Debunking Myths: Don't Count Out Traditional Advertising Channels; Embrace Them


Author: Tom Popomaronis     Source: Forbes

To digital media marketing proponents, it sounds like a sacrilegious statement, but it's true — and a significant amount of online media marketing can be a colossal waste of money. The widespread belief that web and social media ads are giving a higher ROI than the "old-fashioned" TV, press, and radio advertising is a costly myth. The myth hinges on the belief that the more precise targeting achieved by digital advertising not only eliminates the waste bedeviling traditional advertising but justifies replacing most of it.

That same myth persists because many people think that, apart from the media used, both online and traditional advertising are fundamentally the same thing. They're not. Effective TV advertising can move the viewer emotionally, creating a subtle association between that emotion and a brand. And those consumers are primed to buy and convert at nearly 8-15%. Radio and even press advertising can do the same, though never as profoundly as TV. Online advertising may try to achieve a similar result, but outside of harnessing a serious viral content win and commanding a reputable following, online ads will continue to fall short when it comes to an ROI expectation. Online advertising can't use subtlety because it competes for attention with the rest of the page and has only a fraction of a second to attract and hold the viewer's attention. So it must use a hard sell approach. Usually, it irritates because it distracts attention from the content the viewer wants to see, so the viewer quickly scrolls past it. Not surprisingly, online advertising often creates a negative emotional impression of the brand.

Of course, TV or radio advertising can be irritating too since it interrupts a program. However, when an advertisement is well crafted, it gives pleasure and arouses positive emotions, viewers or listeners usually don't mind the short interruption. Indeed, viewers often look forward to TV advertisements that amuse them or make them feel good. Those kinds of ads implant a positive image of a brand in the viewer's mind. It’s the brand’s goal to make the customer feel positively disposed to the product so that when that final call-to-action close happens, the customer immediately wants to take action and purchase.

The Need to Marry Traditional with Modern

Online advertising plays a valuable role, but entirely different one, to that of TV or radio advertising. It works best when it targets readers who need a product or service right away and, because it is good at targeting them, it avoids wasting resources. For many products or services, it is more cost-effective than traditional advertising. If someone needs a plumber, or a toner cartridge, an advertisement on Google, for example, is likely to be more effective and vastly less expensive than an advertisement on TV or radio. The secret, however, is not about choosing one channel over the other, but rather leveraging both to create a level of continuity that is necessary for your brand to compete.  The truth is that to reach most customers and entice them to buy, both online and traditional advertising are essential. Brands who do that truth will be doing so at their peril.

Back in 2010, Pepsi learned the hard way. For the first time in 23 years, the company gave up its usual TV slot during the Super Bowl to concentrate its marketing efforts and money on a social media campaign called the "Pepsi Refresh Project." The campaign attracted thousands of Twitter followers and elicited millions of Facebook "likes." As a social media campaign, it was a big success. As a way of selling more Pepsi, however, it was a failure. Over the period of the campaign, Pepsi's market share dropped by roughly 5%. Where the social metrics were a hit, the grave mistake was to ignore the TV spot.