Traditional TV vs. Digital Video Ads

BY Rachel Cagle
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Are your clients' TV ads keeping up with shifting viewing habits? TV viewing habits were already changing before the pandemic hit. Then COVID-​19 kicked habit changes into hyperdrive. So, what does the TV ad market look like now? What are the pros and cons of traditional TV vs. digital video ads? eMarketer put together a report to give you the insight you need to help your clients make informed purchasing decisions.

Traditional TV vs. Digital Video Ads

Viewing Habits

Traditional TV

Since 2019, the number of American consumers who watch traditional TV has continuously shrunk. According to eMarketer, between 2019 and 2021, the number of traditional TV viewers per generation fell from:

  • Consumers Under Age 18: 57.3 million to 49.1 million (decrease of 8.2 million)
  • Ages 18–34: 54.7 million to 46.8 million (decrease of 7.9 million)
  • Ages 35–54: 70.4 million to 62.5 million (decrease of 7.9 million)
  • Consumers Ages 55 and Above: 89.2 million to 86.3 million (decrease of 2.9 million)

That downward trajectory is only expected to continue to 2023. Viewership is expected to decrease to:

  • Consumers Under Age 18: 46.6 million (another 2.5 million decrease)
  • Ages 18–34: 44.1 million (another 2.7 million decrease)
  • Ages 35–54: 59.1 million (another 3.4 million decrease)
  • Consumers Ages 55 and Above: 85.2 million (another 1.1 million decrease)

So, the decrease in traditional TV viewership is expected to slow before 2023, but it has still been pretty significant. Why? “Largely because Americans continue to cut the cord and are seeking out more affordable, personalizable, and on-​demand ways to access the content they want, when they want it,” says eMarketer. So, unless your client targets consumers over the age of 55, since the audience has barely decreased at all since 2019, they need a new game plan. In the world of traditional TV vs. digital video ads, traditional TV’s standing isn’t looking great .

Digital Video

On the flip side, digital video’s viewership increased between 2019 and 2021:

  • Consumers Under Age 18: 49.3 million to 51.8 million (increase of 2.5 million)
  • Ages 18–34: 71.3 million to 72.8 million (increase of 1.5 million)
  • Ages 35–54: 68.1 million to 71.4 million (increase of 3.3 million)
  • Consumers Ages 55 and Above: 49.4 million to 57.3 million (increase of 7.9 million)

And viewership is only expected to increase this year. By 2023, eMarketer estimates that 262.2 million Americans will be avid digital video viewers. Viewership will raise in every age group, especially among consumers ages 55 and above. So, while older generations may be traditional TV’s biggest supporters, they’ll also an up-​and-​coming market for digital video. In the faceoff between traditional TV vs. digital video ads, digital is in the lead.

Daily Time Spent

As the number of traditional TV viewers decrease, so will the average time American consumers spend watching it. In 2019, the average time Americans spent watching traditional TV per day was 207.45 minutes (about three and a half hours). By 2023, that time is expected to fall to 171.06 minutes (or just under three hours), according to eMarketer.

Digital video’s average daily viewership will continue to grow. In 2019, American consumers watched digital video for an average of 409.25 minutes per day (nearly seven hours). By 2023, that time will increase to 499.82 minutes (about eight and a quarter hours).

In the traditional TV vs. digital video ad debate, digital video also leads in time consumers spend watching it.

Connected TV

When you factor in connected TV’s popularity, the space between traditional TV vs. digital video ads just grows even wider. “About two-​thirds of the U.S. population are CTV users,” says eMarketer. “Viewership will increase to 227.6 million by 2023, from 218.3 million last year… This shift means that a growing amount of the TV inventory is digital in nature, offering more refined targeting capabilities.”

Which Should Your Clients Use?

In the battle of traditional TV vs. digital video ads, it’s clear who the winner is. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your client should kick traditional TV ads to the curb. Check out their target audience’s profile on AudienceSCAN on AdMall by SalesFuel to see if a multimedia campaign with both traditional TV and digital video ads would benefit their company.

Photo by Windows