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National vs. Local TV Advertising: Which is Right For You?

As brands compete for high-value audiences, three questions always seem to arise for most brands looking to get into TV advertising: Should my brand be advertising locally? Should my brand be advertising nationally? Should my brand be using a combination of both? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and this complete guide from Team TEGNA will help you determine the best option.

Meredith Cunningham Published: March 6, 2023
National vs. Local TV Advertising: Which is Right For You? image

TV advertising has been, and continues to be, a proven medium to deliver results to businesses of all shapes and sizes. For starters, TV ads viewed by large audiences (113 million tuned into Super Bowl LVII), are the most likely ad type to be remembered and are the most influential when it comes to influencing purchasing decisions. 

While 55% of Americans spend up to four hours per day watching TV (and 22% watch even more than four hours), TV ads are also the best way to connect emotionally to audiences, kick off the consumer journey, create brand awareness that leads to brand fame, and generate website and foot traffic. 

As brands compete for high-value audiences, three questions always seem to arise for most brands looking to get into TV advertising

  1. Should my brand be advertising locally?
  2. Should my brand be advertising nationally?
  3. Should my brand be using a combination of both? 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and it depends on a number of different factors, such as your budget, the target audience, the message you’re trying to convey, and what your competitors are doing. This complete guide from Team TEGNA will help you determine the best option.

What is National TV Advertising?

National TV advertising is often categorized by 15 or 30-second video ads that run on national TV networks. These networks broadcast across the entire country and include names like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN. The network itself typically sells ad space and will air alongside a national show, such as ABC’s Abbot Elementary or Discovery’s Shark Week. 

What Are the Benefits of National TV Advertising?

National TV advertising has several benefits, but you must ask yourself about your brand goals. If your brand goals are mass reach, high viewership, creating brand awareness, and launching a national brand, here are some of the benefits of advertising nationally. 

1. High Reach & Scale

When placed nationally, ads can reach large audiences of several demographics at once – especially during live events that bring viewers into a single, shared, emotional experience. For example, Super Bowl LVII reached more than 113 million viewers, and the 2023 Grammy Awards drew 12.55 million.

2. Loyal Viewers

These massive audiences are typically loyal viewers who regularly tune into their favorite programming. Brands that use national TV advertising tend to be seen as credible and trustworthy – especially when positioned alongside content they love.

3. Low Cost

We’ve all heard national brands spending millions to run an ad during the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean your brand is out of the game. Despite what you might think, compared to the number of eyes your ad can reach, buying a TV ad spot is within most budgets, and many networks are willing to work with you on prices.

What is Local TV Advertising?

Local TV advertising is often characterized by 15 or 30-second video ads that are placed alongside the national network affiliates’ broadcasts or during national programming but airing locally or within specific geographic locations. 

For example, let’s say a plumber in Phoenix has an ad for its local services and wants it to be placed alongside NBC’s The Voice. This ad can run alongside this national programming but will be placed locally, only shown to those in the Phoenix area. 

However, local TV ads aren’t limited to spots, as local broadcast TV stations – like those at TEGNA – offer content sponsorships, integrations, and many other ways to get your brand in front of interested and engaged local audiences. 

What Are the Advantages of Local Television Advertising?

Local TV advertising fulfills different brand needs, and your business goals must be assessed. Local TV advertising will be a good starting place for a mom-and-pop shop because you can target a specific audience in a specific area, generate trust, build brand awareness, and show off your commitment to the local community by participating in local events. 

If your brand goals are targeting more specific audiences, generating trust, and making a difference in the local community, local TV advertising offers the following benefits:

1. High Viewership

In the past decade, Nielsen data shows that viewership for local television news has increased by 35%.

2. High Trust

According to a TVB Media Comparison Study, Local broadcast TV is turned to most for local news and is the most trusted platform.

3. Specific Targeting

Instead of hitting a massive, large audience spread out across the entire country, local TV offers more specific targeting to hit those within a specific geographic location or niche area.

4. Community Involvement

Research shows that consumers are increasingly looking to buy from brands that align with their values. Local TV advertising offers opportunities to show off your commitment to the community – and create a brand community all your own.

5. Low Cost

The thought of the cost of a production shoot can be scary, but in reality, it’s not the budget eater you might think. TV is priced based on rating points among specific target audiences.

Your media partner can help you determine your target audience and the programming to reach them best while staying within your budget. Work with them to choose a station and develop a schedule to maximize ROI. You may discuss buying around certain times of the month or times of year that are in high demand for some advertisers to help stretch your dollars further. For example, prices tend to rise during election season.

Local TV Advertising & Brand Visibility

Local TV advertising can help brands build brand awareness and fame by reaching targeted demographics in specific geographic areas. Repeated local exposure also helps businesses build credibility, which helps generate trust and show that the business is committed to serving the local community. For businesses with physical locations, this can help increase foot traffic and sales within brick-and-mortar stores.

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Shared Benefits of National and Local Advertising

Both national and local advertising have their benefits, and many of these benefits extend to both national and local. Here are a handful, according to the TVB 2024 Media Comparison Study.

  • Influentials. TV has the highest reach and time spent of all media platforms studied for all age groups and categories measured.
  • Viewership. 88% of the time spent viewing TV & movie programming is done on the TV set.
  • Reach. Broadcast TV has the highest reach compared to email, Cable TV, social media, radio, and streaming.
  • Ad Views Inspire Action. Television ads are motivation to do further research online.

4 Differences Between National and Local Advertising

In contrast, a handful of factors differ between national and local TV advertising. Here’s a quick rundown to help your brand decide if a national, local, or combination of audiences will work best in your media plan.

1. Audience

National ads have the potential to reach millions across the country. Local ads can also reach a large audience but will be targeted to a more specific geographic location.

2. Cost

Local ads tend to cost a lower dollar amount, but that’s because they deliver fewer impressions than a national campaign. Be sure to use CPM to even the playing field and address the differences in pricing

3. Creative Message

Ad creative should be different when airing nationally versus locally. For example, if you advertise nationally, you may show off your products and have your call to action to drive traffic to your website or e-commerce store. If you’re advertising locally, you may want to show off your friendly faces and employees to drive traffic to your physical location.

4. Trust

Regarding news platforms, TVB finds that trust is higher locally versus nationally.

Making Your Final Decision on National vs. Local TV Advertising

No matter what you decide, TV is an effective marketing tool that allows brands to reach a wide audience. Suppose you’re a national brand on Main Street looking for mass brand awareness or a small, local mom-and-pop shop getting started small with TV advertising.

In that case, TEGNA’s cross-channel marketing solutions deliver local relevance at scale and targeted digital solutions that connect brands with their core audience. Our local media campaign options can help national and market-specific brands reach the right demographic.

Our local TV brands deliver trusted, high-quality news, lifestyle programming, and highly rated national network programming to millions daily. With cutting-edge attribution measurement, multiplatform amplification, original content, and the latest in data-driven technology, our mission is to help businesses grow and thrive. Let’s get in touch if you’re ready to place your media with TEGNA. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Buy Local TV Ads?

To buy a local TV ad, you should start with research and begin to identify the target audience. Next, set clear objectives as you map out a media plan. Once you’re ready, you can directly contact a station or group and get set up to launch the advertising campaign. TEGNA is here to help brands land an effective local TV ad, providing attribution measurement, multiplatform amplification, original content, and the latest data-driven technology to support local TV advertisements.

How Do I Advertise on Local Cable?

You can work with a local TV station or a media partner like TEGNA to advertise on local cable. Media partners help make this process less burdensome by creating a schedule that outlines the best programs and times to reach your target audience. Local TV stations normally charge on a CPM basis, meaning you’ll pay for every thousand viewers your ad reaches.

Why Is TV Advertising Important in a Digital Time?

Despite a growing transition to digital and streaming TV, traditional TV advertising is still effective because it allows you to reach a large and targeted audience. This encourages emotional connections that may be difficult to create online. Connecting with these local audiences also helps build trust and credibility, which can be difficult to match on a larger online scale. Ads can easily be blocked online, whereas TV ads are generally easier to trust and pay attention to.

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