TV vs. Online Advertising in 2019

by | Feb 28, 2019 | Blog


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If you even vaguely follow the digital world then you’ll be aware that the “TV vs digital” debate has been rattling on for years now.

TV was another channel that marketers were quick to declare dead – following in the inky footsteps of print, and the static-filled shadows of radio.

But, is this assessment fair? Back in 2016, we put together a blog with our take on the debate, talking about the benefits of online advertising – and how they could be just as effective as TV ads when it came to engagement and overall activity.

Now, three years later, we started thinking – is this still the case? One of the benefits of the digital world is the speed at which everything can change, and the speed at which new data and research are released. This means that we’ve been exposed to some interesting stats around the TV versus online ads debate, which prompted us to think about where the distinction lies in 2019.

The digital debate

One of the main reasons that everyone started discussing the feud back in 2016 was that digital marketing overtook television advertising for the first time – showing just how many people had begun to redirect their marketing budget, and funnel it into digital channels.

In 2018, experts started to predict that by the year 2021, “TV ad spend will make up less than a third of all marketing budgets”. This was backed by a GroupM report, called “State of the Digital”, released the same year, which found that online had surpassed every other vertical – including TV and print – for the first time ever, in terms of where people choose to consume content.

Blame the millennials

And, of course, millennials are to blame. Well, not quite, but you weren’t surprised to read it were you?  Millennials do however watch less TV than their older counterparts, with stats showing that TV viewership went from “around 2 hours and 10 minutes of TV per day during the second quarter of 2016 to around 1 hour and 49 minutes during the second quarter of 2017”.

As more and more of this younger audience gets older and continues these behaviours, it’s only going to prompt marketers to evaluate their marketing campaigns – and review the channels that are having the least impact. In this case, TV.

Although, without talking round in circles, is TV actually having the least impact? That, my friends, depends on what you’re measuring.

So, is TV dead or not?

For the past couple of years, many publications have been peddling scaremongering stats around the death of TV advertising as an industry. A journalist at The Drum, however, deemed this fear misguided. His research, conducted in 2018, found that “TV is still the undisputed leader specifically in brand advertising campaigns”, and that there will not be “a credible challenger to television” for at least the foreseeable future – with TV boasting more than six times the brand ad spend of the nearest digital competitor in 2017. For the record, the nearest competitor was video display.

A study by Ebiquity in 2018, which looked at some of the most important media attributes to grow a brand, found that the data backed more traditional channels – such as TV, radio and newspapers, which stole the top three spots. The three channels which, if you believed many marketers, have been ‘dead’ for quite some time.

Not everything’s equal

So perhaps the discussion here should be around how not all marketing channels are created equally – and neither are the campaigns. What are you trying to achieve from your campaign? Because if it’s quick wins and driving conversions, TV probably won’t do the trick. But if it’s mass brand awareness and storytelling – it will do you better than PPC.

When it comes to awesome marketing campaigns, each brand has its own toolbox – and it’s a case of choosing the right tool for the right job. Think about your goals, and what you’re trying to achieve, and use this to determine which route you go down at which time. While TV is an undoubtedly good option for big brands looking to create a name for themselves, it’s expensive, and potentially labour intensive. For small businesses or independents, digital marketing and online ads, such as PPC, can be a great way to get out in front of the right people at the right time – and see some quick wins.

Perhaps don’t throw out your TV ads just yet, then. Unless your target audience is millennials…

Don’t forget to have a read of our first TV vs online advertising blog to see how our opinions have changed, or check out some of our newer content below. We’ve got lots to say.



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