Facebook Advertising Versus TV Commercials

Facebook Advertising Versus TV Commercials

What platform reigns supreme in the land of video? In this guest post, Wesley MacLaggan (pictured below) from Marin Software explores why TV is losing audiences and advertisers to Facebook….

For a long time, TV commercials were the crown jewel of any good advertising strategy. This was in part because TV had the greatest reach of all advertising mediums. But, it was also because once upon a time settling down in front of the TV was the centre of family life, with commercials streaming into the homes of millions of people, every hour of every day.


A good TV ad could entertain and emote, or be the topic of conversation in the office lunchroom or at the family dining room table. In turn, it was very effective at selling product.

There’s no debating that the way people consume advertising has shifted dramatically since the heyday of the TV commercial, and that more brands are producing ads for social media in place of more traditional mediums.

While it can’t be denied that TV ads are still a great way to engage audiences, they take a significant investment of time and capital to plan, produce, and distribute. With Facebook, the only real barrier to entry is testing video ads and acting on the lessons learned to improve quality and ultimately results.

Additionally, the feedback and audience insights available to advertisers when testing a Facebook video ad – including measurement, targeting, interactivity, and reach – take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation.


Facebook’s wealth of psychographic, demographic, and first party data matching allow you to reach very precise audiences with your video content. On the other hand, with TV commercials, media buyers are more limited to reaching people based on the types of shows they’re watching at a specific time of day—or even more generally, where companies pay to play during primetime ad slots.

Using Facebook’s Custom Audience function in conjunction with video ads allows you to reach people who’ve already interacted with your brand, online or offline, with personalised content. This means advertisers can be confident they’re reaching the right target audience.


Although using TV ads allows you to buy commercial slots for specific channels to reach people based on the type of entertainment and channels they prefer, it’s impossible to be certain that you’re reaching the right people. Facebook video ads allow advertisers to take an interactive approach to the media planning and buying process and keep up engagement with audiences long after the ad has aired.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s video ad format heightens the experience by aligning video with a compelling narrative in order to drive the ad directly to the target audience. To illustrate the effectiveness of Facebook video ads, The Economist increased its newspaper subscriptions by a massive 66 per cent across 24 countries following the launch of its ad campaign.

Measurement and optimisation

 Video ads on Facebook provide marketers with instant insights, such as how long people watched your video, demographic insights into who interacted with it, and whether or not your video impacted a conversion online or offline.

With broadcast TV, Nielsen ratings are the de facto performance measurement, capable of providing statistical conversion lift insights. However, the data insights available on Facebook are instantaneous, allowing marketers to take an agile test-and-learn approach to determine which videos are performing the best and then scale budget upwards. Gaining similar insights from a TV commercial would mean more time and higher costs.

Like Facebook, Instagram video ads are also being met with success. Instagram implements Carousel Ads that automatically determine the most engaging video creative and shift ad spend accordingly. Their key to success is that Carousel optimises the creative with the highest level of engagement to ultimately lower overall ad spend. These results aren’t possible with a TV commercial, as TV can’t measure the revenue from people engaging with a TV ad.

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  • Jonathan Munschi 2 years ago

    Such a a balanced view of the media landscape… It’s frustrating that none of the statements is backed up by research or data. One could argue that Facebook and other social platforms are with providing fantastic ways to build on the awareness and brand preference built by television advertising. I don’t think it should be as binary, they are complementary.

    To date, we are yet to see a brand solely built on Facebook. On the other end, television has been part of the brand building of most if not all large global labels.

    It’s also interesting to see global tech brands like Apple or Google, which we could expect to be very data driven, investing so much in the experience their brands deliver on the large screen.

Facebook Advertising Marin Software TV commercials Wesley MacLaggan

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