Is traditional marketing dead? – From a Marketer’s point of view

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traditional marketingWhile modern digital marketing has changed drastically from tools created with Ad Tech, programmatic, machine learning, native advertising, data-driven granular targeting, and the coveted “growth hacking,” some highly effective advertising methods from the old days have remained.

‘Hi, this is Supriyo Ghosh and I am a veteran in the world of content writing and digital marketing.’

Few days back, I was chatting with a marketing friend the other day, and he was telling me how much he loves watching Mad Men, not just for the entertainment value, but to see how advertisers used to conduct business and the creative process Don Draper and his team used to go through for each project.

Fun side notes: A lot of the commercials that aired during the show were commercials from that time.

It was a great show, exploring everything from changing gender roles and racial issues in the ’60s to the bold, in-your-face advertising tactics that dominated marketing at the time.

While modern digital marketing has changed drastically from tools created with ad tech, programmatic, machine learning, native advertising, data-driven granular targeting, and the coveted “growth hacking,” some highly effective advertising methods from the old days have remained.

Fifty years ago, advertising was a one-way conversation.

Without the web to provide information and context, brands were free to create their reality and to tell customers what to think about their brands.

Campaigns were written around a catchy slogan and marketing materials, packaging and media supported the manufactured brand vision.

How has consumer perception changed?

Well, hold on to your fedoras Mad Men fans, because that type of branding still works.

“Aspirational advertising” is today’s modern version of that in-your-face, one-way conversational advertising.

Yes, it may be more subtle, but it still works by gently coaxing you to improve your class by purchasing “better” brands.

Successful brands are still building successful campaigns around carefully crafted brand vision, and customers are again buying in for as long as the company and the product live up to the message.

“Authenticity in marketing and advertising is when a brand lives up to all of its promises: quality, customer service, pricing, and when this happens brands win consumer loyalty,” shares Ryan Williams, founder of Industry Thread works.

Traditional advertising is alive, well and in some sectors still growing. Newspapers are in bad shape – not quite dead, but their role is massively reduced. It is a fringe media now with a shrinking number of companies that have a use for it.

TV, on the other hand, is still king. By far the most effective messages with a well-targeted reach. But what constitutes TV is now vaguer than ever. As an advertising professional, I consider and sell all home viewing of shows and movies as TV although we have always referred to it as broadcast.

The monitor we view content on, the cable or wireless signal that delivers them to our devices and the menu we select them from, whether live or on demand are all just evolution in broadcast viewing. When programming went from the antenna to cable long ago, it opened up the medium to different revenue models that can eliminate commercial breaks but has NOT eliminated advertising. But advertising evolved with it. Now almost every car, computer, can of coke, a box of cereal and pair of Nike you see in a show is a paid advertising placement. That applies to Netflix, HBO, Amazon and feature film productions. That is the current state of TV advertising. Feature films have more viewings in our homes than in the theater, but that too has become a moot point from an advertising perspective because they show ads before and during the film now.

Another traditional ad medium doing very well is outdoor. Transit and billboards are still growing because they work so well for the right advertisers.

“The right advertiser” is the key to it all. The value of a medium depends on what you are selling. That is the most critical thing to understand how advertising works. What works best for one type of business may or may not work for another. A highway billboard for a local restaurant with only one location will get a better return on that investment than spending the same money in any other medium.

Direct mail is another traditional medium that still thrives. When clients question me on that, I like to show them what businesses spend the most money on direct mail. They inevitably are surprised to see that Google is at or near the top of the list every year. Dell built their empire from direct mail as well.

As far as new media goes, it’s not like there are that many channels are competing against traditional media. Google dominates the internet, and for most businesses I recommend, they spend most of their online budget with Google. Even though keyword pricing for Google Ads in some categories is very high, with few exceptions it outperforms all other search portals as well as Facebook.

Some advertisers like Starbucks go the social media route for most of their advertising. That can be very effective for the right product and the right message.

As I said, it depends on what you are selling. Social is terrific for fashion and entertainment but weak for most trades or big-ticket items. A tweet will never affect my choice of car and not the first place I would look for a plumber, but it will let me know my favorite band is in town this week.

All things considered, the top brands like Apple, Nike, Volkswagen, Coke, Budweiser and Go Daddy all understand that traditional media is keeping them on top. It takes multiple touch points across multiple channels to win and keep brand loyalty. Every click online that leads to a sale or a search was driven by the collective of exposures from all mediums and the more different mediums people see a brand in, the quicker they are to notice them, remember them and trust them. That’s why those leaders using traditional media are increasing their category leads.

Having thought further about what should be considered “traditional” advertising, I don’t know why so many people don’t consider most online advertising in that group. Search engine advertising is over 30 years old now – it is naive to consider it a new media.

Advertising is about meaningfully connecting a company’s brand with the right person at the right time. With that said, I think the traditional way of advertising is dead; however, the traditional advertising mediums such as TV, Print, Outdoor Advertising, etc. are still very much alive. The difference I think is that these traditional vehicles of media are undergoing a major digital tune-up. I’ve included the following examples to help highlight the current advertising evolution:

1) Outdoor Advertising:

I think traditional billboard and outdoor advertising in its current state is grossly inefficient. With that said, innovation in this space reveals how effective this ad medium can be once injected with some digital DNA.

Traditional Method:

For instance, imagine a static billboard along a highway, for McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. During morning rush hour, this sort of ad could potentially be relevant. I may be en-route to the office, and not yet grabbed my breakfast. How about at 1:00 pm though? When breakfast sandwiches are no longer being served, nor am I likely interested in learning about a new breakfast offering when I’m thinking about lunch. By definition, this type of traditional outdoor advertising is about the least targeted you can get.

New Methods:

Dynamic billboards that not only change depending on the time of day but also on the weather, day of the week, current promotion, etc. Now imagine the same McDonalds billboard, however, this time around, it showcases the Big Mac lunch special from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, the Nuggets family pack for dinner, from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and then the late night menu options from 9:00 pm onwards. In short, McDonald’s is now serving a more relevant ad, to a more relevant audience. How about a car company that changes its ad to showcase it’s convertibles when it’s sunny outside? Showcase its slick resistant tires when it’s raining, or speak to its breakthrough headlight technology during evening hours. These are some of the most basic examples, but hopefully, they help highlight the advantages of the new and improved digital & dynamic layers being added to traditional is means of advertising.

2) TV:

Although time spent watching TV is dropping at a rapid rate, people still spend more time engaged with this medium, than any other. With that said, I think TV as a method of advertising in its current is grossly inefficient. Simply put, I, like I imagine most people, rarely see an ad that is relevant to me.

Traditional Method:

All stakeholders involved in providing content to people through their TV attempt to collaborate to help advertisers reach their intended audience. i.e., The show Supernatural most likely skews towards a different demographic than CNN, as such, these two shows would most likely attract different advertisers – H&M may choose to run during Jersey Shore, whereas Cadillac may run an add during CNN. However, beyond inferred demographics and speculated sales/brand lifts, I think the targeting of TV ads is abysmal at best.

New Methods:

Simply put, I think the future lies in marrying the robust targeting and analytics of the online world, with the mass audience and to record engagement of the TV world.

Imagine this scenario.

When I first activate my new “smart tv”, I set up an account, provide my basic info such as age (27), gender (Male), a city of residence (Mumbai), etc., and log in. I do this in exchange for a variety of free services such as streaming movies, music, surfing the web, custom apps, etc. Next thing I know, I’m watching an episode of Supernatural. During the commercial break, I’m served an H&M ad highlighting men’s apparel (it knows I’m a guy), and along the bottom of the ad is a simple menu with a map, phone, shopping cart, and gallery Icon. I click on the map icon, and a picture in picture screen is presented to me, showing all of the H&M stores closest to me. I click on the gallery Icon, and a slideshow of models showing off the gear featured in the commercial is served up to me. I can click on any of these images to be taken straight to the product page of their website. I can do the same, by clicking right on the shopping cart icon.

Essentially, the entire ad becomes interactive.

As it stands today, TV Ads lack more or less an opportunity to interact at all. This, coupled with the inferior analytics TV offers, in my opinion, are the primary reasons traditional TV advertising is in trouble. I firmly believe, however, that 5-10 years from now, every ad on TV will be infinitely more relevant to viewers and provide advertisers with considerably more insight into their ads effectiveness.

3) Print:

This form of advertising is undergoing arguably the most significant transformation. How many young adults today do you know with a newspaper subscription? My guess, close to zero. From books to magazines, to news and everything in-between, people are demonstrating that they would merely consume this type of content online. In addition to dwindling circulation, print also leaves a lot to be desired on the Ad front.

Traditional Method:

Advertiser pays “x” amount for a full page spread in a premium magazine, let’s say, Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair probably has a reasonably good idea as to their reader demographic (most likely educated, affluent, and urban), as such, they can help connect them to relevant brands (i.e. BMW, Cartier, Grey Good Vodka, and Luxury Cosmetics). With that said, the level of ad targeting and effectiveness more or less ends there.

If I’m a male reading Vanity Fair, why am I exposed to ads for high-end women’s face cream? Why can’t I watch a video or learn more about the product being advertised? Shortcomings such as this help highlight the gaps in traditional print advertising.

New Method(s):

If you own an iPad and have a magazine app downloaded, you’ll already have a sense of where Print advertising is headed. The simple act of being able to engage with an ad now by clicking on it marks a quantum leap in effectiveness. Advertisers can also leverage different forms of media, such as video, by embedding it straight into their ad i.e. Victoria Secret has an add showcasing its new lingerie line, and on the ad is a call to action inviting users to click to watch a video of behind the scenes footage. Not only can a reader now more meaningfully engage with the brand, but you can also track video completion rates to get a sense for how well received your content is. Innovations like these are just the beginning.


If I’m an advertiser, my goal would be to inspire my existing and prospective customers to take a desired action (make a purchase, watch a video, look up a store, etc), by connecting them with the right message, at the right time, in the most engaging way possible at the most cost-effective price. I don’t think I could realise this goal by only leveraging traditional means of advertising in their current state.

With that said, at the rate traditional media is evolving, I think it’s just a matter of time before I drive by a breakfast billboard in the morning, watch a behind the scenes video of the new BMW on the race track via digital ad in my iPad GQ App, and purchase a new pair of pants by clicking on an interactive H&M TV ad.

The traditional route of marketing includes ad campaigns on billboards, newspapers, television channels, and radio spots. With digital advertising making a dent in the marketing space for brands, people assume that the original form of brand promotion is dying. Even though this media vertical is attracting considerable spends from companies, the future aspects of brand elevation cannot be solely carried on by digital advertisements.

Media plannings will always have a place for traditional advertising in their marketing strategies. The infinite presence of conventional media works as an advantage as it garners the attention of the audience when they are unaware, thus calling for a potential sporadic purchase.

Let us first check the benefits of traditional advertising before we conclude:

1. Higher Brand Recall and Response Rate

Be it booking a television or a newspaper ad, the engaging jingles, playful imagery, and beautiful video shots altogether contributes towards a brand upgrade. As we know, visuals tend to have a higher impact on an individual’s psychology. Thus, advertisement in newspaper, television, billboards offer high brand recall, engagement and response rate from the audience.

2. Wide-Network

Traditional marketing endeavours offer a broader reach as it has a well-connected network all around. Catering to a vast audience, releasing newspaper and television advertising gives advertisers the opportunity to display ads in different languages. The continuous circulation of newspaper and regular consumption of televisions simulates the flow of demand-supply for the brand, thus adding to the conversions.

3. Easier connect to a local audience

Geographic Targeting is also possible with radio, newspaper, and magazine advertisement especially when a brand wants to target a regional audience. It proves to be a useful strategy to employ as it is one of the quickest ways to put your message out, and the same is bound to get traction from the right customers.

4. Greater Exposure

As one may not require an internet connection, access to these forms of advertising is possible at any time and in any place. Also, there is still a larger section of the population who are not tech-savvy and are not smartphone zombies. With digital marketing, it is possible we might lose a significant chunk of our potential audience, but the newspaper, magazine, outdoor, and television marketing solves this problem on behalf of the advertisers.

5. Proven Success Rate

A credible source of brand promotion, being a tried and tested strategy, it offers a higher success rate in marketing. Studies show the brands are able to connect stronger with traditional mass media vis-à-vis online marketing due to the presence of the huge distraction that smartphone and desktop ads offer. Moreover, since advertisement in newspaper and television are consumed by a mass audience, the brand is bound to get noticed by newer potential customers that were not a part initially.

These advantages prove that brand exposure increases manifolds through offline ads as well. It would be incorrect to say that booking ad in the newspaper, television, radio is the perfect bandwagon for brand awareness, but it would again be wrong if we completely ignore this side of advertising. Hence, we can infer traditional advertising is not dead. Digital advertising and traditional advertising method have been proven to more benefits than a one-dimensional approach. Epic marketing has a well-rounded team to create the excellent services for each client. From traditional media placement and creative design to digital marketing and branding, and modify broad marketing solutions to each scenario for strategic, real, and cost-effective results.

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