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Tunnl | Products | Media Optimization

What Is Linear Optimization and Do You Need It for Your Campaigns?

October 18th, 2021 | 7 min. read

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If you buy linear TV, they're often the largest part of a marketing and advertising budget but they are also oftentimes the largest source of wasted time and money.

We get it, there is nothing worse than having to constantly justify big advertising spends when it is hard to see a return on investment.

At Tunnl, we help hundreds of companies solve this problem of inefficient tv buying. In fact, we helped our clients save over $104,000,000 just last year alone in efficiency savings.

But, as much as we love our linear optimization product available inside the premium tier of our audience intelligence platform, we recognize that it is not a good solution for everyone.

By the end of this article, you will be able to:

  • Understand what linear optimization is
  • Answer the two fundamental questions about linear optimization
  • Know how Tunnl helps you achieve linear optimization

What Is Linear Optimization?

Linear optimization is the art and science of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of TV advertising spends. 

Many brands and organizations are turning to linear optimization as TV inventory is reduced and prices have increased, and in some cases, or even doubled.

What does linear optimization look like at Tunnl?

At Tunnl, our linear optimization product, available exclusively in the premium tier of our audience intelligence platform, is built on our audiences. This is so that advertisers and agencies are optimizing their linear TV buys according to who matters most to their mission or cause instead of the general population.

Take a look at the image below:

Laptop - MO Update w_ labelsAccording to Nielsen data, if you were to optimize your buy, you would want to buy the ABC World News Tonight with David Muir program rather than the NBC Nightly News program because the ABC World News program has a higher rating for adults 35 years or older. New call-to-action

However, if you know you want to reach the Influentials audience, you actually should buy the NBC Nightly News program because that rating has a higher Influentials audience rating (6.75 audience rating) compared to the ABC World News program (6.44 audience rating).

This type of optimization gives brands the ability to redeploy those dollars they saved so they can deliver more messages, ads, impressions, and targeted rating points (TRPs) to their audience for the same budget.

Do You Need Linear Optimization?

Now that you know what linear optimization is, you can ask yourself the following two questions to help you determine if it is a good solution, or not, for you.

1. Are you trying to reach a particular niche audience and/or advertising in a competitive market?

Linear Optimization for Niche Audiences

Linear optimization is a great tool for brands and organizations to have in their corner if they are trying to reach a specific group of people. For example, perhaps you are trying to reach people who care about one of the following issues:

  • Fighting Climate Change
  • Protecting Medicare/Medicaid 
  • Increasing School Choice
  • Taking on Big Tech

These are specific issues with niche audiences.

If you are a brand or organization that is centered around a specific issue or wants to communicate a message to a group(s) of people that share similar views, linear optimization might be a good fit - if your budget allows for it.

Linear Optimization for Advertising in Competitive Markets

TV isn’t consumed in the same way across every media market, and with 210 local markets, plus the option to buy national programming, that leaves a lot of room for varying results.

Some markets have much larger populations than others (such as New York or Philadelphia), thus attracting more advertisers. But, more advertisers can mean a more competitive market, leading to more expensive advertising.

Linear optimization is a great solution that leads to smarter, more efficient TV buying in expensive markets. But, if you’re not trying to reach those markets, you might not need a linear optimization product.

2. Are you spending enough to have a linear optimization solution pay for itself?

To answer this single question, you need to know:

  • How much linear optimization costs
  • How much you plan on spending
  • How much efficiency do you expect to gain from optimizing your media plan

Linear Optimization at Tunnl

At Tunnl, linear optimization costs around $30,000 for a single market and around $125,000 state-wide.

On average, we’ve seen our data produce a 25% efficiency for clients.

We’ve produced the table below to illustrate how much you would need to spend to make linear optimization “worth it.”

Media Budget

Expected Efficiency

Optimization Value



Value > Price?




Single Market









With these numbers, we estimate that if you are buying in a single market and have a budget of at least $125,000, linear optimization is worth it. If you are buying statewide and have a budget of at least $500,000, linear optimization is worth it.

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Is Linear Optimization a Good Fit for You?

TV buys are often the biggest portion of your budget. And, it’s a shame that it can also be the biggest source of inefficiency.

Many people are experiencing this same issue - you’re not alone. Here at Tunnl, we help people just like you solve this issue with data-targeted solutions that we’ve built over the last 20 years. 

What we’ve learned is that linear optimization is a great tool that leads to more efficient tv buying.

In this article you asked yourself two questions:

  1. Are you trying to reach a particular niche audience and/or advertising in a competitive market?
  2. Are you spending enough to have a linear optimization solution pay for itself?

If you said yes to both questions…

New call-to-action Linear optimization is a great fit for you. But that looming question of cost is likely hanging over you. To learn more about the cost of linear optimization, check out this article that covers the different factors that go into determining the cost of linear optimization. When you're ready, request a demo of linear optimization inside of Tunnl Premium with a member of our team.

If you said no...

If you said no to the above questions, there are other options to ensure you’re making smart TV buying decisions. You can target your advertisements using prebuilt or custom audiences to ensure you are not spending money talking to the wrong audience.


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