Digital vs TV Advertising: Which is better for my small business?

If you are like many small business owners, you've probably wondered which advertising platforms are the most effective. There are so many options for getting in front of potential customers, how do you decide where to spend your money?

In this article, we compare TV Advertising vs Digital Advertising.

Everyone is familiar with television commercials, but TV advertising can also include paid promotional appearances on local television stations, sponsorship on local lifestyle programs, or even producing and airing a broadcast show of your own.

Likewise, digital advertising can include a variety of different types of ads, including Pay-per-Click ads that you see when you do a Google search, display advertisements that appear on websites you visit, affiliate ads or endorsements on blogs and podcasts, and social media ads such as those found on networks like Facebook.

In this article, we'll focus strictly on comparing TV commercials to Facebook ads. 

So, what's best for your business: Digital or TV advertising? Facebook ads or a commercial on local TV? The answer will depend on several factors. Let's take a look.

Goals are important in defining your Marketing strategy!

Goals are crucial when considering which advertising platform you are going to choose. Are you looking to reach a large audience or a specific one? Do you have a sale or special offer you are trying to promote, where you need to create conversions within a limited period? Or do you want to stay in front of an audience, so they remember your business first when they need your products or services? Answering these questions will help determine whether TV or Digital Advertising may be best for you. 

In general, If you’re looking to get in front of a significant number of people in a particular geographic region, and you have a generous budget, and your target audience watches TV, then TV ads can be very effective. With TV, you can reach many people in a short period. To do so, you'll need a budget that can put you on several prime channels and high-value time slots with multiple repetitions.

However, if your goal is to target a particular audience by demographics like age, gender, location, online behaviors, etc.—digital ads are the way to go. Digital Advertising, such as ads you see on social media platforms like Facebook, are highly effective at reaching a well-defined, niche audience. As they say, "the riches are in the niches." And, the more precisely you can target your niche, the more efficient your digital ad campaigns can be. It's challenging to target precise audiences with TV ads. 

Retargeting: Digital advertising's big advantage

Retargeting is another benefit that digital ads have over TV ads. You've probably experienced retargeting ads while shopping online.

You may have visited a website, then suddenly, when you return to Facebook, you see ads for that same internet site, or product. It's enough to make you wonder, "How did they know I was on that website?"

Graphic: Web visitors who are retargeted with Display Ads are 70% more likely to convert!

Here's the thing, anyone with a business website should learn how to utilize these highly-effective ads in their small business marketing. Setting up a Facebook retargeting campaign is pretty easy:

  1. First, you'll need to access a simple piece of code known as the Facebook Pixel. You'll find your unique pixel code in your Facebook ad manager.

  2. Second, you'll need to install the pixel on your website and then create your retargeting ad campaign. It's best to match up retargeting campaigns with offers or specials.

  3. Third, let Facebook do its magic! When someone visits your site, the Pixel will notify Facebook that they were there, and then your retargeting ad will be displayed to them when they return to Facebook.

The real magic of retargeting is in how effective they are! Web visitors retargeted with display ads are 70% more likely to convert into buyers!

What’s your Marketing budget?

Your budget can play a significant role in determining which advertising methods you should choose. Here's the thing, a single ad is not going to impact your business. Any marketer will tell you that you need to have a consistent and long-term approach to your marketing. If you are expecting remarkable results, but you only have enough budget to advertise for one month, you will likely be disappointed. Let's face it, consumers are inundated with tons of messages each day, and they have to see your message many times before they'll consider buying from you. Advertisers like to call this repetition frequency, and frequency is part of what makes and ad campaign successful. However, the more frequently you run an ad, the more money it costs, and this is where we can see big differences in costs between TV Ads and Digital Ads.

Understanding the costs of Television Advertising

Make no mistake: TV advertising is still going strong, and it can be a highly-effective advertising medium, according to a MarketShare study. Let's look at the factors that influence the costs of TV Ads.

First, there is the cost of producing your commercial. Some television stations and cable carriers will wrap this cost into your overall budget, as long as you commit to a minimum spend. However, keep in mind, ads such as these may be simplified regarding the messaging, creativity, and quality. You are not going to get a Super Bowl quality ad. Additionally, if you don't like your commercial or realize that it's not working after running it for a short time, you're either going to be stuck with it, or have to pay to produce to create a new one.

Second, there are the costs of the programming time slots your ads show up in, and the number of repetitions you schedule. Different programs attract different audiences and costs will vary depending on their popularity, also known as ratings. Prime-time ads run during popular shows will cost much more than those scheduled during off-hours, like late at night or weekend afternoons. Also, you have to commit to several repetitions to ensure your ad displays to enough viewers. The more repetition you have, the more likely viewers will remember your business, and according to some marketers, it can take up to seven repetitions for the average viewer to remember your message.

These days, there are attractive options for small businesses to get on TV with your ads shown multiple times, on multiple stations, at varying periods of the day. But these choices may include a large number of time slots during off-peak hours. If you want control over your ad's programs and time slots, you'll have to pay more.

Understanding the costs of Facebook Advertising

When it comes to budgeting, your money can go pretty far with Facebook ads. For example, a Facebook ad campaign can cost as little as $10 per day or even less. There are no long-term agreements, a campaign can run for just a few days, and you are never stuck with ad creative that you do not like. In fact, you can easily run A/B tests on different ads to ensure they are working, before you commit the bulk of your budget. This flexibility gives small businesses a remarkable advantage in how they can plan digital advertising campaigns. 

You are probably wondering about something I said earlier: What about repetition? You're right, you still need to repeat digital ads. Facebook gives you some smart ways to utilize your budget in a way that allows you to target a particular audience, while still being very frugal. Targeting is a key factor in helping your control your Facebook ad budget. You'll spend less money overall if you can precisely define a small audience likely buyers, and you'll avoid wasting budget showing ads to people who are not likely to buy from you. 

What's even more impressive with Facebook advertising, is that you can create videos, and run those in your Facebook ad campaigns. At Be Brilliant Marketing, we have created video campaigns for our clients, and many of these campaigns have cost as little as 1¢ (yes, one cent) per view. We did look into running a television ad campaign with a cable carrier, but the minimum cost was $50 per ad run, during off-peak times. Off-peak ads are usually run early in the mornings or during times when there are considerably smaller numbers of viewers. For the cost of one ad run on cable, 5000 people could view an ad on Facebook.

If you are a small business owner, with a limited marketing budget, it's easy to see how digital advertising can offer huge advantages over television ads.

Can you measure Your marketing?

Graphic of an advertising tip.

Whether you decide to go with TV or digital advertising, you need to know how you’ll gauge the success of your ads. To do this effectively, you first have to have a good understanding of how your business is performing before you start running ads. You'll then need to select a tracking method or identify specific metrics that will allow you to isolate the performance of your ads from any other marketing you may be doing at the same time. Throughout the lifespan of your ads, you'll also need to be tracking both the success of your marketing campaign and your overall business performance. 

Frankly, a lot of companies, and, (honestly) other marketing agencies, fail to track how ads perform. It's easy to run an ad on TV or Facebook, and then show that the ad has a particular response, such as increased traffic to the website. However, it's more important to know how many of those visits resulted in a sale. As marketers, we often get access to analytics accounts or performance reports from our clients. It's rare that we find that analytics has been set up to track specific sales goals. Tracking is an absolute must for any marketing campaign. Without a useful system for monitoring the performance of your marketing, you won't be able to measure how your marketing is impacting your business.

First, let's get something out of the way: Digital ads can offer a huge array of information related to the tracking of ad performance. In this regard they have a huge advantage over traditional offline media. With digital ads, it is possible to track a wide variety of different metrics and data. However, this does not necessarily mean that digital ads are better than traditional ads. Metrics and data alone have limited value. Remember, we said that it's more important to measure how your marketing actually impacts your business: Are you getting more customers, making more money by running an ad than you would by not running it? If so, your marketing is working!

It is also possible to track traditional ads, and a large part of that is because of technology made possible by the internet. We now have tools which make following traditional ads a bit easier and more scientific:

Three Easy ways to track tV Ads!

Here are three easy ways to track traditional ads (and yes, these can also be used in digital ads).

  1. Special Offer Code. Probably one of the easiest and simplest ways to track whether your ad is working is to use a special offer code word. You've seen this before, somewhere in the ad, they'll say "Just mention 'our code' when you visit or call!" The only caveat to this approach is that you and your employees have to keep track of how many customers are mentioning the code word when they call or visit. Careful tracking of this information will give you an idea of how many people are responding to your ad.

  2. Call tracking. Another great way to track TV or online ads is to use call tracking. Using a service such as CallRail, you can create a unique phone number for each of your ads. Each time someone calls on that line, the tracking service will record various metrics about the call, including call length, time of the call, and much more. Some services will even record the actual call. This type of information can be invaluable to you customer service efforts.

  3. Landing Pages. The third way to track ads is to use landing pages. A landing page is a specific page on your website used in conjunction with a conversion offer, such as a free download or special offer. It's a great way to isolate your web traffic and to see where visitor traffic is coming. With a landing page, you'll include a unique link in your ad, for example, "Visit" and offer customers an exclusive discount when they visit the page. Your landing page should only be used with one ad campaign at a time to isolate your ad traffic. Otherwise, you will not be able to separate the performance of your ad.

The benefit of digital advertising is that it’s MUCH easier to measure results since ad platforms have settings and analytics that allow you to see who is clicking and how many are converting. Plus, you have control in choosing the specific behaviors and demographics you want to target—something that’s much harder to do with TV ads. 

Unlike TV advertising, you’ll be able to look at your analytics dashboard and see the exact amount of people you have reached who have clicked and converted.

Is your target audience even watching? 

Not everyone watches TV or uses Facebook. When trying to choose between Digital and Television advertising, you'll need to know which channel the audience you are pursuing is watching. 

Graphic: 80% of Baby Boomers still watch TV!

For this reason, it's vital that you know not only who your audience is, but how are they getting information about products and services like yours. At a minimum, you need to know the age range of your audience, you need to know if your products and services are preferred by a particular gender, and you need to know where your customers are located geographically. 

Why is this information relevant? Anyone in marketing will tell you, women and men become aware, research, and buy products differently. We know that younger buyers don't typically watch traditional TV as much as older consumers. Someone who is located 30 miles away is less likely to visit your location than someone within five miles. These details are another major factor in determining whether to use Digital or TV ads.

For example, while younger Millennials prefer to watch shows through streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, 80% of baby boomers prefer to watch shows on their TV, rather than on a streaming service. That seems like some compelling information, however, don't jump to conclusions just yet. The largest growing demographic on Facebook are users age 55 and over. In fact, according to a recent article, 82.3% of Baby Boomers are using Facebook.

Digital VS TV Advertising: Is there a clear winner?

There is no doubt that the internet has dramatically changed the advertising game. With the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, some people aren't even watching television, and many others question if it makes sense for small businesses to advertise on TV. On the other hand, not everyone is convinced that Facebook is an effective way to reach Baby Boomers, although more and more evidence seems to suggest they are on the platform.

So how do you choose between traditional television commercials and digital ads on Facebook? It really comes down to a few simple factors:

1. What are your goals?

If you're trying to reach as many people as possible in your local or regional area, TV advertising may be a great place to start. If you are trying to target a specific audience based on age, gender, interests, etc., then Facebook may be a better option.

 2. What's your Budget?

As we discussed, television advertising can be expensive. When you consider that you need to have a commercial created, and then you have to show it repeatedly on different channels, at different times in order to reach your audience, the costs can add up quickly. With Facebook, you have much more control over your budget. You are able to test ads to see if they are working before committing your budget. Targeting and re-targeting let's you control precisely who sees your ads, so you don't waste money showing your ads to people who are not in your target audience. Finally, you can create your own video ads using online services, allowing you to produce your own, low-cost commercials that appear in your target audiences Facebook feeds. That's pretty awesome!

3. Where is your audience?

Here again, we think Facebook has an edge. With over 2 Billion people on Facebook, it's clear that people of all ages are on the platform. Whether your a younger Millennial or a retiring Baby Boomer, Facebook has something for everyone. 

Our Conclusion: Facebook Ads for the Win!

When you consider all of the factors, in our minds, there is a compelling argument to seriously consider Facebook advertising for small business. In fact, we see more and more small businesses using Facebook effectively for their brand awareness, lead generation, and sales campaigns. 

Of course, if you’re a company with a large budget and are looking for your ad to provide maximum brand awareness—TV advertising will be a good choice as well. Just keep in mind, we said "as well." In order for larger companies to stay competitive, they also need to look at Facebook and other digital advertising platforms. It's hard to ignore that digital ads offer a number of advantages the traditional advertising simply cannot match.

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Photo of Crystal Wimperis, Marketing & Design Specialist at Be Brilliant! Marketing.

Be Brilliant!® | Be Brilliant!® Marketing is a branding and marketing agency based in Southwest Florida. Our work and experience has taken us around the globe, working for clients ranging from local entrepreneurs to global, Fortune 100 companies. If you’re on Facebook, be sure to Like our page. Follow us on Twitter @BeBrilliantMktg