Advertise on TV – The complete guide

We’ve put together this complete guide. Whether you’re looking for information on how to advertise on TV, or have specific questions, we’ll help you with advertising on TV.

What are the top reasons for Advertising on TV?

  • TV Advertising sells your products
  • Companies that advertise on TV are more trusted
  • TV adverts reach a huge audience
  • Adverts show emotion and passion
  • TV advertising boosts online traffic

If you’re looking for media buying or TV advert production information please visit our Media Buying and Advert Production pages. TV Advertising costs are here.

Adverts on TV

We’re often asked – Why should I advertise on TV? The answer, companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon advertise on television because it is effective. The new digital channels have made it affordable for smaller companies to advertise on TV and build their businesses too.
Thinkbox logo

“TV advertising works, it works better than anything else, and it works for all budgets.  Nothing else has TV’s reach, scale and connection with audiences; no other form of advertising is as trusted.”

Lindsey Clay Chief Executive of Thinkbox.


Table of Contents

At Toast, we are here to guide you through the whole advertising on TV process, from the initial briefing through to the final clearances and playing out to TV channels. If you’ve whizzed down to the bottom of the page and back again you’re probably feeling a little tightening in your chest but don’t panic we’re professionals – give us a ring and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

Joey Essex says Wallop
Advertise on TV
How to advertise on TV

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Promoting a new brand on TV

When thinking about how to advertise on TV it’s worth working out what you want to achieve from your advert. We’re often asked – Is TV advertising effective? Yes, companies use TV advertising because it is effective.

Online brands like Facebook, Google and Amazon are some of the largest buyers of TV advertising. They advertise on TV because it builds their brands.

If you’re a new brand or perhaps a good cause you might want to raise awareness that you exist and say what sets you apart. You may have a special offer you want to promote, or you may want to attract new customers or get them to switch to your brand from a rival.

If you’ve done print or digital advertising before you’ll have a handle on the briefing process which helps immensely, putting together a creative brief that encapsulates all your needs and some insight into your brand is half the battle. Take a look below, we set out some of the different types of advertising.

What are the different types of Broadcast TV Advertising

DRTV – Direct Response TV. A type of advert that gets a response from the viewer.

Brand Advertising – Reinforcing a brand message, not necessarily selling directly.

Product Advertising – Does what it says on the tin.

Charity Advertising – A very powerful method of promoting your message.

Animated Adverts – A fun way to get your message across.

Celebrity Endorsement Adverts – Use the power of celebrity combined with TV’s huge reach to drive sales.

Episodic Adverts – It worked brilliantly for Gold Blend.

Christmas TV Advert – Some people anticipate the adverts as much as Santa.

Challenger brand – getting your adverts on TV

Whether you’re fighting for position with an established name or you’ve invented an entirely new category being a challenger brand is an exciting ride. Building an advertising strategy for a challenger brand allows you more flexibility, you get the chance to be irreverent, funny or a little bit cheeky.

The chances are many of the viewers are seeing your brand for the first time so making an impact counts. Having a marketing message that differentiates you from the incumbent and paints your brand as the new refreshing alternative does wonders for your sales – ask Innocent Smoothies, Toast produced their first-ever adverts on TV launching them to global stardom.

Changing perception

Using advertising on TV to steer the public’s perception of your brand is a powerful tool, for years Bacardi hung their marketing hat on the image of island life and laid back reggae beats.

Sales were decimated by the influx of vodka as another player in the mixed drinks world and Little Britain’s Daffyd having a penchant for Bacardi and Coke.

A vast marketing drive was thrown at the brand with TV ad’s rolled out encouraging the viewers to remember Bacardi’s roots in Cuba. Advertising made Bacardi an authentic drink again.

Targeting a new demographic

You have a solid customer base who know your product or use your service but how do you grow into new markets? By using the power of advertising on TV, you can target an entirely new demographic to expand your customer base. Using a bespoke media plan you can focus on the kind of audience you’re looking for and run your TV advert between shows they watch.

Direct Response Advertising

The second screen phenomenon where TV viewers sit watching the main TV screen while also browsing social media or the broader internet on a phone or tablet has made direct response advertising incredibly powerful.

A DRTV advert with a strong creative backed by either a URL or phone number can generate sales within seconds of the advert running.

This is great for sales, and because attribution software can correlate the sales spike with a specific TV advert, it means valuable data can be gathered on which TV channels, time-slots and regions are performing best.

direct response advert logo
how to advertise on TV
Leightons direct response advert
“How to” adverts

Ancestry, the family tree website came to Toast with a problem, their new DNA kits were selling well but they still felt there was a barrier to uptake. DNA testing was seen as too CSI, too crime scene.

Toast put together a charming “how to” advert featuring a lovable animated character “Little Jack” to explain the entire process and make it friendly and approachable. Putting adverts on TV to explain a product or service is a great way to go beyond just brand advertising.

Many of the new online services sound complicated when described but add some slick visuals and a jaunty music track and customers feel they know your service before venturing online.

Growing a user base

Many online services or websites have built-in ways of getting users to sign-up. Pinterest only shows limited data to users who aren’t logged in. Facebook convinced nearly the entire world to sign-up but even their sign up rate tailed off.

The need for ever more users is important, a company’s share price often depends on it. Finding a new demographic is the reason many decide to advertise on television, to find markets they can’t reach online and introduce their service via the trusted medium of TV.

The trust that advertising on TV has can be put to good use by websites that need to find new customers, “as seen on TV” carries weight and if you’re looking for people to trust you, TV is a great place to start. Some online services such as dating services need something a little special to sign up new members.


Media Buying – Buying space to Advertise on TV

Targeting your audience

One of the earliest things to do when planning an advertising campaign is to work out who your target audience is. Who are you trying to reach with your TV advert? There are a number of research tools available to help build your audience. If you want women at a certain affluence level to view your commercial then your media plan would be tailored to feature your advert against shows that would best fit this viewer type.

echo falls tv advert target audience
male tv advert target audience
women as target audience for advertising on tv
Regional Advertising

Using the ITV regions is a great way to target specific geographic locations. Regional testing of an advertising campaign can be a cost-effective way of trialling a new product or service to see how it performs.

Once data is gathered from one region the advertising campaign can be adjusted or tailored and expanded to other regions with prior knowledge of how it has already performed.

Another way to use regional advertising is to generate adverts with differing calls to action. Each ITV region can run an advert with a unique phone number which allows sales data to be attributed to a specific region.

Targeted advertising

Sky Adsmart is a platform used by Sky the satellite broadcaster. Sky have data on all their subscribers, this data is sourced from credit rating agencies and is quite granular, for example, Sky can target subscribers by household affluence level, car ownership and the type of house they own.

Postcode regions can also be targeted down to the first two letters of a postcode. Advertisers wanting to use the Adsmart platform choose from a range of targeting categories, these categories are then used to build a target audience. Adverts to be delivered to these viewers are downloaded to their Sky box overnight.

The adverts are played into normal ad breaks with the viewer seeing some adverts specifically chosen to target them. Sky generate costs for running these adverts based on the criteria chosen, it is usually an expensive way to get adverts on TV but has the benefit of being highly specific.

Advertising on TV with Broadcaster investment

Channel 4 has set up a commercial growth fund which it uses to invest in start-up companies looking for fast growth. The broadcaster uses the reach of TV to expand the startup’s user or customer base in return for an equity stake in the company. Channel 4 has already inked deals with brands such as Eve mattress who have advertised on C4 and C4’s video-on-demand platform. Similar schemes are run by broadcasters ITV and STV.

Buying TV Ads

When you buy TV ads to advertise on television deals are done between advertisers and broadcasters. Media buying is the process of purchasing the correct slots for your advert to run in. Toast has expert media buyers who can help get the best price for media.

Media buying is generally organised well in advance with funds paid before the advert runs. There are a number of parameters that affect the price paid for each slot. These include the audience targeted, time of the slot, which region picked and the length of the TV ad. TV adverts are usually 30, 15 or 60 seconds in duration.

Last minute media buying

A number of deals are available to advertise on TV at the last minute, these slots have either not been pre-sold or have been discarded by other advertisers with no time to organise replacement creative. Discounts can sometimes be negotiated for these slots with so-called zero view advert slots being given away for free.

Checking Advert performance

Clients often want to know – How to track TV adverts? Tracking is done with attribution software, once a TV advert is running the software can track how well the campaign is working on selected channels, at certain time slots and with specific creative. Solutions like Adalyser track website visits and correlate them against the TV spots running.

Data is sampled every second so even if adverts are running on multiple broadcasters it is still possible to attribute leads to media spend. This allows changes to be made to a media plan, targeting top-performing channels and time slots.

Different creative or calls to action can be trialled and tested to get the best solution possible. John Wanamaker a successful United States merchant once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – those days are fortunately behind us.

tv advert attribution graph
tv commercial tracking graph
adalyser tv advert tracking

Creative Adverts – How to make a TV advert

Writing a brief

In this creative section, we’ll explain how to make a TV advert, the main thing to remember is: “it’s all about the idea.” Getting a great TV advert starts with a creative team who are inspired to take risks. A great brief will set the parameters and brilliant creatives will challenge those boundaries.

Hopefully, you’ve had an experience of brief writing, it can be a torturous undertaking as it forces any business to sit down and focus on themselves and their plans.

Distilling down years of marketing department pain into a few pages of A4 can be tricky but done correctly and it will become the key to teasing out creative responses that excite, enchant and drive sales higher.

Getting over exactly what you need without stifling the creative chances is important, a good creative team will respond with multiple routes so having an open brief to work with is a good start.

Finding Creatives

Once you’ve finished your creative brief it’s time to get a team involved to help explain how to advertise on TV. The process of tracking down a broadcast TV advertising agency is fairly easy, you can either go by recommendations or find other campaigns you liked and work out who was responsible for the creative.

Getting TV ad agencies to pitch creative ideas is common but be careful how many agencies you invite to pitch, around 3 to 4 agencies is ideal, pitching involves a lot of time both in creative terms and in reviewing and arranging pitch meetings. If you find the right team and put your trust in them and you’ll be rewarded with a creative advert that will make your brand shine.

The idea

Picking a winning idea can seem a bit like sticking a pin in a map. Hopefully, you’ll see enough creative ideas to find a route that resonates with your brand.

Some questions to ask when picking a winning idea are. Does it have legs? What might seem like a great idea at first viewing can quickly develop into the most annoying TV advert ever. Is the “idea” a campaign?

Can you see other TV adverts based on this idea or is it a one-hit-wonder? Is the idea original? Everyone can spot an idea that’s a bit like an existing advert, it will harm your brand.

Involving a brand ambassador

Some creative routes pitched may involve a brand ambassador. This could mean involving a celebrity directly with your brand and seeing them alongside your logo on television. There are obviously pros and cons to this route and each case should be looked at individually to work out whether it’s the right choice. A tie-in with a well-liked celebrity can do wonders for sales, conversely, a celebrity in the news for the wrong reasons can tarnish any brand.


Creative Development – Clearcast

Once a creative route has been chosen and a script has been approved, it is vital that it is sent to Clearcast. Clearcast is the only organisation in the UK which pre-approves all British advertising on TV.
Clearcast has strict advertising guidelines, a TV channel will not broadcast your advert on TV if it has not been Clearcast approved. It is therefore imperative that you involve them from the outset, sending them scripts, storyboards and any supporting material you have at the very beginning of the production process. This allows for any problems they might flag, to be dealt with early on. The advertising guidelines are easy to understand and will be clearly listed in any Clearcast response.

Any claims that you make will need to be substantiated, so getting scripts down to Clearcast early gives you time to prepare the requested documentation prior to the TV commercial production timeline getting into full swing. Certain sectors tend to invite more Clearcast scrutiny than others, such as healthcare or finance so it’s important to allow lots of time in your ad’s production schedule for scripts to be approved. Once they are approved, you cannot change them. Any changes you make will require new approval.

Working with a director

Taking a creative idea forward and getting it translated into a TV commercial involves working with a commercials director. Generally, they get involved once an idea has been agreed upon. It’s the job of the director to move the idea along.

They take what might be a mood board or basic storyboard and flesh it out to create a visually stunning and a memorable TV advert. The director will work closely with the producers at the advertising agency to bring to screen an idea on time and within budget.


It’s important to agree on budget ranges early in any TV ad production, this allows ideas to be based in reality. Spending time crafting award-winning commercial ideas featuring helicopter shots of the Cote D’Azur is fun but if the budget will only stretch to a tripod on Portsmouth dock it’s best to know early.

Producing a simple idea that fits within a budget and looks amazing will benefit a brand much more than skimping on every detail to retain an idea that was always unachievable. A good TV commercial production budget will breakdown each area of the production and can be used to see where the money is being spent.

Production schedule

A production schedule will be produced, alongside the budget at the very start of the TV commercial production process. This will take into account your key deadlines as well as any necessary approval processes. Key dates will be secured early on, such shoot dates, pre-production meetings and final delivery deadlines (Clearcast and broadcaster timetables will be taken into consideration when the schedule is created). It is important to stay on schedule in order to meet your airdate.

Production quality

This refers to the look of the finished advert, it is governed by which cameras are available at the current budget level, how much lighting is possible, which crew you get on board and which locations and props can be hired. It will dictate the type of talent and how many actors can be used on-screen.

Toast has a unique team of on-call, talented directors, editors, musicians, casting directors and crew to help bring the magic to the screen. We bring in the best expertise in the business with knowledge of your sector to ensure your advert looks professional, stylish and has high production values that will happily sit next to adverts made by bigger global brands.

Advertising on TV with high production quality will look like a movie, low and it will look like it was filmed by a man called Bernard on the latest iPhone.

Location or Studio

The choice between filming on location or in a studio often comes down to practicalities. Studios allow for complete control over lighting and sound on set making filming a smooth process without the pauses often enforced by changes in weather.

The downside to filming in a studio, however, is you’re starting with a blank canvas. Any set has to be built before filming which adds time and money. Studios are often hired as a package deal with a certain amount of lighting included, the hire fees go up depending on how large the studio is. Filming on location can range from hiring an entire house to being outside on a windy hilltop.

Being on location does mean a lot of planning beforehand to pick just the right environment for the production. Locations charge a location fee for use during filming and local councils often require permits to be organised for filming on their streets.


Casting the right talent is absolutely integral for any commercial. Getting the right performance from talent can make or break the ad. It is, therefore, and rightly so, one of the key stages (and arguably one of the most fun) of the pre-production process.

Once a script has been approved by both client and Clearcast, a casting brief is developed and handed to the casting director who will arrange the casting session. The brief outlines exactly the type of cast that we are looking for, along with vital information about the commercial itself, such as usage (will it go online as well as be used to advertise on television?), fees, casting dates, casting locations and of course shoot dates.

Once the cast has been selected, it is sometimes necessary to have wardrobe fittings and/or rehearsals prior to the shoot itself. If you are casting children, you will need to ensure you have child licences and chaperones arranged.

Actors Fees

Featured artist fees are twofold; firstly, for each day that they are working you pay each artist what is known as their BSF – basic studio fee. This is usually £250 although can increase depending on how well-known the artist is. In addition to the BSF, talent is paid a usage fee. This is calculated on how many TVRs (TV ratings) are put behind the campaign.

Put simply, the lower the TVRs, the lower the usage fee for the talent. If the TV commercial is going online you must also pay the talent online usage. This is calculated as a percentage of the artist’s BSF; generally speaking 200% of the BSF for 6 months online and 400% for 1 year online.

So whereas, TV usage fees are generally not dictated by periods of time (rather simply the number of TVRs), online usage does take time into consideration.

An example for one featured artist:
BSF: £250
TV usage fee (based on 300 network TVRs): £4,875
Online usage fee (1 year, 400%): £1000
Total featured artist cost: £6,125

Featured extras, extras and child rates work differently and are generally less expensive as they do not charge usage. Working alongside a trusted talent agency is important as they will guide you through these negotiations and represent the talent in question.


Adding a sense of reality or an added flair to any production can often be done through props. An art director will work directly with the commercial director to plan the “look” of the set. Sometimes special physical effects are needed for a shoot, think slow-motion milk pouring, these setups are also handled by the art director.

Final Pre-Production Meeting

Before any shoot, there will be a final pre-production meeting. The purpose of which is to go through absolutely every element of the commercial.

From discussing individual props and checking all the cast’s wardrobe to chatting through the impending post-production process. By now, none of the information will come as a surprise to you due to the process being such a collaborative one.

It is, however, an important, contractual meeting that takes place usually a few days prior to the shoot to ensure there’s time to make any last-minute changes to the shoot plan.


The Production / Shoot

You will receive a call sheet prior to the shoot day. This document will contain all the information you need to know about the shoot. Including, location, what time to arrive, the names and numbers of every single crew member, as well as details on where to park and what the nearest hospital is, in case of an emergency.

Production, alongside the director, will have come up with a bulletproof shooting schedule and the aim of the game is to stick to it as best possible. Runners on the day will be there for your every need and usually, it’s a pretty fun process seeing the idea you’ve been working on for some time, come to life!

At the end of the shoot day, it is the DIT’s (Digital Image Technician) job to ensure the rushes are securely backed up and taken to the post-production facility, ready for the next stage.

Post Production


This stage of the TV commercial production timeline involves multiple steps. Everything is designed to make sure the client is happy with proceedings. During the offline edit, the footage is taken from the filming day and cut roughly into a sequence to match the approved storyboard.

Timings are approximate at this stage and changes to the length of shot and order can be made easily. When the offline edit has been approved it progresses to an online edit.

During the online edit, final graphics are added and the footage is graded. Grading is the art of giving the footage a certain look, raw video from the camera lacks punch and can look drab. Grading is a fun experience of sitting in a darkened room with an artist called a colourist and watching them create “Caribbean Sky” blue and “Burnished Aubergine“ purple from what you thought was a shot of a woman in a mauve dress on Clapham Common.

The endframe and any calls to action are also added in the online edit, the skill involved in sculpting an endframe cannot be dismissed. It has to look like a piece of typographic mastery and needs enough impact to convince the viewer to click or call at their earliest convenience.


Music and sound effects can have a huge effect on the feel of a TV advert. Getting just the right music is often a matter of picking tracks that feel right and trying them out against the picture. Briefing music can be a tricky matter, having something for reference is always a good place to start.

The choice between having a music track composed and using library music is down to budget. Library music is cheaper than composed but with composed music hopefully, you’re getting exactly what you’ve asked for. Library music does have the added danger of popping up in someone else’s TV ad or video.

Voice Over

Picking a voice to deliver your message during a TV commercial is much like choosing music. It involves listening to many demo tracks and finding a voice that works.

Often a celebrity voice works well as it adds a level of reassurance to the advert. Voice over artists are paid a basic studio fee for attending a VO session and are also paid usage fees for a set period of time. Obviously, if you’re looking for someone like Stephen Fry to voice your ad the usage fees can get very expensive.


The process of crafting an animated advert happens in multiple stages, the client is involved throughout. Usually, a storyboard is produced which shows the advert in still form. Decisions can be made about the narrative at this stage.

Once approved the storyboard is fleshed out into an animatic which includes simple moves on the stills to approximate movement. At this stage, a guide voice over and a guide music track are added to help show how the finished advert might flow.

Sections of the animatic are then animated and work in progress is approved until the entire advert is finished. Then everyone claps and cheers and says “isn’t it marvellous.” If not changes are made.


Once the client has approved the final TV commercial, the final steps are taken for delivery. Firstly, the TV commercial is assigned a clock number. This is a unique name for the commercial that the production company creates and is how Clearcast / the broadcasters / the media company all locate the correct commercial once it is sent.

The final, clocked commercial is then sent to Clearcast for approval for the last time. This usually takes 2-3 working days but can take longer during busy periods such as Christmas.

Once Clearcast has approved the commercial, we then need to ascertain a channel list from whoever is booking the media and proceed to send the commercial to the channels via a commercial delivery platform such as Honeycomb or Adstream.

Copy rotations need to be sent too and this is either done by the media agency or the production company – via Caria. TV stations require the commercials and the copy rotations 2 working days prior to the airdate.

If you are delivering TV idents, then you will need to ensure the idents complete a Harding Test before sending them to the channel. This is an automatic test for photosensitive epilepsy provocative image sequences. If the idents fail the test, they cannot be aired.

Once your TV commercial is with the TV stations and the rotations have been sent, you can sit back and watch in excitement as your hard work debuts on the big screen – seeing it real-time on TV is always a thrilling moment!

Amplification – Social Video Marketing

We’re not pretending online is not an effective marketing tool. In fact, the perfect marketing plan is to combine both TV and social video marketing. From leaking bits of teaser footage before the airdate to supporting the main creative with cut downs, or simply showing sneaky behind the scenes footage of the shoot, a social video is a powerful tool.

To that end, we supply you with online video assets to promote your TV ad and to arm you with extra online video edits that are social media channel ready. This means you can amplify your offer with online trailers, PR, further information and position it all around the air dates of your TV advert.

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