With billions of faithful viewers scattered across every continent, the medium of television is considered by many marketing experts to be the ultimate platform for targeted advertising. A single 30 or 60 second television commercial broadcast during an event such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics can easily reach the eyes and ears of billions of potential customers. Television advertising may be more expensive to produce and broadcast than other forms of advertising, but it also has the power to connect with the broadest audience simultaneously.
Television advertising is similar to radio advertising in the sense of relaying a specific sales pitch in a limited amount of time. Most television ads are either 30 or 60 seconds in duration, long enough to give the viewers pertinent information or create a specific opinion of the product or service, but not long enough to lose the viewer's attention. Television commercials are generally placed at strategic breaks during the main programming and the few minutes until the top of the next hour.
Visual as well as audio interest is very important in television advertising. Instead of employing a single voice-over actor to read the advertising copy over a musical bed, actors can create a visual image which further enhances the appeal of the commercial. Images of a happy family gathering around a dinner table can enhance the appeal of a new line of canned soups, for example. An attractive man surrounded by beautiful models can suggest the sex appeal of a new cologne as well.
Because television viewers can easily discern a cheaply produced television commercial from regular programming, many television advertising agencies employ professional copywriters, directors and actors to produce professional caliber commercials that viewers will remember long afterwards.
Even if the images or copy appears to have little to do with the actual product or service, viewers often remember shocking or nostalgic or humorous imagery in a commercial. One famous television ad from the 1970s featured a menacing football player named Mean Joe Greene accepting a soft drink from a young fan. The inspirational imagery created a favorable impression of the soft drink, even though it only appeared in the actual commercial for a few seconds.
Television advertising is similar to radio advertising in other ways. Because of time limitations, most televisions spots must be precisely 30 or 60 seconds in duration. Advertisers pay television stations to "drop" the commercials during a set number of local breaks, which is why viewers tend to see more locally produced commercials during overnight or afternoon hours. During prime time hours, commercial breaks are generally filled with spots produced for national or regional clients. The cost of having a television spot run on a particular station can range from a few hundred dollars for a small local station to several million dollars for a single TV commercial aired during the Super Bowl.