Advertising, Connected TV

Addressable TV vs Linear TV: What’s the Difference?

Addressable TV vs Linear TV: What’s the Difference?

7 Min Read

In just the last few decades, the world of TV advertising has grown and evolved at an unprecedented rate. Marketers are no longer limited to pushing their brands and products on linear television channels via blanket ads. All sorts of options are available for targeting consumers and increasing brand awareness these days, and one of the most powerful is addressable TV.

But what is addressable TV exactly? And more importantly, what do the pros and cons look like for addressable TV vs. linear TV? Understanding the differences between the two will help you develop a sound marketing mix that supports your long-term growth goals.

What Is Addressable TV?

Addressable TV advertising allows brands to target specific households of viewers with tailored messages, even if they are watching the same programming, typically through traditional cable or satellite TV systems.

According to Statista, U.S. advertisers spent roughly $4.22B on addressable TV advertising in 2023. That figure represents a major increase over previous years, and it indicates that advertisers are catching on to the value of these ads and other bespoke marketing content.

How Addressable TV Advertising Works

Addressable TV advertising works by leveraging data analytics and ad delivery software to deliver targeted ads to specific households or individuals. Unlike traditional TV ads, which broadcast the same content to all viewers watching a particular program, addressable TV allows you to segment audiences based on various factors, such as their behavior, geographical location, and demographics.

Using data from set-top boxes, smart TVs, or streaming devices, marketers can identify the households they want to target and deliver relevant content to them. This kind of precision allows brands to connect with consumers who have a strong likelihood of converting into customers.

Advantages of Addressable TV Advertising

An addressable approach to TV advertising offers several benefits over its linear counterpart(s). Firstly, you can target specific audience segments with tailored messages that are more relevant to them and their needs, which will increase the effectiveness of your ads and enhance the overall viewing experience.

Secondly, addressable TV makes advertising more measurable. You can track and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs), like impressions and conversions, to help you create more impactful ads in the future.

Addressable TV also offers greater flexibility and control. You can use performance data to adjust your targeting parameters and messaging on the fly. If something isn’t working as you want it to, you can change it to ensure an improved return on ad spend (ROAS).

Disadvantages of Addressable TV Advertising

Despite the benefits listed above, there are two potential drawbacks of addressable TV.

First is the matter of higher costs. The advanced targeting features and technology required for addressable TV advertising often come at a higher cost compared to linear TV advertising, which can be a barrier for smaller advertisers or campaigns with tight budgets.

There is also the problem of limited reach. Despite its precise targeting, addressable TV advertising may not have as broad a reach as linear TV advertising since it focuses on specific households, potentially missing out on broader brand awareness.

What Is Linear TV?

Linear TV refers to the traditional model of television broadcasting, by which programs are aired in real-time according to a fixed schedule. Linear TV channels, such as network or cable stations, broadcast the same content to all viewers simultaneously, including commercials during breaks.

How Linear TV Advertising Works

Under an old-school linear model, you’re forced to use a one-to-many broadcasting model. That means purchasing ad slots for an entire designated market area (DMA), which may include one or more zip codes. As such, a linear approach can be both costly and ineffective, as lots of people will be seeing ads that aren’t necessarily relevant to them.

Advantages of Linear TV Advertising

Despite its shortcomings, linear TV advertising does offer a few perks. For one, you can easily reach a mass audience at scale. Simply buy ad slots in as many DMAs as necessary to reach your audience and maximize your brand exposure.

The other advantage is that audiences of linear TV content are typically “captive.” In other words, they are watching programs in real time and cannot skip or fast-forward through commercials. Unless they want to run the risk of missing the next segment of their show by getting up for a snack or bathroom visit, they’ll just have to sit and wait for your ad to finish.

But even with these silver linings in mind, you must ask yourself whether you really want to rely on captive audiences to grow your brand. Connecting with people who already have a predisposition toward your products can be far more effective than the blanket approach.

Disadvantages of Linear TV Advertising

By far, the biggest drawback of linear TV advertising is ad wastage. You are spending your marketing dollars to advertise to entire areas of people. And make no mistake, a sizable chunk of that audience likely has zero interest in your products or services.

Another drawback is that you won’t be able to easily measure the impacts of your linear ads compared to performance marketing mediums like programmatic advertising. While you can estimate the size of the audience you have reached, measuring your ad campaign’s impact and your return on investment (ROI) can be challenging due to limited tracking and analytics capabilities.

In the long run, the lack of measurability that is inherent to linear TV advertising can severely impede your marketing efficacy, leaving you without any insights for improving marketing campaigns. As a result, you’ll be relying on a lot of inferences and guesswork to shape your future content.

Summary of Key Differences

With the details of both models now covered, let’s quickly recap the key differences between addressable TV vs. linear TV.

The biggest variation between the two is the precision that each type of campaign can achieve. Whereas linear approaches offer very little targeting capabilities, addressable campaigns can be tailored to reach niche audiences.

Another major difference involves your ability to measure campaign results. The results of traditional television campaigns can be extremely difficult to track. On the other hand, you can gather detailed insights about the reach and impact of your addressable ads, thereby providing you with actionable guidance for improving future campaigns.

Perhaps most notably, addressable TV doesn’t rely on captive audiences. Instead, you are free to reach out to viewers who have a higher likelihood of being interested in your goods or services.

Performance TV Dominates Streaming Advertising

The only thing better than targeting users on traditional cable or satellite TV systems is targeting younger audiences on Connected TV (CTV) while they stream their favorite shows.

MNTN Performance TV strikes the perfect balance between the linear TV vs. addressable TV divide. Our CTV advertising platform allows you to leverage the prestige of linear TV by giving you access to premium advertising space on top streaming platforms. Moreover, it gives you the ability to zero in on specific audiences who are relevant to your brand.

But that’s not all. With  MNTN, You get a high degree of customizability, as well. With our platform, you can focus on high-intent audiences, including past website visitors, which allows you to incorporate TV ads into your lower-funnel performance campaigns.

With MNTN Performance TV, you’ll also enjoy robust reporting tools and access to our Creative-as-a-Subscription™. We’ll connect you with world-class creatives who can help you develop more compelling and engaging ad content.

Check out MNTN today and revolutionize the way you advertise. Request a demo to get started.

Addressable TV vs. Linear TV: Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the clear winner of the linear TV vs. addressable TV debate is the latter. Addressable TV offers far more control and measurability over your campaigns, all while allowing you to connect with high-intent audiences and make a huge impact with your next series of ads.

With that in mind, there’s no better time than now to integrate targeted, addressable ads into your next campaign. Make television-based ads your most powerful brand-building tool.