Every TV Advertisement Term You Should Know

Jul 24, 2022 / Industry Insights / FOTW

TV advertising is crucial in terms of reaching the general public as it has a large audience base. According to the Nielsen Company, TV advertising reached a majority of Americans in 2015, with over 432 million people tuning into TV for at least one hour on any day of the week. Despite many different advertising platforms available, most companies use TV to reach their target market because, even in 2022, TV advertising still works!

TV is an effective tool because it can help shape consumers’ behaviours and attitudes towards certain products or brands. In order to fully reap the benefits of this amazing marketing tool, it is essential to become more familiar with some TV advertising terms that are commonly used in the advertising world, regardless of whether you’re an experienced marketer, a newbie or simply a brand looking to kick off your next great TV advertising campaign. Although hiring a great TV advertising agency would negate the need for you to know or understand these TV terms and definitions, it’s always a good idea to acquaint yourself with them.

All TV Advertisement Terms That You Should Know

Knowing the different TV advertising terms is important because it can help you understand how TV advertising works. It may also help you gain a better understanding of why certain products or brands have chosen to advertise on this medium and what the outcome of their ads may have been. In order for marketers to be successful in making a good TV commercial, it is essential for them to understand all aspects of TV advertising and adjust accordingly.

And on the client side of things, knowing the various TV advertising terms can help you determine if a particular agency is competent and qualified enough to carry out your ad campaign. It will also give you the opportunity to understand why certain aspects of TV advertising are so important, alongside helping you better determine the right details and goals for your upcoming advertising campaign. 

So, before blindly jumping into a deal with a TV advertising agency, here’s a nearly all-encompassing list of all the TV advertising terms that you definitely should know about:


Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) refers to the technology that automatically gathers data of a Smart TV viewer, or other internet-enabled TVs, in order to identify and gather valuable television viewership data. It’s able to identify the content that is currently being consumed by recognising either the commercial or programme that is on screen.

Typically, this data is collected without any user input, allowing ACR to offer deeper and richer insights than other types of user data. In general, ACR would collect data such as geolocation, user journeys and their viewing history. The TV then shares the aggregated viewership data with demand-side platforms (DSPs, a system that allows digital ad buyers to manage ad and data exchanges), which will, in turn, use the data to serve ads that are most likely to view, engage and convert viewers.

Addressable TV

Addressable TV is a type of Advanced TV advertising that allows advertisers to target specific households and demographics for a more personalised advertising experience. It utilises modern television technologies to give advertisers the ability to show different types of TV ads to different households, even if they’re watching the same TV programme.

Consumer characteristics and demographic information, such as geographic location, income, or behavioural characteristics, to mention a few examples, can be used to tailor the advertising messages that are communicated to specific audience targets. These data can be obtained from data providers and panel-based research to understand a brand’s audience better. Addressable TV advertising has given advertisers the ability to gain deep insight into a campaign’s performance in real-time. It also provides the opportunity to adjust their campaign targets as the campaign is live, so they can adapt and optimise their strategies in order to improve the campaign’s outcomes.


Source: The Drum

Within television, an audience refers to the group of viewers watching a TV programme or advertisement – sometimes divided into different demographics like annual household income, geolocation or spending habits. Various types of audiences exist in the television world, and it’s up to advertisers to determine which are the right eyes for a product’s campaign.

In advertising, defining an audience is key to targeting the right people for a product, or the marketing strategy is at high risk of failure. Determining the right type of audience for a brand depends on the type of TV that the advertiser wants to pursue. For linear TV advertising, this data is obtained from broadcast networks. On the other hand, with over-the-top (OTT) services, media servers will extract audience data that can be collected by advertisers for targeting and reporting.

Another related term that you may regularly hear is “average audience”, which is the value obtained by calculating the total audience for each minute of a programme or commercial and dividing that number by the total duration of the content consumed.


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the advertising regulator of the UK that applies Advertising Codes written by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP). The ASA monitors any form of advertisement broadcasted, ensuring that they stick to the rules, and receives and investigates complaints.

There are distinct codes for broadcast and non-broadcast commercials such as digital ads. Nevertheless, all advertisements are expected to be “legal, decent, honest, and true”. The ASA also performs routine reviews and updates on the advertising rules.


In the UK, the organisation that compiles audience measurement and TV ratings is the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) – a not-for-profit company jointly owned by the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV, Sky and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The data collected by BARB involve participating viewers, who are given a box to be placed near their TV set. The box uses ACR to record precisely what programmes and commercials participants watch, although panellists have to indicate who is currently watching the TV set by using a remote control.

The information is gathered during the night and then presented in the form of overnight ratings at approximately 9.30 am in the morning of the following day for use by TV stations and the advertising sector. The final figures, which are a combination of the overnight figures and the “time-shift” figures, are disclosed the following week.

Numbers provided by BARB are regarded as being of vital importance by commercial television stations. The trading strategy that is utilised by television firms and advertising agencies is contingent not just on the number of people who watch the shows but also on the commercial allure of those individuals. An advertising agency will pay the television station for a specific amount of money depending on the number of people who watch a show. The numbers provided by BARB are utilised in the computation of this. When the BARB figures are higher, there is a greater likelihood that the television station will receive an increase in advertising revenue.


Bumper advertisements are a type of short video ad format that is designed to assist brands in reaching more people and increasing awareness about the brand via the use of a brief message that is easy to remember. These tend to be videos that are less than six seconds long and allow you to reach people with short, digestible messages while having a minimal influence on the audience’s viewing experience.

On most forms of TV, bumper ads tend to run on either side of an ad break and, especially in the UK, tend to be utilised by programme sponsors. An example of this can be seen daily during Channel 4’s broadcast of Countdown. As of April 2022, the brand “Recliner Factory” sponsors the hit game show, and the broadcast will feature a bumper ad before and after commercial breaks.

Campaign Period

A marketing strategy’s “campaign period” begins from the very first day and runs through to the very last day. The right length of a campaign period depends on the goals decided during the very beginning of strategy building. A campaign’s relative success or failure will depend on the data collected throughout the campaign period.


Source: We Made This

Established in 2008, Clearcast is a non-governmental organisation that pre-approves nearly all advertising transmitted on British television. It’s currently jointly owned by four of the UK’s top broadcasters: Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Warner Media. Clearcast took over the responsibilities of the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre.

It’s against the rules, which are determined by the Advertising Standards Authority guideline to broadcast harmful, misleading or offensive ads. Clearcast will check ads submitted to them against the UK Code of Broadcasting Advertising, also known as the BCAP Code, before approving an ad to be aired. According to Clearcast, their team watches over 65,000 ads in a single year!

Commercial Break

This refers to the break before, during and after a TV programme transmission that usually broadcasts advertisements. Commercial breaks tend to last between two and three minutes, and the number of commercial breaks depends on the duration of the programme broadcast.

Commercial Minutage

Commercial Minutage is defined as the number of minutes of television during a specified period of time where advertisements are broadcast. This could be per day, week, month and so on.

Commercial Share

Commercial share means the share of views taken by a commercial broadcaster, the total of which should equal 100. In the UK, this value doesn’t include the BBC since the broadcaster does not transmit commercials.

Cost Per Thousand

Also referred to as CPM, cost per thousand refers to the cost of reaching 1000 viewers of a target audience with an advertisement. Sometimes this may be referred to as the “average station price”, as it would be the price that broadcasters place on ad spots on their channels.


The term “coverage” means the expected number of a target group who have an opportunity to see one or more commercial transmissions during a specific time period. It is sometimes used interchangeably with “reach”.


CRR stands for Contract Rights Renewal, and it sets out the rights held by advertisers according to Ofcom guidelines. It gave advertisers and media agencies the right to renew their yearly contracts with no increase in the share of their TV advertising spend. CRRs protect advertisers from price hiking.


Source: TechBullion

Connected TV, or CTV, is a standard television set that is connected to the internet, either through installed hardware as with Smart TVs or through an external device such as a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire. These types of TV allow users to enjoy over-the-top (OTT) content such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.


DAL is the abbreviation of Dedicated Advertiser Location, and it refers to a type of Interactive TV (iTV) ad. A DAL stores and provides advertisement content in a dedicated location, for example, when “pressing red”, giving viewers the option to enter an advertisement environment outside of a broadcast stream.


This refers to the segment of the day in which a television programme is aired. A day is divided into several dayparts, such as “breakfast”, which is typically between 6 and 9.30 am. Other dayparts include “midday” or “lunch”, “late-afternoon”, “evenings”, “prime time” and “overnight”.

Data-Driven Linear

A television ad purchased at the programme or network level and informed by data beyond age and gender is referred to as “Data-Driven Linear”. This is made possible by combining viewership data with data from other sources, such as niche third-party data or even an advertiser’s first-party data across Linear TV. 

Thanks to the increased precision of data-gathering tools, advertisers and brands are able to obtain richer data on their target audiences. Data-Driven Linear allows for a better understanding of which programmes over-index for a brand’s particular target audience, which in turn leads to more effective media buys.


The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is the authority responsible for overseeing broadcasting and the internet. This government body develops and polices policies across a vast array of areas, including the BBC.


When referring to information that describes the characteristics of consumers or target audiences, the term “demographics” is commonly used in the field of advertising. The larger population can be segmented into different basic descriptors such as age, gender, occupation and so on.


DSAT, or Digital Satellite, is a broadcast distribution method. DSAT television utilises a network of satellites to broadcast digital data and is normally delivered via a satellite dish placed on top of a house, accompanied by a specific box set or a built-in TV tuner. Sometimes DSAT is referred to as “direct to home” (DTH) satellite television.

Traditional broadcast TV would send and receive signals from broadcast towers to antennas that are attached to a TV set. Satellite started to replace antennas as the form of broadcast distribution during the early 90s and, up until the early 2010s, was the main TV broadcast service before the sharp rise in OTT services and internet-enabled TVs.


Digital terrestrial television (DTT) is a type of television broadcasting where land-based TV stations are responsible for broadcasting television content – hence, “terrestrial”. In the UK, this is more commonly referred to as “Freeview”, and DTT was the replacement for old analogue television.

The main difference between DTT and DSAT/DTH is DTT’s reliance on land-based digital transmitters, while DSAT connects a household directly to broadcasters’ distribution satellites.

Establishment Survey

Source: BARB

This refers to an annual audience measurement survey conducted by BARB. The Establishment Survey provides BARB with the information necessary to gain an understanding of the characteristics of UK households. This knowledge is integral to the process of ensuring that the daily reporting of television audiences is representative of the entire population.


FIB stands for “First in Break” and refers to the very first advert to appear during a commercial break. This term doesn’t include bumper ads.


Free-To-Air refers to the channels that are offered free to households without the need for a subscription. This includes those available on the Freeview lineup, such as the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV, among others.


The number of times an individual customer is likely to see an advertisement throughout the course of a marketing campaign is referred to as the “frequency”. Both the likelihood that a person will have a high-quality engagement with the advertisement and the likelihood that they will have several interactions with your brand will improve if the frequency of exposure to the advertisement is increased.

A campaign’s average frequency can be calculated by dividing the campaign’s gross impressions by its unduplicated reach. Comparing the average frequency against the goals of the campaign allows advertisers to better gauge the performance of the campaign.

Guest Viewing

Another term used by BARB, “guest viewing” is the information collected by the organisation through a viewer that isn’t a regular member of the household. They sometimes may be allocated their own button on the BARB handset, and the data collected from guest viewings will be subject to limited demographic data.


HDTV, or high-definition TV, is currently the primary format of television. This is defined by a TV set or broadcast with a 16:9 aspect ratio, where previously standard TV (SDTV) had a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Thanks to HDTV, digital broadcasting offers audio and video that is far superior, allowing viewers to enjoy better quality entertainment (and ads!).

Hours of Viewing

Hours of viewing is another metric that is collected by BARB. This refers to the average number of hours a channel was viewed by an audience over a specific time period, usually a day or a week.


IA, or Interactive Advertising, is the type of commercial that features an overlay which prompts viewers to somehow interact with it. This can be through a QR code or by “pressing red”.


An integrated digital television (iDTV) is a television set that has a built-in digital tuner. This type of TV set doesn’t have direct access to the internet, making it different from Smart TVs. iDTV sets remove the need for a set-top box to convert broadcast signals on a television.


Impact refers to the measure of the speed and the extent to of individuals in an audience absorb the information delivered.
The “impact” of an advertising campaign counts each individual viewer who watches an entire commercial on a single occasion.


“Impressions” tends to be used interchangeably with “impact”; however, the term “impressions” is more commonly used within digital marketing to measure the same thing.


An informational commercial, often known as an infomercial, is a longer style of commercial advertising that focuses on a specific product and features demonstrations of that product. Typically, they last anywhere between three and thirty minutes and don’t necessarily have to be shown during a commercial break.


Source: Roku Advertising

Broadcast television with added features that allow viewers more agency over what they see is known as “interactive TV” (or “iTV”). When using iTV, viewers can also take part in live games, quizzes, or surveys set out by the broadcaster.

Internet TV

TV that receives its signal via the internet, either directly or via an intermediary device, is known as “Internet TV.” Examples of this material include streaming videos from sites like YouTube or on-demand television shows viewed via a high-speed Internet connection.

Sometimes Internet TV is used interchangeably with “internet protocol television”, or IPTV but there is a major difference between the two terms. While internet TV broadcasts are offered in a public domain, IPTV broadcasts are relayed on a private network.


Advertising and marketing agencies in the UK are represented by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), a trade group incorporated by a Royal Charter. The IPA acts as a spokesperson for the advertising and marketing sector, emphasising the value of advertising agencies and the media.

Multiple initiatives are performed by the institute to define and support the best practices in the field. Members of the IPA tend to participate in continual professional development and have access to training courses alongside online and offline qualification programmes, on top of a range of advisory services.


Source: Digital Strategy Consulting

ISBA stands for the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, and they are the only body that represents brand owners who advertise in the UK. The ISBA represents advertisers on the CAP as well as the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP). Established over 100 years ago, the ISBA provides its members with access to a wealth of knowledge, exclusive benefits, savings opportunities, and advocacy for the protection of advertisers’ rights.

Life stage

Life stages refer to the ages and stages of life, from infancy to adulthood. In advertising, “life stage” is used as a household classification system based on a family’s time-of-life characteristics, for example, “older couple with grown-up children”.

Using a person’s life stage to narrow in on a specific demographic and deliver a more pertinent message can be an effective method of targeting consumers, and it defines the life stage marketing method. Alan Andreason, a professor at UCLA, has stated that consumers are more likely to change their purchasing habits and decisions when they go through a life change.


Separate from the life stage, a lifestyle is a classification based on an individual’s behavioural preferences. This can refer to a person’s hobbies, habits or tastes.

In advertising, it means commercials that attempt to entice buyers by associating goods with a specific way of life. It positions a product to possess specific aesthetic qualities, ideals and aspirations, painting the product as a “way of life”, so to speak.

Live Viewing

This television term refers to the viewing of a programme or commercial at the actual time of transmission. Live viewing numbers tend to exclude those viewed via video-on-demand (VOD) or staggercast, such as ITV+1.


Distributors of video programming to customers through a combination of satellite, cable, or linear broadcast are known as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). Bundled packages are available from MVPDs, giving customers the chance to watch several channels from a single provider. Nowadays, the term encompasses ad-supported streaming services such as Hulu and YouTube.

MVPDs generally charge a regular subscription fee to their users, sometimes offering various levels of access. These tiers could include more channels or even bundle their TV service with phone and internet as an all-encompassing package.


The Office of Communication, better known as Ofcom, is a government-approved regulatory body for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries in the UK. It governs the TV and radio industries, as well as fixed telephone lines, mobile phones, postal services, and the airwaves that wireless devices use, like the internet.

Ofcom often works with DCMS and is required by law to look out for the interests of citizens and consumers. It encourages competition among the UK communications industries and keeps the public safe from harmful or offensive content.


This is the abbreviation of “Opportunity to See” and is commonly used by marketers to refer to the number of opportunities the average member of a target audience will be exposed to an ad during its campaign period. The OTS value will be different according to the platform used, i.e. television or social media, and therefore is difficult to compare.

Sometimes media is purchased on an OTS basis, meaning that marketers are buying the relative potential to reach the target audience according to where the advertisement is placed. This tends to apply to digital marketing rather than television marketing, but it’s still an important advertising terminology to know.


Source: Inc42

Over-the-top (OTT) is a way to get content to a device that can connect to the internet outside of the closed networks of telecom companies. There are tons of devices on the market that allow users to view OTT content, such as game consoles, phones, Smart TVs (or CTVs) and PCs. 

OTT advertising and marketing have given brands more ways to reach their customers. In combination with linear TV advertising, brands that utilise OTT ads are able to target both broad and niche audiences, allowing their budget to stretch further.

Outcome-Based Guarantees

When buyers sign contracts for advertisements, they “guarantee” that a certain number of people will watch that advert. If the reality doesn’t meet that standard, the broadcasters typically offer free airtime to make up for it. 

Instead of a minimum number of people who have to watch the commercial, outcome-based guarantees are based on things like sales, tune-in, website visits, and so on that show how the buyer will benefit.


This is another television term used by BARB. The “panel” is the sample of carefully recruited households that are meant to accurately represent the UK’s television viewership.

BARB’s Establishment Survey is used to recognise and recruit homes for the panel to ensure that the panel is always representative of the UK’s demographics.


Penetration is the measure of the number of people who are physically able to view a broadcast channel. This is usually valued in percentages.


A “platform” refers to the way broadcasted material is delivered to a viewer. In television, this could be through analogue TV, DSAT, Internet TV and so on.

Programme Sponsor

Source: Thinkbox

The sponsor of a programme is the advertiser who pays to specifically be associated with a given programme or programme type. In the UK, a programme sponsor will normally have bumper ads and normally features a voice-over saying something like “This programme is sponsored by Just Eat” or “Citroën sponsors comedy on Dave”.


Ratings are one of the most important metrics of television. It relates to the percentage of the potential TV audience viewing at any given time of the day. Ratings generally apply to TV programmes but also play an essential role in advertising terminology as the value of an ad placement tends to increase or decrease depending on the ratings of a particular TV show.

In advertising, a rating is used as the percentage of an ad’s audience against the original targeted audience. But, as valuable as ratings may be, it is only a guesswork figure of audience habits and is not always completely accurate. The importance of ratings as a measure will also depend on the overall marketing goals of the brand’s campaign.


In advertising, “reach” refers to the total number of people in a target audience who are exposed to a campaign. Frequency, or the number of times an advertisement is shown to the same viewer, has no positive effect on exposure. Despite its name, Reach is typically employed to deliberately target certain audiences rather than considering the impact of advertising on the customer. These viewers are deemed the most promising for converting into buyers.

In TV advertising terms, reach tends to be used concurrently with ratings to set the goals of an advertising campaign and measure its relative success.


“Station average price”, or SAP, is the estimated cost of audience delivery on a television station. According to Thinkbox, SAP tends to be based on the cost-per-thousand value of a specific audience category which can increase or decrease according to the relative daypart.

Advertisers and brands typically commit to 12-month-long airtime deals in which the broadcaster or sales house receives a set fixed percentage of the advertiser’s overall television expenditure in exchange for a premium or discount off the SAP. These deals tend to be negotiated by advertising agencies on behalf of their clients (the brands), so hiring a great advertising agency is absolutely important.


Scatter relates to the buying and selling of TV inventory that wasn’t bought up at the Upfronts. It’s a separate market, so to speak, of unsold inventory that can be bought closer to the air date and tends to be less risky compared to purchasing at the Upfronts. Slots sold in the Scatter Market also tend to be much cheaper than at the Upfronts.

It’s quite common to see an investment of both Upfronts and Scatter advertising. Ad performance estimates grow more accurate, particularly in terms of reach and target audience makeup, and fair pricing for placement can be determined as the season progresses for a network or a show.


Market share, or simply “share”, is the percentage of a target audience exposed to a commercial in relation to the target audience actually reachable. Similarly to ratings, it is calculated as a percentage and should be equivalent to the total viewing time accounted for by each channel. This is a vital metric to use for media buying terms.

Share differs from ratings as it measures against all households that are actually watching their TV when the commercial is aired. Ratings, on the other hand, have a baseline target audience that includes all possible types of households that are connected to a TV.


The term “simulcasting” describes the transmission of a single television station or show at the same time on two or more transmission systems. For example, a BBC news broadcast that’s transmitted on the BBC TV channel, BBC iPlayer and the BBC’s YouTube channel.


Source: PWDNutrition

Staggercasting is the practice of transmitting a channel’s output on a different channel at a predetermined interval following the initial transmission. To indicate a one-hour time difference, “+1” is typically appended to the channel name in the UK.

For example, Dave+1, ITV+1, 4+1 and so on. Advertisements viewed on staggercast tend not to be counted in data measurements.

TV Attribution

A viewer’s “touchpoints” with a brand before becoming a customer are the focus of television attribution. Conversions, such as purchases, website visits, store visits, tune-ins, and so on, can be traced back to the media event in question through such attribution. 

The effectiveness of a brand’s advertising campaign depends on the marketing efforts in relation to the target audience’s purchasing behaviours. Much like other types of media, consumer actions can be directly linked to television attribution after exposure, and advertisers tend to use this data to better understand the relationship between the two.


Upfronts are the traditional method of buying and selling television advertising in advance. Linear TV, CTV and digital TV spots are all available in the Upfronts and although Scatter Markets are becoming increasingly popular, Upfronts usually feature coveted ad placements to be sold to the highest bidder.

Upfronts and Scatter Market advertising are often used together by marketers to spread their bets and minimise their risk. There is always a chance that a specific slot purchased at the Upfronts would underperform if the network’s programme that the ad will air alongside does poorly with viewers.


Source: CONTUS

VOD, or video on demand, is a service that allows viewers to search for and watch previously aired shows whenever they choose. In addition to shows that haven’t aired on regular TV, this often includes catch-up services that allow you to watch them later.

There are three types of VOD service models. Firstly, there’s “subscription video on demand” (SVOD) which includes NowTV, Netflix, Amazon Prime and so on. Secondly, there’s “transactional video on demand” (TVOD) which refers to pay-per-view services generally seen with major sporting events such as boxing, the UFC or WWE. And finally, there’s “advertising-based video on demand” (AVOD) that tends to be attached to services such as YouTube that features video commercials, banner advertisements or sponsored content.

Do you want to know more about how we can help with your TV advertising? If so, give us a call on 01582 881144 or drop us a line at hello@falloffthewall.com. We’d love to chat.