TV Still Gets Lion's Share of Ad Budget

According to a new Forbes Insights/Simulmedia survey, the landscape of television advertising is a mature format that is shifting in the face of new technologies and the rapidly evolving media marketplace. While it once meant only broadcast or cable seen on a television set, only a third of companies in this study define television advertising that way now. Half consider TV advertising to be linear advertising (broadcast or cable) seen on any device, and a fifth think of it as any video on any device

Though this new normal challenges preconceived notions about TV viewing, brands still recognize that television remains a dependable means of delivering brand messaging; TV still gets the lion’s share of the ad budget. However, says the report, in this era of digital advertising and big data, in which consumers often have a choice about whether or not to view ads, advertisers are more pressed than ever to demonstrate both value and a true return on investment for their ad spending.

Key Findings

  • Four-fifths of the companies surveyed consider TV advertising a must-have, either as a key part of their branding strategy or as an adjunct to other marketing and advertising methods, despite the fragmenting media market
  • Almost half of the survey respondents consider Identifying ROI a challenge, suggesting that despite a wealth of both new and traditional metrics, advertisers are not yet able to understand the intricacies of how to get the most value from, and measure the impact of TV
  • The most popular methods for measuring success of TV advertising are more traditional metrics of increased brand awareness and increased sales, and not the granular measurements that are seen in the newer metrics for digital advertising.
  • Segmenting by audience is the most popular way for brands to target TV ads which will be beneficial as brands make the transition to using new metrics to track true ROI.

Despite the changes in the advertising landscape, advertising on linear TV (broadcast and cable) remains a must-have, not just a nice-to- have, for the majority of brands.

How Organization Views Linear Television Advertising (% of Respondents)

Linear TV






A key component of marketing/banding strategy






Adjunct to other marketing/randing channels






Nice-to-have when resources available






Moving away from linear television advertising






Source: Forbes Insights, December 2015 Note: Numbers may not add to 100% due to rounding.

While brands value TV, digital is making inroads as an advertising vehicle, says the report. In the past three to five years digital has affected how companies allocate their limited budget dollars. Budgets for digital have increased at a much higher rate than for television, and eight in 10 companies report recent increased budgets for digital and expect to see budget increases for digital in the near future.

Three-quarters of the respondents believe that they will do some shifting from linear television advertising to over-the-top television advertising, reiterating the notion that TV will remain powerful, even as its definition continues to evolve.

Even with the generally positive mood about TV, the number one challenge brands face is measuring return on investment for TV advertising. They struggle to truly tie their advertising efforts to benefits. The next biggest challenges for most: reaching a specific geographic audience and determining that the TV ad (and not other media channels) is what drove the consumer to take action.

While it is a critical benefit of TV advertising, brand awareness has always presented companies with a measurement challenge that is even more clearly an issue in this digital age of instant feedback and adaptation. Customer surveys are the most popular measure (62%); but brands also spend energy and budget dollars on third-party research (56%) and focus groups (48%).

When measuring outcomes from the ads they place on television, advertisers use two primary metrics: brand awareness and increased sales. The retail industry leads the charge, with the highest response rates for both brand awareness (60%) and increased sales (57%).

Outcome Measurement For TV Ad Campaigns (% of All Respondents; Multiple Response OK)

TV Campaign Measurement

% of Respondents

Increased brand awareness


Increased sales


Cost per thousand (CPM)


Gross rating points (GRP)


Website traffic


Return on ad spend


Lead generation


Source: Forbes Insights, December 2015

TV remains a challenging medium for advertisers in terms of connecting with the audience. While most advertisers are confident that they know the best networks to get their brand message to their target audiences, when companies struggle to understand which networks or channels work best, it is mostly due to an inability to measure a return on investment for TV advertising.

For the most part, companies identify networks that are best for their brand by

demographic or lifestyle interests (71%). Also:

  • 51% work closely with partners to get targeting right
  • 42% rely on advertising agencies or other media partners
  • 41% look at business outcomes
  • 34% to financial return on investment

Preventing An Understanding Of Which Networks/Channels Work Best


% of Respondents

Cannot measure our return on investment in advertising on specific networks/channels


Cannot identify demographic of lifestyle interests for audience


Cannot find media partner that best offers guidance


Cannot measure business outcomes of ads on special networks/channels


Cannot identify which networks/channels (our) audience watches


Source: Forbes Insights, December 2015:

Drew Slaven, Vice President of Marketing, Mercedes-Benz USA, says “The emphasis on measurement is now overwhelming…  the real power of TV is in connecting with the audience…  continues to be a shift… from our ability to force-feed messages… to a world in which consumers are able to avoid messages they don’t care about… “

The report concludes by noting that, as brands navigate the changing media world and shifting preferences for TV viewership, they recognize the tried-and-true value of television in reaching their audiences today and in the near future. But as they struggle with how to demonstrate the value of their efforts, by showing a return on investment to drive outcomes for the business and inform future advertising and marketing efforts.

To access the complete report with additional charts and graphs, please visit Forbes here.

2 comments about "TV Still Gets Lion's Share of Ad Budget".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 17, 2015 at 7:31 a.m.

    What is evident in this study, as well as others that preceeded it, is the sorry fact that most advertisers have no clear idea how to evaluate return on investment. Isn't it incredible that approximately a third of the responses to that question cite CPM or cost per rating point as a way to evaluate the performance of their TV ad campaigns? In other words if you buy time at a slightly cheaper rate---or pay a few pennys less of an increase in your CPMs---- the campaign is a success. And these are the guys who are going to use "big data" to improve their ROI? Gulp!

  2. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, December 17, 2015 at 1:10 p.m.

    Significantly smaller audiences and significantly more dollars is not a sustainable model given the decision makers coming up in the ranks are not a TV first mentality.....

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