The True Cost of TV Advertising

08.05.2020 Sara Brasfield

If you ask a small business owner if they can afford to advertise through TV commercials, you are likely to get a lot of “No’s.” The broad visibility and production values of TV ads often convince many lean business operations that the cost of this advertising channel is way out of their modest budget.

But when you ask those same small business owners what it costs to run a TV commercial, you’re almost certain to hear quotes into the tens of thousands of dollars per commercial. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the cost of a Super Bowl ad is famously expensive, and national TV ad campaigns are going to be priced way out of a small or mid-sized business’ budget.

If you’re a local business though, those national ad spots may be a waste of money regardless of the price. Why would a small business in Atlanta want to pay for a TV ad aired in Montana? But local cable TV channels offer ad inventory that features a much more relevant audience—and at a price almost every business can afford.

Let’s take a closer look at the common myths of TV commercials, and why it’s time for your business to seriously consider this advertising opportunity.


If you want to buy prime-time TV ads during the season finale of “The Bachelorette,” you can expect to pay a premium for that exposure. But look beyond those top ratings sensations and you’ll find a huge inventory of TV commercial spots that offer great value for your business.

If you (or your media partner) know how to shop for your TV ad inventory, it’s possible to find affordable—and effective—ad spots that cost about the same as the cost of a tank of gas for your car. If that low price shocks you, let’s explain how these costs are determined.

First, it’s important to remember that TV ad prices have a strong correlation with the size of the audience you’re targeting. The larger the audience, the higher the cost. While major network TV shows play to a huge national audience, cable TV offers a more niche audience, which lowers the price considerably.

Cable TV also gives you the ability to purchase ad spots within one particular zone of a cable broadcast area. If your business and customers are located in a suburban part of San Diego, for example, you can choose to target that specific zone instead of spending TV ad money across the entire metro area—especially when most of your clients won’t travel more than 15 minutes to visit your business. Once you filter your ad options according to these criteria, you can find inventory that offers an attractive price-point.


Today’s cable TV advertising offers a number of different filtering capabilities that help you target your ads to your audience, while also controlling the costs of your advertisements. When you purchase cable TV ad inventory, you can build a custom advertising package that includes cable TV commercial exposure, as well as online views through digital video, and even ad production services to produce a high-quality spot for your business.

Commercial schedules are highly customizable, so you can ensure your ads meet a relevant audience wherever it is displayed. Newer TV ad innovations allow for additional customization of ad campaigns through the use of video-on-demand inventory and audience-based buys that give even greater control over the cost and exposure of your ads.

Ultimately, these customizable options help your business achieve the advanced customer targeting that you’re accustomed to through other digital advertising channels, which makes cable TV all the more valuable for local businesses.


Local businesses can’t afford to spend precious advertising dollars on campaigns that offer uncertain ROI. Fortunately, today’s TV advertising offers efficiencies and value creation that rival other digital advertising channels. These enhancements raise the ceiling for the potential material return on your TV campaign spending.

If you’re a home improvement or home renovation company, for example, you can target your TV ads to shows on HGTV that typically attract your target audience, such as first-time homebuyers. You can also pair this cable TV exposure with digital video options to target streaming consumers, and target your ads to certain times of the day when your audience is most likely to be watching.

Meanwhile, you can target ad delivery by the zones within your designated market area, as well as ZIP codes within these zones. If this granular approach to geo-targeted TV advertising seems unfamiliar, it’s probably because you’ve assumed that broadcast TV’s inflexible, costly, high-exposure advertising options also applied to cable TV programming. In reality, the opposite is true: While big national brands may find value in broadcast inventories, small businesses can expect far better value from cable TV ads.

Is the cost of production holding you back? If you’ve never made a TV ad before, you probably assume it requires a massive production team comparable to what you might find on a movie set. But thanks to the high-quality video production tools available to small businesses today, it’s possible to produce a beautiful commercial without draining your cash reserves.

If you’re interested in TV advertising but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. Want to know a little more about the pricing of a television commercial? Click here to read a former blog post where we take a closer look at a sample (real!) price package. While the specific package referenced in the post has expired,  our team is available anytime to discuss updated (similar) opportunities and rates.

Cox Media is a comprehensive advertising partner that can help your business produce a quality TV ad, and build a campaign that meets both your ROI expectations and your strict budget. Contact us today to learn more.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is a Marketing Manager on Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than nine years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the office, Sara loves spending time running, reading, and supporting her favorite sports teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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