TV’s role in marketing is evolving


Jim Johnson explains how marketers can leverage converging television formats to build their brands and sell products across all generations of shoppers

Cars and television share a natural affinity, their synergy evident in the seamless translation of engine roars and precise cornering onto the expansive canvas of the home’s largest screen. Since the inception of television advertising in 1941, this dynamic relationship has propelled numerous brands and models to iconic status in the US.

Despite the evolving landscape of advertising platforms, television’s indispensable role in the marketing mix endures, whether on a national, local, linear, addressable or connected scale. In 2022, the investment in television marketing across all industries exceeded US$66bn, with connected TV emerging as the fastest-growing segment, accounting for over US$20bn. Notably, July 2022 marked a significant milestone as monthly streaming viewership surpassed both broadcast and cable, underlining the continued prominence of television in the ever-changing media landscape.

Perhaps most importantly for automotive advertisers, research from eMarketer shows that Gen Z and Millennials make up the largest populations of CTV users, with the younger Gen Z cohort showing the most rapid growth in streaming content consumption. In terms of demographics, major metropolitan areas across the US are seeing population losses for each generation except Gen Z, as they flock to major cities to begin their careers and experience the excitement of city life. But with city life comes alternatives to personal car ownership, and Gen Z thus far has been less interested in obtaining a driver’s license than any generation preceding it. The time for auto brands to reach and influence this rapidly growing generation is now, and CTV is a great way to educate younger consumers on the many mobility options on offer from major car brands to help shape future adoption.

While it’s clear that the future of television is streaming from both a viewership and marketing standpoint, how can marketers leverage all the currently available converging television formats to build their brands and sell products across all generations of shoppers? Consider the four C’s—connection, content, choice, and commerce—as a framework for determining where linear broadcast and cable fit within the broader context of consumer engagement with a brand.


The concept of connection in advertising pertains to how effectively a medium links brands with consumers in meaningful ways. Linear television remains a reliable method for reaching a broad audience through a one-to-many approach, crucial for building brand identity and sustaining top-of-mind awareness. Taking it a step further, CTV enhances reach by combining it with a targeted strategy, utilising demographics, location and in-market shopping behaviour data to concentrate on potential buyers closest to making a purchase.

Consider the context of 2022, where the US had approximately 226 million adults over 18. Assuming each buyer acquired only one vehicle per household, roughly 14 million individuals or 5.38 million households made new vehicle purchases. Employing linear TV for brand development and CTV for households displaying in-market purchase behaviour optimises the impact of television by addressing both aspects effectively. 


Content plays a dual role in advertising, encompassing the material adjacent to the advertisement and the content within the advertisement itself. The recent focus of linear TV buying, particularly in the automotive sector, has centred on news and sports due to their live viewership and the ability to target audiences on both national and local levels. This strategy ensures broad reach for auto brands and relevance for tier 2 and tier 3 auto advertisers.

Integrating this linear approach with CTV and digital video proves highly advantageous for in-market car shoppers by providing additional buying context. While CTV can also be purchased nationally or locally, targeting at a household level allows auto brands and dealers to exclusively run ads alongside contextually relevant content and publishers. Surveys indicate that 50% of automotive shoppers express a greater likelihood to engage with advertisements when they are presented alongside relevant content.

Digital video units with multiple tabs offer auto advertisers the opportunity to embed content directly into the units, including third-party expert reviews for new model launches or vehicle refreshes. Nielsen reports that third-party expert content is 83% more effective at influencing product purchase considerations compared to user reviews, emphasizing the pivotal role of relevant content in aiding shoppers in making well-informed purchase decisions.


In the realm of advertising, particularly in the context of consumer choice, linear TV has not been traditionally associated with options. When opting to watch specific linear TV content, the trade-off involves enduring periodic ad breaks. This scenario is mirrored in ad-supported streaming content on platforms like CTV or OTT, unless a subscription fee is paid.

A potential middle ground for engaging consumers involves embracing interactivity within CTV and digital video units. Contemporary CTV ads often incorporate interactive elements, such as QR codes or clickable links, fostering deeper engagement. Alternatively, digital video units can be designed as entirely opt-in experiences, allowing viewers, such as auto shoppers, to choose whether to engage with relevant ads or skip over them if uninterested. This approach empowers auto brands and dealers to ensure that subsequent video views or interactions are carried out by qualified and interested consumers who have willingly opted to receive the message, rather than being compelled to view ads to access desired content.

The aforementioned Gen Z generation, who represent the future of the automotive industry and society at large, largely express distain for ads that “interrupt their content”, making opt-in advertising experiences even more impactful for them. Baby Boomers, by contrast, are more receptive to ads on cable or broadcast TV than those on social media or streaming TV, so keeping those options in your marketing mix for older consumers is a sound strategy.


At the core of marketing is the pursuit of commerce, aiming to drive tangible business outcomes. Traditionally, Direct Response Television (DRTV) methods like phone numbers, text messages or web links have been instrumental in tracking these outcomes on linear platforms over the decades. However, advanced tracking on linear requires customised setups and may incur additional costs when tying ad exposure to eventual purchases.

A more streamlined strategy to complement DRTV involves testing a hybrid approach of both CTV and digital video, specifically targeted at the household level. In this approach, CTV can be utilised to introduce a new model or dealership sales event, capturing the household’s attention on the primary screen—television. Subsequent exposures can then be distributed across various devices within the same household. This not only reinforces the initial CTV message but also enhances it with additional buyer context, including local inventory, offers, dealer reviews and direct calls to action such as requesting a quote or scheduling a test drive from desktop or mobile devices.

This proactive approach eliminates a step for consumers and provides auto advertisers with the flexibility to tailor follow-on messages post-CTV in alignment with the typical steps in the purchase decision process. From raising awareness on CTV to fostering consideration and conversion via personal devices, this comprehensive strategy ensures a more seamless and effective consumer journey.

In the ever-changing landscape of media, the coexistence of linear television and digital platforms is crucial for auto marketers. Effectively utilising the unique strengths of each medium to assist consumers in making informed purchasing decisions is the key to success. Embracing the “4 C’s” serves as a proactive strategy for auto marketers to connect with their customers at various stages of the purchasing process.

About the author: Jim Johnson is Vice President, Account Planning & Lead of Industry Solutions—Automotive at



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