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Unrisky Business: TV ads create 71% of advertising-generated profit finds Ebiquity/Gain Theory study

Independent study of over 2,000 ad campaigns quantifies advertising’s business impact £ for £, TV advertising out-performs all other media investments, in both the short and long term. Data enables risk assessment of different types of advertising to identify safest investments

After a decade of change in advertising with the emergence of many new forms of advertising competing for investment, a new study has for the first time quantified the total profit generated by different forms of advertising to show what they actually deliver to the bottom line.

Published today, the study – ‘Profit Ability: the business case for advertising’ – proves that all forms of advertising create profit to varying degrees in both the short and long term. On average, advertising creates a total profit return on investment (ROI) over 3 years of £3.24 per pound spent.

Within this, it found that TV advertising:

  • Delivers the largest volume of both short-term and total advertising-generated profit
  • Is the ‘safest’ (lowest risk) advertising investment a business can make, with the highest likelihood of profit return
  • Continues to be the most efficient form of advertising with the highest ROI per pound spent

The study was commissioned by Thinkbox from Ebiquity and Gain Theory, who independently evaluate advertising performance and effectiveness for hundreds of brands. In total, it analysed over 2,000 advertising campaigns across 11 categories to uncover the impact that different forms of advertising have on short-term profit (within 3-6 months of a campaign finishing), and then combined these learnings with results for profit generated over the longer term (up to 3 years on) to determine total profit return.

This table summarises the key findings:


Form of advertising % of total ad-generated profit (3 yrs) Average ad-generated  total profit ROI Total ad-generated profit likelihood % of short-term profit (3-6 mths) Average ad-generated short-term profit ROI Short-term ad-generated profit likelihood
All media 100% £3.24 72% 100% £1.51 58%
TV 71% £4.20 86% 62% £1.73 70%
Print 18% £2.43 78% 22% £1.44 61%
Online Video 4% £2.35 67% 5% £1.21 52%
Radio 3% £2.09 75% 5% £1.61 62%
Out of Home 3% £1.15 48% 3% £0.57 19%
Online Display 1% £0.84 40% 2% £0.82 37%


TV creates the most £ for £ profit

Ebiquity and Gain Theory found that TV advertising is responsible for 71% of total advertising-generated profit at an average profit ROI over 3 years of £4.20 for every pound spent, the highest ROI of any media.

TV is followed by Print (which accounts for 18% of total advertising-generated profit), Online Video (4%, Out of Home (3%), Radio (3%), and Online Display (1%). Online Video advertising includes both Broadcaster VOD (VOD services provided by the UK’s TV broadcasters) and online video advertising on sites such as YouTube and Facebook.

TV was also found to be the most effective short-term form of advertising, responsible for 62% of all advertising-generated profit in the short term at an ROI of £1.73 for every pound spent, also the highest of any media. This is followed by Print (22%), Radio (5%), Online Video (5%), Out of Home (3%) and Online Display (2%).

TV is the safest advertising investment

By examining the proportion of campaigns by different forms of advertising that made a profit for the advertiser, Ebiquity and Gain Theory identified the relative safety of different advertising investments.

TV was found to be the medium most likely to create advertising-generated profit both in the short term and the long term.

In the short term, 70% of TV advertising campaigns delivered a profitable return. This is followed by Radio (62%), Print (61%), Online Video (52%), Online Display (37%) and Out Of Home (19%).

Looking at total profit success during the 3 years after ad campaigns finished, 86% of TV advertising campaigns delivered a profitable return. TV is followed by Print (78%), Radio (75%), Online Video (67%), Out of Home (48%), and Online Display (40%).

TV continues performing at high levels of investment

The study found that TV delivers so much profit to advertisers because its scale and popularity enables it to continue being effective at high volumes of investment. Advertisers can increase investment in TV to a higher level than other media and it will continue to generate a profitable return.

Strong case for growth in TV investment

The study concludes that advertisers may be missing out on maximising advertising-generated profit by under-investing in TV.  Currently, TV accounts for 54% of advertising spend among Ebiquity’s database, yet it is responsible for 71% of total advertising-generated profit.

Andrew Challier, Chief Client Officer, Ebiquity:

“The study is important because it shifts the emphasis away from the ROI number ‘arms-race’ to a more responsible approach that talks about the scalability of ROI by media channel, and the impact that this has on profit generation. This is arguably more business-relevant and almost certainly of more interest to CFOs.”

Nick Pugh, Director, Ebiquity:

“This study demonstrates that advertising drives significant profitable growth and provides the business case for investment. It is crucial that businesses now see advertising as an investment rather than a cost.”

Matthew Chappell, Partner, Gain Theory:

“In a world of big data and advanced analytics, the lure of the easily accessible stat or number can be overwhelming. Too often the easy measures are skewed towards the short term. One of the key aims of this study is to provide something of a correction: to move thinking and measurement from short to long term, to focus on what drives fundamental business success, and to give marketers the tools to do so.”

Matt Hill, Thinkbox’s Research and Planning Director:

“Businesses are under immense economic pressure and marketers have to justify everything they spend. It is crucial that we constantly refresh and update our understanding of what different forms of advertising contribute so that marketers are spending wisely. This study by two highly respected, independent organisations with robust data at their disposal bridges the gap between the marketing and finance departments with compelling evidence that quantifies advertising’s ability to deliver shareholder value, and TV’s centrality to that.”

Thinkbox is dedicated to proving advertising effectiveness. As well as commissioning effectiveness studies from respected independent companies it has also consistently supported robust studies by other organisations, most recently as a co-funder with Google of the IPA’s ‘Media in Focus’ report by Les Binet and Peter Field. The 2017 study – which analysed the IPA’s databank of effectiveness case studies – concluded that TV remains the most effective form of advertising and is getting more so.


TV facts and figures:

  • The average UK viewer watches 3 hours, 38 minutes a day of TV, broken down as:
    • 3 hours, 26 minutes of ‘industry standard’ TV set viewing (on a TV set within 7 days of broadcast)
    • 9 minutes of additional TV set viewing (8-28 days after broadcast)
    • 3 minutes of additional viewing on other devices (sources: BARB and Broadcaster data, H1 2017)
  • Commercial TV reaches 91% of the UK every week, 97% a month (source: BARB, H1 2017)
  • TV accounts for 75% of UK video viewing (source: Thinkbox 2016 video analysis)
  • YouTube accounts for 6.4% of UK video viewing (source: Thinkbox 2016 video analysis)
  • Facebook accounts for 1.7% of UK video viewing (source: Thinkbox 2016 video analysis)
  • Subscription VOD in total (incl. both Netflix and Amazon) accounts for 4.1% of video viewing in the UK (source: Thinkbox 2016 video analysis)
  • An average broadcast TV advertising campaign in the UK gets 238 million views (source: BARB, H1 2017)
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