Media Mix 2020, Part 1: Is TV Advertising Dead?

Are television ads, direct mail, and digital display ads still worth the investment? Marketing Your Hospital explored where hospital marketers should spend their marketing dollars in 2020. We’ll share what we found in this three-part series. First up is TV advertising.

When was the last time you watched a commercial on television? If you can’t remember, you’re probably not inclined to spend a dime of your 2020 hospital marketing budget on TV advertising. No one will see them! Well, it turns out, that’s far from true.

Television ads still have a higher viewability rate than online advertising, according to AdAge. (Viewability is defined as there being at least one person in the room while an ad is playing.) The viewability rate for television advertising is 71 percent versus 69 percent for digital video advertising. Plus, eye-tracking data tells us television commands twice the active viewing compared with YouTube and 15 times the active viewing Facebook receives, according to WARC.

These stats may be part of the reason media buyers still rank television above most digital advertising options, including audio, search, and social, when it comes to emotionally connecting with an audience. And while digital ad spending overtook television ad spending in 2018, TV ad sales increased 5 percent the same year, according to

In short: TV advertising is not dead. But it is being reimagined. Ask yourself how you can best leverage your TV ad spend and better integrate it into your larger marketing mix.

Baltimore Hospital Extends TV Advertising

Nearly 20 percent of GBMC HealthCare’s marketing dollars are allocated for television advertising, says Greg Shaffer, the Baltimore hospital’s director of marketing and government relations. But what the hospital gains from its relationships with two local TV stations is much more than that.

Rather than simply purchasing ad spots, GBMC has partnered with Baltimore’s ABC affiliate WMAR and Fox45.

“We have extended, one-year partnerships with the stations, which include a variety of tactics, of which traditional television spots are one,” Shaffer says. “In addition to those traditional 15- or 30-second TV spots, we work closely with them to build a lot of content—often digitally. That content may be hosted on their website, shared on social media platforms, and hosted on our website as well.”

Over the years, Shaffer’s team has built an extensive library of about 700 articles that are housed on GBMC’s website. And thanks to the hospital’s television partnerships, many of those pages also contain a related video, whether a provider interview or a segment that aired on Fox45’s BMORE Lifestyle show.

watching television and changing the channel

“What we see when we have a video on a page, is that people stay on the page for longer because they might play the video for a minute, they might read a little bit about it,” Shaffer says. “They’re doing a mixture of things.”

GBMC’s TV partnerships extend even beyond advertising and content to on-air endorsements. The hospital hosts an event each year called “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” to raise money for its SAFE (sexual assault forensic examination) and domestic violence programs.

“That’s one where our media partnerships become critical,” Shaffer says. “WMAR has a number of staff members that come out to the event. They have their on-air personalities wear red leading up to the event really promoting it. And then they do Facebook Live at the event itself.”

Because of that, coupled with strong creative and an extensive email campaign, GBMC realized impressive results this year.

“We saw a huge lift in the number of people attending the event,” Shaffer says. “It went from approximately 250 to about 500. We saw donations go from about $37,000 to $92,000 for our 2019 event. It’s been really fantastic.”

Think Outside the (TV) Box

Of course, even if you can’t afford paid partnerships with local stations, you can still leverage your TV ad spends by:

  • Piggybacking on the video shoot to get additional hospital footage or interviews with providers for your website.
  • Embedding the ads into related service line web pages and articles.
  • Posting longer cuts of your TV spots on your YouTube channel.
  • Running the ads on your CCTV platform.