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How To Buy TV Ads Online: Platforms, Benefits, and Considerations

June 18, 2024
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TV commercials remain a powerful medium for reaching a broad audience across the country. Traditionally, purchasing TV ad slots involved a complex and time-consuming process. I remember starting out as a media buyer many years ago working in-house agency for an investment firm. We would reach out to our account executive at the cable stations serving the financial traders – CNBC, Bloomberg etc. – with our budget. They would put together a proposed package with different rates for different programs for the day, with the highest rates going for the most watched shows. Negotiations would ensue, we’d request third party audits to substantiate the audience numbers … and on and on and on. Finally, after about two or three weeks, we had our package, and we’d send over the TV commercials to be placed into those TV slots we had just bought.

Whilst many marketers still buy media the traditional way, and indeed, it is the preferred method for a lot of marketers, with advancements in technology, marketers can now buy TV ads online with greater ease and efficiency. As a commercial production companies Los Angeles, we are consistently in discussion with marketers that want to know if there are more efficient, self-service platforms to buy TV ads online. Here, we discuss platforms available for buying TV ads online, the benefits, the potential drawbacks, and key considerations for marketers, along with insights into working with commercial production companies Los Angeles for your creative needs. After all, once you have your TV ads inventory, you will still need your TV ads to upload to the platforms for flight.

Platforms To Buy TV Ads Online

Several platforms have emerged that enable marketers to purchase TV ad inventory online, each offering unique features and capabilities:

1. Google Ads (YouTube TV):

Youtube TV lets you watch over 90 channels including, but not limited to, entertainment, lifestyle, local, news, and sports categories. If you want it, they likely have it. With Youtube TV, you can stream live broadcasts from the major networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, plus local PBS channels. As for news channels, you get BBC America, CNBC, CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. For sports fans, YouTube TV features CBS Sports, ESPN, ESPN 2, NFL Network, NBC Sports, MLB Network, and NBA TV. Given the large selection available, marketers can target specific demographics and regions, leveraging Google’s robust data analytics to optimize their campaigns.

Keep in Mind – YouTube TV Is Not YouTube Premium
Marketers will need to keep in mind that Youtube TV is not the same as Youtube Premium. Youtube TV is a bundle that consists of both network and cable stations that have been packaged into one, whilst Youtube Premium is the ad-free version of Youtube with additional enhancements, including, but not limited to, being able to play videos in the background even when your device is locked, ability to download YouTube videos when offline, and access to Youtube Music Premium, a music streaming platform. YouTube TV is live TV bundle, Premium is YouTube with bells and whistles.

2. The Trade Desk:

The Trade Desk provides access to premium TV inventory through its programmatic advertising platform. It allows for precise targeting and real-time bidding, making it a popular choice for sophisticated advertisers.

Buy Ad Inventory on Apple+, Amazon Prime, Tubi
Trade Desk offers access to shows playing over Connected TV, that is, television programming that is consumed on a television set and delivered through the internet. Think Apple+, Amazon, Tubi, Paramount+ etc Using the Trade Desk platform, you are able to create your TV commercial campaign that would play across these Connected TV platforms.

Place Your Commercials on Digital Out of Home
Additionally, you may also buy digital out of home inventory. Have you ever been on the train stations, airports, malls and seen video campaigns play on screens placed inside these locations? That is digital out of home, and you can create your digital out of home campaigns to run across those screens when you select them in the Trade Desk platform.

3. Hulu Ad Manager

By the end of 2023 there were 48.3 million Hulu subscribers, making Hulu the top 3rd most popular streaming service in the US. Hulu advertising is very small business friendly, with budgets starting at only $500 per campaign. Hulu Ad Manager lets you target viewers according to their location, interests, demographics etc. The platform has several Hulu’s self-serve ad platform enables advertisers to reach viewers on one of the most popular streaming services. With options for targeting based on viewer behavior and demographics, Hulu Ad Manager offers flexibility and control. There are several types of Hulu Ads, and here we will address a few.

Ad Selector Ads
The viewer is given the option to select what ads they want to watch from the same one company. As such, you as a brand will upload several options, and your targeted audience will get to select which one is their preferred creative. It is an interesting concept, because as there is interaction with the brand and creative even before the viewer watches the ad, and it would be reasonable to assume that this would lead to better memorability and recall.

Binge Ads
These are exclusive sponsorships that that run at the beginning of the series or movie, and the viewer then gets to watch the rest of the show mostly ad-free. As such, you as the brand get 100% share of voice, which should also again, improve brand recall.

Pause Ads
When the viewer hits pause on the show, they get served with ads. Creative marketers may want to experiment with serving a QR code, discount codes etc. in pause ads

TV Commercials
This is the standard format of ads that are shown before, during, or after the show. Your ads on Hulu can be run from as short as 7 seconds or go the full  30 seconds. Marketers have usually either repurposed their social media ads or used premier video assets such as TV commercials for Hulu advertising. Studies have shown that TV ads are more effective from an awareness and memorability perspective, driving significantly lifts in Recall and Brand Recognition. Advertisers looking to build brand identity should lean into higher quality, premium ads when advertising on Hulu. On the flip side, advertisers are particularly encouraged to move away from testimonial or influencer type of ads that you’d typically see on social media when they are advertising on Hulu. We suggest pairing up with professional commercial production companies Los Angeles to create premier TV commercials that yield results for marketers.

4. Roku OneView

Roku’s OneView platform allows marketers to manage their TV ad campaigns across various streaming devices. It offers advanced targeting options and comprehensive analytics to measure campaign performance.

5. SpotX

SpotX is a video ad serving platform that provides access to both traditional and digital TV ad inventory. It supports programmatic buying and offers detailed reporting to help marketers optimize their campaigns.

6. Simulmedia

Simulmedia specializes in data-driven TV advertising, offering a platform that combines traditional TV buys with digital precision. Their transparent reporting and targeting capabilities make it a reliable choice for advertisers.

Pro and Cons of Buying TV Ads Online

Buying TV commercial inventory online comes with detailed demographic, behavioral and targeting option, ensuring that your commercials reach the intended audience. For platforms like Hulu, there is also the flexibility on price, with a starting price of $500. Additionally, programmatic buying and real-time bidding can lead to more cost-effective ad placements. By only paying for impressions that reach their target audience, marketers can maximize their return on investment (ROI). TV ads have a broad reach, and buying inventory online allows marketers to access both national and local markets. This scalability is advantageous for brands looking to expand their footprint.

That said, online platforms can be complex to navigate and marketers may need to be familiar and comfortable with programmatic buying and data analytics to launch their campaign. Further, there is the ever-persistent issue of ad fraud. Invalid traffic and fraudulent impressions can skew campaign results, potentially leading to wasting both ad dollars and campaign time period. The rise of streaming services has led to audience fragmentation. While this offers more targeting opportunities, it also means that reaching a large, unified audience can be more challenging. For marketers that are truly looking for large lifts, they may still need to pair programmatic media buy with traditional media buy on network and cable TV.  Finally, many online TV platforms allow users to skip ads, which can reduce the effectiveness of campaigns. Marketers need to create engaging and compelling content to capture viewers’ attention.


By leveraging the right platforms and adopting a data-driven approach, advertisers can create impactful campaigns that drive results. However, it’s essential to navigate the complexities and potential challenges of this landscape carefully. With the right strategy and tools, TV advertising can be a powerful component of any marketing plan.