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What is Broadcast Advertising?

Updated on February 21, 2019
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.


What is broadcast advertising? The short answer is broadcasting audio advertisements on radio and video advertisements on television. What follows is an explanation of basic principles of running commercials on radio and television, along with tips for buying more effectively for reaching today's markets.

Time was when all an advertiser had to do was select an affordable and popular television or radio time slot on which to run ads. But that was before the Internet and mobile devices came along. Broadcast advertising is experiencing serious challenges and must evolve to meet today's market demands.

What is Television Advertising?

Television advertisements are video segments that are run at intervals during shows broadcast on television channels. Usually they are in 30 or 60 second formats, although some creative advertisers have experimented with 15 second or less placements if allowed by the channel.

In the early days of television, ads may have been performed live. Today, live commercials are almost non-existent. Recorded advertisements offer both the advertiser and the television channel or station flexibility. This is especially true when broadcasting sports where a commercial break can occur at any time depending on breaks within the game. In fact, for sports broadcasts, different times within the game are sold as ad slots. For example, half time in football, between period intermissions for hockey.

With the exception of sports broadcasts, television advertising is typically sold in dayparts (Wikipedia). Important: Sources vary on the exact start and end times for each segment. As well, times may also vary by region. When purchasing, ask the channel for their specific daypart schedule. However, the following weekday daypart breakdowns are common:

  • Early Morning 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
  • Daytime 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Early Fringe (Pre-Primetime, usually news broadcasts) 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Prime Access (Pre-Primetime) 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Primetime (most watched, most expensive) 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  • Late News 11:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
  • Late Fringe 11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
  • Post Late Fringe 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
  • Graveyard (least viewed or may even be off-air)2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Deciding on which daypart will be most successful will depend on what marketing demographic is being targeted. For example, in years past, home products were often advertised during the daytime daypart since the manufacturers were targeting stay-at-home housewives.

What is Radio Advertising?

Similar to television advertising, radio commercials are sold in 15, 30 and 60 second increments. Ads are run during breaks in radio shows. They can be recorded in advance or read live by radio show hosts and announcers.

Also similar to television, radio ads that are run during sports broadcasts are run when breaks occur during games. Usually, though, radio ad segments are sold by dayparts or time segments throughout the day. Most commonly these include the following weekday dayparts (weekend times may be different):

  • Morning AM Drive 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
  • Daytime 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Afternoon PM Drive from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Nighttime 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Overnight 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Weekday Morning AM Drive (6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.) and Weekday Afternoon PM Drive (3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) typically have the highest listenership (Morning AM Drive is the peak time) and higher rates than other broadcast time segments. Why? Because drivers are usually a captive audience in their cars during rush hours.

What is Internet Radio?

Internet radio has many similarities to broadcast radio in that content (shows, news, etc.) is streamed to listeners. However, the broadcasts are streamed through the Internet, not radio waves or stations. Anyone with a computer can be a radio show host or listener.

The emergence of Internet radio will explode the number of channels and shows on which to advertise. Some of these advertising opportunities will be similar to that in broadcast with spoken or recorded audio ad segments. Other opportunities will take the form of sponsorship of the show, channel or the website of the show producer. Because these Internet shows are also usually archived as podcasts for listening on demand, advertisers can benefit from additional post-broadcast exposure.

While prominent media personalities are already jumping on the Internet radio bandwagon, much smaller players are more likely to play in this arena. This should not deter advertisers from considering advertising on Internet radio because it affords exposure into many niche markets that larger radio networks would not cover. As well, ad costs could be dramatically less while reaching highly targeted markets.

Challenges for Broadcast Advertising

Commercials run on television or radio used to be the pinnacle of the advertising world. But today, that model no longer works as well, primarily due to the following factors:

  • Remote Controls. This was one of the first big threats to broadcast television advertising. Didn't like the commercials? Flip channels! But then people were already doing that with radio stations for years.
  • DVDs. People started their liberation from broadcast television networks by renting or buying VHS videotapes, which were eventually replaced by DVDs (digital video discs). They could watch favorites shows and movies anytime, even multiple times... all without commercials.
  • Internet. Not talking about television or radio on the Internet here. The wealth of entertainment and information on the Internet has lured people away from the television screen to the computer screen.
  • DVRs. When watching recorded television shows on a DVR (digital video recorder), people usually skip the commercials because they can!
  • YouTube. Who would have thought that people would find watching hours—and hours!—of short videos on the Internet as entertainment? But YouTube has made consuming video a daily (even many times daily) activity.
  • iPods, MP3 Players and Podcasts. Why listen to radio when a self-chosen playlist is available 24/7 on demand... and without advertising?
  • 57 Channels (more like 5,700 channels) and Nothing On. Bruce Springsteen had it right when he sang 57 Channels and Nothing On. And today, there are literally hundreds or even thousands of channels to watch, often overwhelming audiences who eventually tune out and never see advertising run on them.
  • On Demand Video. On demand services such as Netflix and Hulu offer video content for a reasonable price, giving subscribers complete control without commercials.
  • Second Screening. People now watch television AND watch content on their mobile devices at the same time.

In addition to competitive issues with other formats, devices and control issues, another big challenge for broadcast advertising isn't even for advertisers. It's for the stations and channels. The content that is delivered, whether it be news or entertainment, is funded by advertising. If advertisers are not able to get an acceptable return on investment from their broadcast ads and seek other alternatives, it will affect the quality and quantity of programming offered on both television and radio.

Broadcast Advertising Tips

With all the challenges and costs involved, broadcast advertising must be a carefully considered investment. Here are some tips for purchasing:

  • Know Your Target Marketing Demographic. Who is the target audience? Young moms? Students? Seniors? Sports fans? Whatever the market, research what daypart times, channels and programming are most likely to reach the target demographic. Many times, television and radio channel statistics are included in media kits and advertising rate cards.
  • Don't Discount Broadcast Alternatives. Internet radio, podcasts and YouTube could be broadcast alternatives that are cheaper than major channels for reaching niche markets.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


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