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Social Media Ads Vs. TV Commercials: What is Right for Your Brand? 





As the variety of advertising platforms grows, marketers face a dilemma between traditional TV advertising and modern, targetable social media advertising. Which is more effective for capturing the audience’s attention, or is it possible to use both to their full advantage? It’s crucial to understand which approach will best meet your specific goals and constraints for your next video marketing campaign. 

This article aims to provide marketers, business owners, and knowledge seekers with a thorough comparison of both mediums, helping them make an informed choice tailored to their brand’s needs. 

Understanding Social Media Videos 

Social media videos are short, dynamic, and designed to be consumed on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. They are typically shorter in length and are created to engage viewers immediately. 

Each social media platform offers unique features and audience demographics, influencing the style and content of the videos. For example, videos on Instagram are often more casual and creative to resonate with a younger audience, while LinkedIn videos might be more formal and informational. 


Social media ads leverage advanced algorithms for precise audience targeting based on interests, demographics, and behaviours, ensuring engagement and conversions from relevant users. 

Audience Targeting by Facebook 

Pic Courtesy: LinkedIn.com

Controllable budgets and performance-based adjustments make social media ads a cost-effective option, particularly beneficial for small businesses aiming for a solid ROI. 


Amid multitasking, social media users may overlook ads, leading to reduced effectiveness due to divided attention. 

Overexposure to repetitive ads can cause users to become indifferent, diminishing the impact of promotional content over time. 

Understanding TV Commercials 

TV commercials are typically 15 to 60 seconds long, featuring high-quality production and a narrative style. They are broadcast across various networks, reaching a wider audience at scheduled times. 

Television offers a broad reach, often appealing to a wide demographic spectrum. It is particularly effective for brands targeting an older demographic or those looking to establish credibility and authority. 

Check out this TV ad by Ching’s Secret, who attempted to enter a market controlled by Nestle’s Maggi. This five-minute advertisement successfully built credibility and authority through its extravagant production and entertaining storytelling approach, resulting in a remarkable 150 percent increase in sales. 


The advantages of TV commercials include massive reach and a fixed viewing schedule. It can be optimized for maximum exposure during peak viewing times. Additionally, the perceived legitimacy and prestige associated with TV advertising can elevate a brand’s reputation. 


The main drawbacks are the high cost of production and broadcasting, as well as the difficulty in measuring direct engagement and conversion rates compared to digital ads. 

Ching’s Secret produced the above TV commercial with a staggering budget of 75 crore, earning it the title of the most expensive ad ever made.  

Comparative Analysis 

Audience Targeting 

Social media advertising allows for much more specific targeting. Social media ads can be tailored to individual users by using detailed data on user behaviour and preferences. This is likely to increase engagement and effectiveness. 

On the other hand, TV advertising often targets a broad audience based on the type of program being broadcast, like daytime shows versus prime-time TV, but lacks the detail to personalize messages deeply. It’s mainly limited to targeting households. So, TV commercials reach a wide audience with less precision, which might not connect as well with specific viewers since the targeting is not as detailed. 


Social media ads are generally more affordable than TV commercials, making them a viable option for small businesses and startups with tight budgets. Making videos for social media costs less because they typically focus on products or brands without the need for elaborate settings or actors, unlike TV commercials. TV commercial video production often involves lifestyle scenes and multiple locations, thereby raising the budget. 

On the distribution front, airing a TV commercial can be expensive. In India, the broadcasting cost for a 30-second TV ad ranges from ₹50,000 to ₹5,00,000, depending on the channel’s viewership, the timing of the ad, and the target audience. For a 60-second ad, the cost typically varies between ₹75,000 and ₹7,50,000. And of course, this cost will go up a lot during mega-events such as the IPL. This high cost makes TV advertising impractical for many brands. 

In an episode of our podcast, Photosynthesis, even senior DoP, Bijitesh De discussed the huge costs associated with broadcasting a TV ad. He said, “Running an ad film on television is very expensive – it’s very much a few hundred times more than the cost of making an ad.” 

In contrast, social media ads can be placed on digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, where costs are more manageable. These platforms allow advertisers to control their spending by setting maximum budgets, making it easier to adjust campaigns according to financial constraints. 

Engagement and Interactivity 

TV ads typically present a one-way communication, delivering impactful narratives to evoke emotions and enhance brand recall but lacking immediate interaction. TV commercials generally involve passive viewing. Although some viewers might search for the brand online after watching a commercial. It’s not as direct or engaging as interacting within the ad itself. 

In contrast, social media ads excel in two-way interaction. Viewers can like, share, comment, or click on links right within the ad. This fosters deeper engagement and a more personal connection with the brand. Social media ads also often feature interactive elements like call-to-action buttons and clickable links. This not only makes the ads more engaging but also allows for detailed tracking of the campaign’s effectiveness. 

Pic Courtesy: embedsocial.com

Measurability and Tracking 

Social media ads have a clear advantage over TV commercials when measuring effectiveness. Marketers can track views, click-through rates, engagement, watch time, conversions, and more. These metrics help them understand which ads work best and why. This detailed tracking allows marketers to test different video ads, making improvements or stopping underperforming ones as needed. 

Take a look at 5 of the most important metrics to track for successful social media video marketing campaigns. 

On the other hand, TV commercials offer less precise data, making it hard to gauge their impact accurately. While TV ratings and audience surveys provide some insights, they lack the immediate detail that digital analytics offers. Also, unlike social media ads, TV ad films are difficult to adjust once aired because any significant changes require reshooting the entire ad. 


TV commercials are generally standardized, and are primarily effective for building brand awareness rather than driving direct conversions. 

Social media videos, on the other hand, offer more versatility. Marketers can deploy various types of video ads, such as product demos, explainer videos, and customer testimonials. Each type serves a specific purpose within the marketing funnel, from raising awareness to prompting viewers to take action. 

Interestingly, the decision doesn’t have to be either-or. Many successful companies use a hybrid approach. They combine TV’s broad reach to build brand awareness, with the precise targeting of social media videos to engage and convert their audience. This strategy allows businesses to capitalize on the strengths of both platforms, achieving a comprehensive and effective advertising campaign that covers both wide reach and targeted depth. 

The choice between social media videos and TV commercials hinges on factors like audience targeting, cost-effectiveness, engagement, measurability, and campaign goals. While social media ads offer precise targeting and interactivity, TV commercials provide broad reach and perceived legitimacy. Many successful brands opt for a hybrid approach, combining TV’s reach with social media’s targeting for comprehensive campaigns. Understanding your brand’s needs is key to planning an effective video marketing strategy. 

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