just a few years before ($134,048 in 2017). While that average is likely being skewed by some ultra-expensive placements, it still goes to show that national TV advertising just isn’t an option for most brands.

In contrast, video ads can be distributed on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Amazon, and other websites with video-enabled ads. With these distribution channels, you’ll also have more control over starting and stopping the campaign as your budget evolves. On most platforms, for example, you can set a max budget that the ad delivery system will take into account as it places your content. 

Engagement and Interactivity

When it comes to engagement and interactivity, video ads have a clear advantage. Marketers can use interactive elements such as call-to-action buttons, clickable links, and other interactive features to engage their audience. These features make the ad more interesting and memorable to the viewer, and they can be measured to monitor the campaign’s success. (More on that in the next section!) 

On the other hand, TV commercials rely on viewers’ passive watching, which may not provide the same level of engagement. While some viewers may immediately Google the brand or commercial they just saw on the screen, it’s a less seamless experience than engaging directly within the ad itself. 

Measurability and Tracking

Next on the list, one of the most significant advantages of video ads over TV commercials is their measurability and tracking capabilities. Marketers can track their ads’ views, engagement, watch time, conversions, and countless other metrics to measure their campaign’s effectiveness.

Using these analytics tools, they can then determine which ads are performing best, which elements seem to be contributing to that success, and what can be adjusted in future iterations. They can also test lots of versions of a particular video campaign and pause or discontinue variations that aren’t performing. These tweaks allow for continuous improvement over time. 

TV commercials provide less detailed data, making it difficult to measure their impact on the target audience.

Production Techniques

Finally, as we began to explore above, the production techniques will differ for TV commercials and video ads. TV commercials tend to have a bit less variety, and by nature, they’re better for brand building and driving awareness than generating conversions.

Video ads are a bit more versatile. Marketers can use lots of different types of ads in their video strategies, including product demos, explainer videos, customer testimonials, and more. Each of these types has its own place in the marketing funnel, with some tailored to building awareness and others designed to drive viewers to act.

Which Should You Choose?

At the end of the day, both video ads and TV commercials have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re going for a widespread awareness campaign and you have a robust budget, a TV commercial may make sense. But in many other cases, video ads are more effective and more accessible to the average organization.

If you’re not quite sure what approach will help you reach your goals, don’t forget that you can always reach out to the Lemonlight team for support! Our producers know exactly how to tailor your video strategy to your desired outcomes, so we can point you in the right direction and bring your vision to life. Contact us below for custom guidance!

* This article was originally published here

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