YouTube Ads vs. TV Ads: Side-by-Side Comparison

Choosing between YouTube ads and traditional TV ads can be a tough decision for many marketers. Seeing a positive ROI on your advertising budget is crucial—making this choice even more important than other business decisions.

If you’re stuck between the two options, you’ve come to the right place. This in-depth guide looks at the pros and cons of each option, compares the latest trends, and provides valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

We’ll also cover the creative opportunities available on each platform and how you can measure the success of your ad campaigns. 

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of the differences between YouTube ads and TV ads, and you’ll be more equipped to choose the option that’s right for your business. 

A Brief History of YouTube Ads vs. Television Ads

Television ads have been the cornerstone of advertising for decades. The first TV ad in the United States aired in 1941 during a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. 

Since then, TV advertising has grown to become a massive industry—with companies spending billions of dollars each year to reach consumers through this marketing channel.

YouTube is a relatively new player in the advertising space. Founded in 2005, the platform didn’t start running ads until 2007. These early YouTube ads came in the form of banners and sponsored videos. But the world’s most popular online video platform has since evolved to include a wide variety of different advertising formats. 

Despite its relative youth compared to television, YouTube has quickly become a major player in the world of advertising. With the continued growth of online video consumption and the increasing popularity of streaming services, it’s likely that YouTube will continue to be a force in the ad industry for years to come. 

TV still has a longer history and larger overall audience compared to YouTube. This makes it a great go-to medium for advertisers that want to reach broader, mass audiences. But YouTube’s rapid growth offers a compelling choice for advertisers that want to reach more specific, targeted audiences. 

YouTube and TV Advertising Trends and Key Statistics (2024)

  • 5.36 billion people worldwide watch TV.
  • The number of TV users worldwide will reach 5.68 billion people by 2026.
  • With 2.5 billion active users, YouTube is the second-largest social site in the world.
  • YouTube hosts about five billion videos, with an estimated 500 hours of new videos uploaded to the platform every minute.
  • In Q1 2024, YouTube’s global advertising revenue surpassed $8 billion.
  • TV ad revenue worldwide reached $85 billion in 2023.
  • TV ads account for 26% of the world’s total advertising expenditure. 
  • 77% of internet users between ages 15 and 35 use YouTube. 
  • 70% of people purchase a product after seeing it in a YouTube advertisement. 
  • The average daily YouTube user visits 10.9 pages per day. 
  • 50% of marketers incorporate YouTube into their marketing strategy. 
  • Paid YouTube mobile advertising is 84% more likely to attract viewer attention compared to TV ads. 
  • 52% of consumers say they tune out TV ads. 

YouTube Ads vs. TV Ads — Differences Compared

Below we’ll take a closer look at the key differences between YouTube advertisements and television ads. 


TV ads are more expensive than YouTube advertising. Despite these high costs, some studies suggest that the ROI for TV ads is insignificant. That’s why TV advertising is often reserved for bigger brands with larger advertising budgets—especially when it comes to running commercials during peak viewing times. 

Here’s a look at the top cable TV advertisers in the US and how much they spent last year:

  • Procter & Gamble — $877 million
  • Berkshire Hathaway — $642 million
  • Warner Bros. Discovery — $629 million

Conversely, Apple was the largest YouTube advertiser—spending $237.15 million

Biggest spenders aside, let’s take a closer look at the averages. The average cost of a 60-second TV ad is $20 to $30 per 1,000 views (CPM). Meanwhile, the average CPM of a YouTube ad is $3.53

YouTube’s lower costs make it a more affordable option for smaller businesses that want to stretch their advertising budgets further. That’s why most businesses average between $10 and $50 per day on YouTube ads. 

While YouTube ads may be cheaper on average, it’s important to note that the cost of advertising on either platform can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors, including the type of ad, the target audience, and the length of the ad. 

For example, TV ads that air during popular shows or events will typically be more expensive than ads that air during less popular timeslots. Similarly, YouTube ads that target a specific, highly sought-after audience may be more expensive than ads targeting a more general audience.

It’s also worth noting that while TV ads may be more expensive, they typically require more resources to produce. TV ads usually have higher production budgets due to the need for expensive equipment and talent, while YouTube ads can be produced with a smaller budget and a more streamlined production process.

Reach and Target Audience

TV has the advantage of reaching a large, mass audience through its widespread availability. On average, 55% of Americans spend one to four hours per day watching TV.


But the volume of people watching TV doesn’t always translate to advertising effectiveness. TV viewers are likely more distracted during commercial breaks. They might flip channels, spend time on their phone, take a bathroom break, or otherwise take their attention away from the screen. They might even watch a YouTube video during this time.

YouTube offers a significant advantage for advertisers seeking a more targeted reach. They can target people specifically based on time of day, demographics, location, and more. 

For example, a business that sells outdoor gear may want to target YouTube ads to users who have shown an interest in outdoor activities or to users located in regions where outdoor activities are popular.

Online platforms like YouTube offer the advantage of re-marketing as well. This is the ability to target people who have previously interacted with a brand, increasing the chances that they take an action with a brand that interests them. 

TV advertisers don’t always have the same option, meaning they are knowingly running ads that won’t be relevant or appealing to many viewers. 

Ad Formats

When it comes to the type of ad you’re running, TV really only gives you one option—commercials. 

There are other variations, such as product placements within a TV show or movie. Some brands even integrate themselves into the fabric of a particular television show. But for the most, a traditional commercial is going to be your primary option if you’re going this route.

YouTube offers much more versatility with its wide range of advertising formats

Here’s a brief description of each option:

  • Skippable Ads — Users have the option to skip the ad after five seconds. These can appear before, during, or after a video. 
  • Non-skippable Ads — These 15-20 second videos can’t be skipped and might appear before, during, or after a video. 
  • Bumper Ads — These non-skippable ads are only six seconds.
  • Overlay Ads — Overlay ads appear as a popup on the video that can be removed by the user. 
  • Display Ads — These are shown above, below, or on the side of videos. 
  • Sponsored Cards — Sponsored cards are products, events, or other promotions that are relevant to the video content and offered in multiple sizes for both mobile and desktop devices. 

So if you’re looking for variety, as well as different price structures, YouTube definitely gives you more options. 

Reporting and Effectiveness

TV ad reporting and tracking can be challenging. Some brands can measure the effectiveness of TV advertising by offering specific promo codes or phone numbers tied to the ad. 

YouTube’s campaign tracking is much more sophisticated. Marketers can easily see the views, CTR, conversions, and other KPIs for every ad. This makes it easier to adjust by running more of the ads that are working and eliminating spending on those that aren’t. 

Compared to TV, YouTube ads are 84% more likely to hold a viewer’s attention. In addition to this increased attention, it’s also much easier for YouTube viewers to take action after viewing an ad. Here’s an example:

There are three different ad CTAs on the screen, with two for the same brand. Viewers can proceed to the brand’s website with a single click for all of the ads. 

If these same ads were to appear in a TV commercial, the conversion process would be much more tedious.

The viewer would have to remember the brand’s name, search for them on a computer or mobile device, and then navigate to the product that was advertised. It’s an extra three or four steps at a minimum—compared to a single click that could happen in less than one second. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, most businesses will have better luck running YouTube ads than TV ads. 

There is definitely still a place for television advertising, and you shouldn’t necessarily abandon the option completely. But this is generally better for larger companies seeking brand awareness from mass audiences.

YouTube is much better for highly targeted campaigns. Businesses on a tighter budget can also set spending limits on YouTube, and the resources needed to create a YouTube ad aren’t as significant as TV ads. 

If you need some help with your YouTube ads or overall marketing strategy, reach out to our team here at McDougall Interactive for assistance.

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