Aug 1, 2023

Linear and Streaming: The Evolution of Television Advertising

In the arena where traditional broadcasters like NBC and CBS stand toe-to-toe with streaming giants like Prime Video and Hulu, the advertising playbook is largely being rewritten. A new age of television and media consumption has begun — one where linear and streaming platforms coexist, compete, and create new possibilities for brands across the globe….


In the arena where traditional broadcasters like NBC and CBS stand toe-to-toe with streaming giants like Prime Video and Hulu, the advertising playbook is largely being rewritten.

A new age of television and media consumption has begun — one where linear and streaming platforms coexist, compete, and create new possibilities for brands across the globe.

For the everyday marketer looking to jump aboard today’s TV advertising wave, the following guide provides everything your brand needs to know about linear vs. digital platforms.

The Evolution of Advertising on Television

70-something years ago, advertising on TV looked a lot like this: You’re watching a regularly scheduled program on a television network (if you were lucky enough to be able to afford a TV), you get a few ad breaks during commercial slots, and you hope your show returns as quickly as possible — unless you were buying what was being sold. Broadcast and cable were pivotal to the average American family, and if you wanted to catch your favorite show like I Love Lucy, you’d better hope you were sitting in front of the TV at 9pm EST after dinner on Monday night.

Over the years, television sets became more affordable and TV networks expanded rapidly, leaving more viewers tuning in and more advertisers racing to the big screen. The “Golden Age” of TV advertising prevailed in the 1960s and 1970s, and advertisers began creating iconic and memorable commercials that became part of pop culture.

Flash forward 60 years, and the TV advertising model has largely reinvented itself with the advent of new tech like on-demand, DVRs, TiVo, and streaming services. Now, viewers can actually choose whether or not they want to watch an ad, with many binge-watching their favorite shows and fast-forwarding through commercials. And with so many shows to watch, advertisers must also adapt to keep viewers’ attention in a saturated content market.

While this new way of TV advertising might make reaching the masses and keeping their attention more challenging, it certainly hasn’t become impossible — it’s just gotten a different look.

Where Linear and Digital TV Advertising Stands Today

Today, TV advertisers are investing in both linear and digital TV, a two-in-one combo that packs the perfect punch for any campaign.

Yes, mass ad spend has shifted to digital in recent years (Insider Intelligence projects U.S. spend on digital video will surpass $25.09b in 2023 alone), but traditional TV advertising is still one of the most effective ways to create awareness about a product or brand. Advertisers across the country remain well aware of this actuality, with linear ad spend also set to reach a striking $61.31b this year.

Both forms of TV are tried and tested tactics to reach consumers, and in fact, many households view it by means of traditional TV and streaming services. According to Marketing Charts, data from Nielsen’s Q4 2022 research revealed the average U.S. adult spends a whopping 294 minutes per day with TV, whether through TV-connected devices, cable, or broadcast.

If you didn’t already guess, that’s an incredible amount of screen time that brands can capitalize on to reach their ideal buyer.

Linear TV Advertising

TV is broadly categorized under two larger umbrellas: linear TV and streaming TV.

Linear TV is the traditional form of broadcast television, where content is viewed on a predetermined schedule (TiVo still counts, but this is called time-shift linear where viewers can watch programs at a later date.) When talking about TV advertising, there are two main forms of linear TV, broadcast and cable. Each refers to the way content is aired, either broadcasted or via cable box, a paid-for service.

Within this linear landscape, there are two distinct types of advertising, those on a national and local scale. This means a certain percentage of ads are dedicated to national commercial spots, with a smaller percentage dedicated to local commercial spots.

It’s common for advertisers to incorporate both broadcast and cable into their strategy, but choosing national or local advertising depends on the advertiser’s size, audience, and ultimate campaign goals.

Advantages of Linear TV Advertising

Linear TV has been a favorite among advertisers for decades, mainly due to its unique advantages not seen with other mediums, such as:

  • With linear TV advertising, advertisers are able to build brand awareness and loyalty among a national audience or connect to live and local audiences.
  • When done right, TV advertising adds significant power to other marketing tactics. Because viewers spend more time with TV than any other medium, TV remains the top influencer on buying decisions.
  • Advertising on linear TV is cost-efficient in terms of reach and scale, as marketers can reach a broad demographic or a large market segment in a single ad placement.
  • Linear TV advertisers can use compelling storytelling through visualization and audio components. From targeting emotions to leveraging celebrity endorsements, linear TV ads can encourage more viewers to visit the brand’s website or physical store.
  • People still commonly catch live sports events on linear, granting TV advertisers a broad pool of tuned-in viewers.

Streaming TV Advertising

In the dynamic realm of modern entertainment, streaming has revolutionized how we consume traditional television content. It occurs on CTV devices through an over-the-top (OTT) method, meaning that video and audio content is delivered entirely online.

While there are countless streamers, apps, and digital ways to consume television, not all are available for advertising. For example, some platforms may choose not to invest in AVOD (advertising-based video on demand) models, and even those that do tend to have a lower frequency of ads than traditional TV.

Unlike traditional linear TV, on streaming devices, advertisers are directly targeting households 1:1. And because it’s digital, there’s ample opportunity to track performance and connect data to understand ad campaigns.

Advantages of Streaming TV Advertising

Streaming TV advertising has been all the buzz in marketing circles, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic acted as its main catalyst in the 2020 lockdown days. For many marketers, this way of TV advertising is favored for its diverse capabilities, including:

  • Streaming TV has the ability for hyper-specific audience targeting, including demographics, interests, and brand affiliation, allowing for 1:1 targeting that is not applicable in linear.
  • Streaming TV advertising offers advanced performance metrics and the ability to track user behavior, including cross-channel attribution.
  • The delivery and tracking technology is in real-time, lending to more transparency and reporting capabilities.
  • CTV/OTT advertising provides the ability to reach cord-cutters or cord-nevers, which skew to a different demographic than traditional TV viewers.
  • Streaming advertisers can access a wide range of premium inventory, which permits them to target different types of audiences.

The Best of Both Worlds

Linear TV is a powerhouse channel for driving unprecedented reach and boosting top-funnel brand performance, while streaming is a high-growth avenue to target your audience and drive conversions.

What does this mean for the modern-day marketer? Tapping into the true power of TV advertising lies at the convergence point of both linear and digital.

Viewership is still evenly split across streaming and traditional TV, meaning advertisers will beat out competitors by reaching their consumers at every touchpoint across linear, CTV, and digital.

Best Practices for a Successful Holistic TV Campaign

There are many moving pieces and parts involved in any marketing strategy, much less one that takes into account both linear and digital TV. But with these best practices from the team at Digital Remedy, you can unlock a world of success in every ad and on every platform:

  • Uncover historical data from both your linear and streaming efforts to inform future campaigns for each medium. By analyzing the data, you can evaluate the success of previous campaigns, understand which ads resonated with the audience, and identify patterns or trends.
  • Tap into ad measurement to keep a steady pulse on how your TV advertisements are performing. Whether you’re blasting on your local news channel or through YouTube TV advertising, measuring your impact gauges how effective the advertisements were in reaching the intended audience, generating engagement, and achieving the desired objectives.
  • Derive insights from linear delivery data, including reach, frequency, and impressions. This data essentially helps you understand how your media dollars are being spent on linear and grants awareness on what you can do to improve.
  • Take on a flexible, audience-first approach. Consider different networks and dayparts where your audience might be watching vs. just choosing popular shows on primetime.
  • Test smaller markets and optimize your strategy before putting your budget into larger campaigns. This helps your brand save precious ad dollars in both the short and long term.
  • Tailor your creative and content messaging to your targeted region as best as possible. This adds a local touch and helps you connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Getting Started With Digital Remedy

The future of digital advertising is a cross-channel approach, and it’s our goal at Digital Remedy to provide our clients with a competitive, linear, and CTV performance marketing-driven strategy that is 100% holistic.

With Digital Remedy, agencies and advertisers can run all linear media through us across national and local broadcast and cable. And by utilizing our TV insights platform, you’ll have access to real-time linear TV data, giving you the power to measure and optimize your campaign all in one platform.

Because performance TV marketing is at the heart of what we do, we also enable brands to activate across linear and digital channels — the ultimate solution to creating a comprehensive media strategy that guarantees outcomes.

Interested in learning more about how our linear and streaming TV capabilities can work for you?

Speak with a member of our team for more expert insights, and sign up for our Trends and Insights newsletter to always stay in the loop.