Breaking Through the (C)TV Creative Barrier Has Never Been More Affordable


  • The costs of producing TV ad creative have dropped precipitously in the past years.
  • From bundling the cost of media and creative, to the ease of repurposing existing assets, it’s never been more affordable for brands to leverage streaming TV advertising.
  • A higher volume of videos, produced for a fraction of the cost, unlocks the scale brands need to implement performance-driven CTV campaigns.

What’s one of the biggest pieces of news that we know about for the 2023 upfronts and NewFronts? It’s the first year Netflix has thrown their proverbial hat into the ring. 

This is a huge about-turn moment for Netflix. Easily the most well-known streamer, notorious for its adversity to ad-supported content, have begun their slow transformation into a premiere destination for marketers looking to reach a diverse, and highly engaged audience. With tides of economic uncertainty lapping at the feet of consumers across the world, the popular streamer is giving audiences a lower price-point to still be delivered their favorite content.

Just now with ads.

But their move didn’t come without a few stumbles. When Netflix first announced their ad-tier, it was reported that media costs were set to be sky-high. While that has reportedly dropped, it did get us thinking. According to MNTN’s first party data, automated campaign optimization saves costs on media that can then be reallocated to your creative production. But here’s the thing: the reverse can also be true. That’s because it’s now more affordable than ever to produce a TV ad. And by saving money on your creative, you can reallocate that budget to running ads on platforms with a higher financial barrier of entry. This in turn unlocks higher ROI as more of your budget can be dedicated toward hitting goals rather than merely producing creative. 

So even if you do not plan to leverage Netflix during its ad-supported honeymoon period, every brand should recognize that it is well within their creative budget to produce commercials for the living room screen. Low-cost creative has made TV advertising accessible and scalable. And what that has done is unlock, for brands of all sizes, the performance capabilities of Connected TV.

Suffice to say, with the burgeoning popularity of video production marketplaces and subscription models that bundle the cost of media and creative together, you can’t really use the “it’s too expensive” excuse anymore when explaining to your C-Suite why you’re not running ads on streaming TV.

Lean in with us, and we’ll tell you why.

Why Has TV Creative Never Been More Affordable?

In the past, producing TV commercials required expensive equipment and experienced crews, making it inaccessible for smaller brands without a robust advertising budget. 

But creative costs over recent years have been slowly declining, as evident by a 2019 report from Ad Age that looked at the average price of a 30-second TV commercial in the United States.

As you can see in the graph, the average cost has been declining since 2017. And between rising trends in creative, new technologies, and changing production strategies, those costs have only become more affordable. According to QuickFrame by MNTN, a live action commercial today can range anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 – a high price, but still a fraction of the cost of ads in 2019. Prices, naturally, will fluctuate based on campaign requirements, but it’s proof-positive that costs for producing TV commercials are dropping precipitously year-over-year.

Let’s dive into the details on why the costs of ad creative, especially for TV, have gone down in recent years. 

1. Bundling the Costs of Media and Creative

Bundling the costs of media and creative is a strategy that can help brands save money while still producing effective video ads. By being highly strategic with your ads, targeting the right audiences and channels, brands can avoid wasting budget and reallocate those dollars to the creative side of their campaigns. This means more money to work with when producing their next ad, resulting in higher quality creative that resonates better with their target audience.

MNTN has a unique offering that facilitates the bundling of media and creative called Creative-as-a-Subscription. CaaS gives brands the ability to produce a steady stream of high-quality, on-brand TV creative at no additional cost outside of what they pay in media, which unlocks scale without blowing up their budget. This results in more efficient campaigns with higher return on ad spend. It also unlocks the ability for creative refreshes without having to worry about costs associated with producing new ads from scratch. This is especially useful combatting that old scourge of the advertising world: creative fatigue.

Brands who have leveraged CaaS have seen systemic improvements to their campaign performance whether that’s in their ability to scale creative variations by 3.23x, delivering 49% higher conversion rates, or creating a halo effect for other platforms, like driving 35% higher paid social conversion rates.

The ability to generate higher conversion rates, while concurrently fighting ad fatigue, was a point of focus when the brand Replacements leveraged CaaS. In the past, they had only run an evergreen introductory creative year-round, refreshing just to capitalize off of holiday shopping seasons.

With CaaS, Replacements became equipped with a steady stream of new, relevant creative, along with an ad platform that delivered strong performance, helping achieve and exceed their campaign goals. By implementing quarterly creative refreshes, Replacements were well positioned to deliver timely messaging to their audience, while simultaneously preventing ad fatigue and ensuring campaign performance would remain strong, leading to a 417% ROAS lift month-over-month and a 240% revenue lift year-over-year.

This success story highlights the power of bundling the costs of media and creative, and demonstrates how a smart creative strategy can make a significant impact not only on ad fatigue – but on a brand’s bottom line.

2. The Explosion of UGC-Style Content

The rise of User-Generated Content (UGC) has been a game-changer in the video advertising industry. With the advent of platforms like TikTok, audiences have grown accustomed to consuming content that looks and feels like it was created by everyday people. This has had a significant impact on how brands approach and distribute creative, not just on social media, but on Connected TV as well.

UGC-style ads are engaging because they feel authentic, raw, and (importantly for this conversation) lo-fi. Those DIY vibes are what makes the content feel user-generated, inspiring a sense of relatability and trustworthiness, which can help boost engagement and increase the likelihood of a viewer taking action. Because we are eager to engage with this type of content, brands have begun to purposefully create videos that feel like they are User-Generated. 

The cost benefits of UGC-style content is that it can be produced with very small crews, sometimes even a single videographer. It also doesn’t require cutting-edge equipment, as the ads will feel more like actual user-generated content if it is filmed via a phone or a simple consumer-grade camera. This significantly reduces the final cost of the ad, making it an accessible and cost-effective option for brands. 

With the explosion of UGC-style content, brands have the option of creating engaging and compelling video ads that are both affordable and effective at capturing audience attention. And while social media has been the king of UGC content, the stylistic approach has begun to bleed into Connected TV advertising. Just think about it: how many ads have you seen recently that mimic the vibes of TikTok? We expect UGC-style content will continue to prove itself as a powerful, and low-cost, tool to build connections with audiences – and get more brands into the TV advertising game.

3. The Growing Marketplace of Creative Resources

Despite what your in-house team or agency of record may say, you don’t need to take the legacy route for producing TV ad creative anymore. That’s thanks to the emergence of video production marketplaces, like QuickFrame by MNTN’s Creator Collective

A marketplace approach to video production allows you to substantially lower the cost of producing TV creative. These marketplaces sync brands with professional creators and production teams who can competitively bid on projects, giving you the expertise and skills you need to produce high-quality content, while keeping your production costs lower than you’ll ever find a boutique agency. 

In the same way that you can filter for specific requirements on Airbnb, like pet-friendly or no-smoking, video production marketplaces allow brands to search for creators with the hyper-specific skills that their unique video productions require. Working with creative minds across multiple different disciplines brings fresh perspectives to your brand from a diverse array of freelancers that have a preternatural way of understanding your goals and achieving them on time, on brand, and on budget.

These external resources will also understand the value of keeping a short, tight schedule by planning to shoot all the necessary footage for your campaign in a single shoot. This is especially cost-beneficial for performance campaigns where you’ll want to get multiple variations of hooks, shots, and CTAs as well as multiple aspect ratios or different talent so that you can purposefully build your creative to target specific audiences and demographics. The payoff is worth the time investment. Bundling assets like this will keep your production costs down by eliminating the need for reshoots.

4. The Ease of Repurposing Existing Assets

One of the best ways to keep TV creative costs down is by repurposing assets through post-production editing. This means taking existing footage or stills from previous campaigns and editing them to make a brand new asset, like reworking messaging on existing creative by changing on-screen text or adding a new voiceover. 

This is a cost-efficient way to reinvent an old ad campaign, or launch an entirely new one, without having to spend extra time and money shooting a library of new footage. With this approach, you can produce new assets quickly and cost-effectively, without sacrificing creativity or quality.

But this strategy goes one step beyond just refreshing existing creative. You can audit all of your legacy assets to give you a data-backed starting place for ideating creative. Even if you have never run ads on TV before, you likely have run ads on social media. You can audit the performance of those legacy assets – like what visuals or language resonated with your audience – and utilize that data to inform the creative decisions you make for future campaigns. 

By analyzing the data from legacy ad creative assets–inclusive of static images to carousel ads and videos–combined with performance data from present campaigns, you’ll surface key learnings that can help inform numerous creative elements, from production type to talent and even the optimal duration of an ad. Having these in hand as you craft your campaign means you won’t waste time (and money) on a creative idea that won’t resonate with your target audience.

5. New Ad Formats, New Low-Cost Opportunities

Back in the (g)olden days of TV advertising, you didn’t have many ad formats to choose from. It was either a 30-second spot that would air during commercial breaks, or it was, well, a 30-second spot that would air during commercial breaks

In today’s world of Connected TV (and Over-The-Top) streaming, ad formats have evolved significantly. There’s now a myriad of formats and lengths to choose from whether it’s bite size pre-roll ads you may see while streaming Peacock on your computer, or the interactive, QR code driven ads you’re likely to find while watching Paramount+ on your TV. 

The rise of new ad formats comes with the loosening of technical requirements, so now you don’t have to create 30-second ads anymore. You can create ads that are as short as 15-seconds, with lightning fast hooks and snappy CTAs, that can cost a fraction of the price of a traditional commercial. And because attention spans have shortened, while our appetite for short-form content has grown, these bite-sized ads have a greater chance of engaging viewers because they can be consumed quickly, without deeply impacting the user’s viewing experience.

New ad formats have fundamentally changed the TV advertising landscape, but it’s also provided brands with more ways to reach their audiences at a lower price-point. The traditional 30-second spot may still exist, but it’s now just one of many options available to brands today.

How Lowering Creative Costs Fuels TV’s Performance Capabilities

If you’re looking at this as a pure numbers game, it should be plainly evident that your marketing budget will reap significant benefits from the lowering costs of TV ad creative.

But we can go a little deeper than just costs. The lowering price point of TV ad creative doesn’t just benefit your budget. It allows you to create a higher volume of video ads: exactly what’s needed if you plan to leverage the performance capabilities of Connected TV. 

Performance marketing for TV is just like performance marketing for search and social. To make the most of the channel, you should have multiple variations of copy, opening hooks, CTAs, and assets that you can swap in and out as your campaigns progress, pinpointing what works, and leaving behind what doesn’t. 

To properly fuel these campaigns, and reach your specific audiences and goals, you need a high volume of videos from the get-go. And what can you do when TV ad creative doesn’t cost quite as much? You’re able to produce so many more ads.

With a higher volume of videos fueling your performance plan, you’ll be able to quickly start testing creative to surface the hyper-specific elements that resonate loudest with your audience. This process brings objectivity to the traditionally subjective process of creative concepting, saving you time and money in the long run. 

With each round of testing, you zero in on the creative approaches that work for your brand—all while driving your KPIs, and delivering the best possible performance for your budget.


As evident by Netflix’s appearance at the 2023 upfronts – as well as the emergence of new formats, trends, resources, and the lowering cost of creative – TV ads just ain’t what they used to be. And that’s a damn good thing for advertisers.

Long gone are the days where you put a 30-second commercial out into the world and hoped your “thoughts and prayers” would be sufficient enough to drive the results you want. But in the future of TV, you don’t need to have faith in your ads. You just need low-cost creative that is purpose-built for performance to hit the targets you have in mind.

With the right strategy and approach, brands of all sizes can confidently hit their targets, drive their KPIs, and successfully compete in the dynamic (and ever-evolving) Connected TV advertising landscape.

As TV creative costs continue to be refined, we can expect more brands to embrace TV advertising as a performance channel and finally tap into the vast potential of this medium.

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