June 14, 2024


Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions floating around the advertising landscape is that TV ads are dead, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While consumers are, indeed, shifting toward the limited-commercial offerings of connected TV (CTV) and on-demand streaming options, traditional broadcast media still has a markedly sizable reach.

According to Nielsen, television advertising content still reaches 85% of U.S. adults every day. On average, a person sits through 26 advertising breaks a day, which translates to consuming around 73 uninterrupted minutes of promotional content. 

While that statistic includes CTV ads, TV broadcasting continues to play a major role in the data all the same. As such, even if it is a decades-old marketing medium, you need to maintain a firm understanding of TV ad specs if you want to make the most of it.

TV Ad Specs You Need to Know

Some common TV ad specs to be mindful of when crafting your content are as follows:


For traditional broadcast media, content resolutions are grouped into three categories: standard definition (SD), high definition (HD), and ultra-high definition (UHD). Typically, HD refers to 1080p or 720p and is most common. Ensuring your content is capable of at least streaming in HD will maximize clarity and help with engagement. 

While you don’t necessarily have to support UHD, it is an option that you should consider. Offering UHD resolution is particularly beneficial if your content is filled with complex graphics, as the higher image clarity will help your audience truly appreciate the quality of your production.

Aspect Ratio

You need to use up every square inch of space on a viewing screen, and choosing the right aspect ratio helps you do just that.  

An ad’s aspect ratio refers to its horizontal and vertical dimensions. The most common aspect ratio for TV ads is 16:9. CTV ads also use the 16:9 ratio, as it provides optimal screen usage for modern devices, including TVs, monitors, and smartphones. 

Sticking to 16:9 formats ensures that your ad fills the screen without the need for unsightly letterboxing (horizontal black bars at the top and bottom of the ) or pillarboxing (vertical bars). 

File Format and Codec

File formats and codecs determine how your ads are encoded and compressed. MPEG-2 is a widely accepted file format for traditional TV ads known for its compatibility with broadcast standards. Some CTV streaming platforms, like Amazon Fire TV, even recommend it. 

The codec you select — that is, the software used to compress and decompress your video file — needs to be broadcast-compliant. Ensuring you use the right combination of file format and codec choices means your ad will be aired without any technical hiccups. 

Audio Quality

Though a picture may be worth 1,000 words, your audience still needs to be able to hear the message of your advertisement.  Great imagery will captivate audiences, and crisp audio ensures they hear the message you’ve worked so hard to create. 

As such, your ad’s audio should be clear and balanced, ideally in stereo format. Audio levels should also be consistent with other programming to avoid abrupt changes in volume that can be jarring for viewers.

Commercial Length

The length of your TV ad is a critical factor in its impact and efficiency. Standard ad lengths range anywhere between 15 and 60 seconds, and though you should choose a length that aligns with the complexity of your message, shorter commercial times are generally better.

If you can deliver a clear, impactful message in 15 seconds, go for it; if not, try to condense everything down to 30 seconds. When you cannot avoid the need to stretch out your message to longer time frames, ensure that your storytelling, production quality, and technical specs are as fine-tuned as possible. 

How CTV and Traditional Broadcast Media Specs Differ

CTV may be overtaking traditional broadcast media as the premier method of reaching audiences while they consume entertainment, but a great marketing mix includes advertising that applies to both mediums, alongside social media and search-based brand-building strategies.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand the subtle but crucial differences that stand between traditional and CTV media specs; the biggest of these is the number of technical specs that you have to account for.

When advertising on CTV, you’ve got to consider factors like frame rate, bitrate, file size, and file format, and as each CTV advertising platform has slightly different specifications, you might have to tweak your content slightly for each platform. 

Getting More Out of Your TV Ads

Fine-tuning the technical side of your traditional TV and CTV ads will help you make every marketing dollar count, but you have to pair these efforts with data insights, great content, and a powerful message. Only by accomplishing that will you be able to maximize your reach and fuel your brand growth. 



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