Pillar of Marketing

Traditional Advertising in a Digital Age


What’s Important

  • Traditional advertising is still relevant — TV ads can generate between 300% and 500% ROI
  • In some areas, nearly 25% of customers don’t have access to the internet — traditional advertising can expand your reach to these demographics
  • Digital data can enhance traditional advertising — 90% of consumers have a second screen in front of them while watching TV



Traditional Advertising in a Digital Age

The discipline of advertising has been around for centuries, as far back as Babylonian vendors drawing pictures of their wares on the sides of market stalls. But in the last few decades, advertising has shifted towards the digital space, with projected US ads spending topping $500 billion by 2024.

With attention and spending shifting heavily toward online mediums, traditional advertising approaches may appear to be less of a priority. However, when planned, constructed, and executed correctly, a traditional ad campaign can be a powerful complement to your digital ads, capturing more attention and converting more customers than either channel would be able to do in isolation.


Chapter One

The State of Traditional Advertising

Contrary to what many in the industry have predicted, traditional advertising continues to be an essential element of most marketing plans. According to the World Federation of Advertisers’ State of Advertising Report:

Respondents largely disagreed with the premise that in five years’ time there will be no traditional advertising. Just 8% strongly agreed with the statement that: “looking ahead five years, I can imagine a world without traditional advertising formats.” Twenty-eight percent strongly disagreed, and thirty-four percent somewhat disagreed.

The report also anticipated significant shifts in the way traditional advertising is conducted, with more than 70 percent of respondents agreeing that “direct to consumer brands will inspire the big traditional advertisers to find new and better ways of connecting with their audiences.”

The State of Television Advertising

Like many market sectors, TV advertising struggled in 2020. The global pandemic forced people to stay home, and though this led to an increase in viewership, the cancellation of all major sports for nearly six months, the Olympics, and the inability of ad agencies to shoot big-budget commercials drove the market downward.

Before 2020, the industry held its own in the face of rising digital advertising spend across the globe. Consider the following, as of late 2017:

TV advertising isn’t dying; it’s evolving. TV viewership remains steady, even as viewership shifts to a more connected and digital experience.

While the lines are starting to blur between TV programming and digital media, advertising methods are beginning to overlap, too. According to Nielsen, almost 90 percent of Americans have a second screen in front of them — a smartphone, laptop, or tablet — while they’re watching TV. A total of 71 percent say they’re looking up content related to the show they’re watching, while 41 percent of Americans say they’re messaging with friends and family about the show.

With this data, advertisers have a powerful new insight. For decades, advertisers have had to make educated guesses about who’s watching their shows. Knowing what their audience is doing online while they watch, advertisers can learn more about who their audience is and what they’re interested in, allowing them to target ads more effectively.

The State of FM Radio

Supported primarily by local businesses, radio hasn’t been a significant piece of the advertising landscape for decades, hovering around $14 billion (about 5 percent of total U.S. ad spend). The rise of streaming services, podcasts, and satellite radio has altered the way people consume audio content, but AM/FM radio still accounts for 42 percent of total US time spent with audio media and reaches 91 percent of Americans on a weekly basis, according to Nielsen.

Impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses struggled to stay afloat and reduced their advertising budgets. In addition, as millions of Americans transitioned to working from home, the time they spent in their cars drastically decreased — time often spent listening to the radio.

We anticipate that commuting, local businesses, and radio will bounce back in the next few years, but probably not to pre-2020 levels. Many companies have opted to switch to a more permanent work-from-home model, some small businesses have shuttered permanently, and the trends toward digital media will likely continue.

The State of Print Media

According to Statista, newspaper circulation has declined by more than half in the last 40 years or so, and the trend is accelerating. There are a number of factors leading to this dropoff:

According to a 2017 HubSpot study, while the number of hours spent on digital media has increased since 2012, the time spent on print media has stayed the same. Consumers also tend to trust print ads more than they trust digital ads, relying on them to a greater extent when making a purchasing decision.

The magazine industry is in an interesting state of flux. While the total number of magazines in the U.S. has stayed relatively constant at around 7,200 to 7,300 in the last 20 years and magazine readership has slightly increased, the total revenue of the magazine industry has fallen sharply from $46 billion dollars in 2007 to $28 billion 2017.

Similar to the newspaper industry, many magazine publishers have moved to an entirely online-based subscription model since consumers now find it easier and more convenient to access the content they want online.

The State of OOH

Out-of-home advertising has always been a relatively small slice of the advertising industry, accounting for less than $10 billion a year in national spending. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit this segment of the advertising world particularly hard, too — when people aren’t commuting, using public transit, wandering their cities, or taking vacations, they’re not exposed to outdoor advertising at all.

The State of Direct Advertising

Despite consumer distaste for “junk mail,” direct mail remains a surprisingly effective advertising method when it’s applied well. According to Compu-Mail:

  • 73 percent of American consumers say that they prefer to be contacted by direct mail
  • 59 percent of U.S. respondents say that they enjoy receiving direct mail from companies they’ve already patronized
  • 60 percent of catalog recipients visit the websites of the companies that mail them catalogs

In contrast to direct mail, direct calling has been rendered nearly obsolete. The biggest obstacle facing telemarketing — direct, unsolicited phone calls to potential customers — is consumers avoiding answering unknown calls. According to MarTech, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they would “often” or “very often” ignore or reject phone calls from businesses and unknown numbers.

This steep decline could be attributed to the increase in robocalling and mobile phone spam over the last several years. According to a 2018 report by First Orion, nearly half of mobile phone traffic is scam calls, up from only 3.7 percent of calls in 2017. Given the ubiquity of caller ID, most customers simply won’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the caller.

From a marketer’s perspective, direct calling is too expensive. To reach a meaningful number of people, companies might have to employ dozens of callers on a full-time basis, which is far too costly when compared to the relative efficiency of sending emails or placing digital ads.

a bar graph showing the growth of digital ad spend versus traditional ad spend from 2018 to 2021


Moving Forward

Despite a shift towards digital in the marketing landscape, traditional advertising channels are still relevant and valuable. Given consumer behavior, it’s important to consider each while planning an effective integrated marketing campaign.


Chapter Two

The Pros and Cons of Traditional Advertising

Traditional advertising should be treated like any other marketing channel — as a piece of a larger, integrated whole.

It’s essential to have a clear understanding of the value and limitations of each medium to develop an effective marketing strategy.

Pro: Scalability

While digital ads can reach enormous numbers of people, they also run the risk of “banner blindness” — a phenomenon whereby viewers have become so inured to online ads that they no longer remember or even notice them. If your ads aren’t sticking in your customers’ minds, the reach of those ads is wasted. Traditional media doesn’t suffer from the same problem.

According to a study by Bain & Company in 2016, TV ads are recollected at twice the rate of digital media. While repeating and scaling up digital ads will eventually hit a point of diminishing returns, the ceiling is much higher for traditional media.

Pro: Accessibility

Depending on the demographics of your target audience, the accessibility of traditional advertising may be more effective at reaching them. While 90 percent of adults use the internet regularly, more detailed demographic data shows that there are significant segments of the country that don’t rely on the internet to nearly the same extent. According to the same numbers from Pew Research:

  • Less than 75 percent of people aged 65 and up use the internet
  • Only 54 percent of households earning under $30,000 per year have home broadband
  • 63 percent of rural Americans have access to broadband internet
  • A quarter of Black and Hispanic Americans do not have home broadband but do own smartphones

Depending on which segment of the market you’re trying to reach, a traditional approach might be substantially more successful than an online strategy.

Pro: an Outbound Approach

As opposed to inbound marketing strategies, which rely on customers seeking out your products or services, traditional advertising techniques are almost exclusively outbound, allowing you to put your messaging in front of people who have never heard of you. Doing so will drum up attention and curiosity, which can then feed into the brand awareness needed to sustain an inbound marketing strategy.

Pro/Con: Geo-Targeting

Many traditional advertising strategies are location-bound. They appear on a certain radio station, a TV show airing in certain markets, or an out-of-home location that only appears to people in a particular position. The most specific example might be a billboard advertising a particular restaurant at the next highway exit — every single person who sees that billboard is in a position to take advantage of the product offered.

For some businesses, this level of location-based advertising is extremely useful. People wandering a pedestrian mall are the perfect audience for a nearby coffee shop or entertainment venue. People listening to a radio station are the perfect audience for a local business or an offer that can only be redeemed in their area.

The reason we list this as both a pro and a con is that the geo-targeting offerings for digital advertisers are also extremely sophisticated. Thanks to cell phone triangulation and IP tracking, digital services like Facebook can tell the exact location of the person accessing their content and serve them geo-targeted ads accordingly. If your customer base is likely to spend a lot of time online, this method is usually more effective. However, supplementing your online advertising with location-specific traditional ads can be a powerful way to create more points of contact with local customers.

Con: Rudimentary Targeting

Open any magazine and you’ll get a sense of whom the advertisers think is reading it. The Economist carries ads for financial software and credit cards with frequent flier benefits, while Car and Driver shows ads for beer and auto parts stores. Magazine publishers have a rough sense of who reads their magazines, but they can’t be truly certain who’s picking up a given copy and flipping through it.

The same goes for radio and television. Broadcasters conduct surveys to get a sense of their audience, but these surveys are imprecise at best. Inevitably, traditional advertising methods will put your content in front of people who have no interest in your product at all.

Digital advertising, by contrast, allows you to target your specific audience with extreme precision. Thanks to tracking tools like the ones used by Facebook, Google, and Amazon, you can target specific demographics, people with specific interests, people who have made similar purchases in the past, and hundreds of other data points. Some people have even found jobs by creating ads that only targeted executives at certain companies.

Con: ROI is Hard to Measure

When someone clicks on an ad on Facebook and is directed to your site, your online analytics software can tell you exactly where that site traffic came from. If someone sees an ad on TV and decides to visit your site as a result, it’s very hard to tell that your TV ad drove that traffic.

That’s not to say that tracking is impossible. Some companies offer promotional codes that only air on TV, indicating that a TV ad contributed to a lead or a purchase. OOH and print advertising can contain unique URLs or QR codes. Some marketers also conduct “where did you hear about us” surveys when a customer makes a purchase.

Marketers also look for simple correlations between the times a TV ad airs and spikes in web traffic — if an ad is placed during a football game and corresponds with a spike on Sunday afternoon, marketers can likely ascribe some of that traffic to TV viewership. But the fact remains that compared to digital advertising, it’s much harder to trace the source of your traffic and calculate your return on investment with traditional advertising strategies.

Con: Traditional Advertising is Easier to Ignore

We’ve mentioned the declines across the board in TV viewership, radio usage, and magazine subscriptions. Compounding the problem is the fact that even when people do consume traditional media, the ads are much easier to ignore.

Thanks to DVR, people can watch TV at their convenience, skipping through the ads and missing your messaging entirely. Even during live events, people often take advantage of commercial breaks to use the bathroom or grab a snack. Magazine and newspaper readers can simply turn the page without ever registering your message in their minds.

By contrast, digital ads are often much more noticeable. YouTube users can’t skip ads until they’ve seen the first five seconds, giving you an opportunity to capture the viewer’s attention. Interstitial ads have to be acknowledged before they can be dismissed. And ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google search results often blend seamlessly into the organic content surrounding them, capturing the viewer’s attention much more successfully.


Chapter Three

Use Cases for Traditional Advertising

Like any other form of advertising or marketing, traditional advertising can’t stand alone. Every channel in your strategy needs to be connected with and bolstered by the other channels you use, creating an integrated marketing approach that gives you the highest chance of success. When you’re weighing whether to incorporate traditional advertising channels into your marketing arsenal, here’s what you should consider.

When to Use Print Advertising

Print advertising has a few advantages that make it an enticing option for a certain class of business. The first is a targeted market. Newspapers and some magazines tend to serve a specific geographical area, making them an ideal choice for businesses that offer in-person services, since your target audience is likely to live within the circulation range of that publication.

Magazines also tend to have a specific audience in mind. While some magazines like Time, Newsweek, People, and so on appeal to a very broad market, there are also hundreds of magazines that cater to skiers, car enthusiasts, PC gamers, and other specific interest groups. If you can find a magazine that overlaps strongly with the product or service you offer, you’re likely to find a receptive audience.

If your product has a particular visual appeal, magazines are a great choice. When people see ads on phones or desktop browsers, they tend to be small — screen real estate is too valuable for large, visually impactful ads. By contrast, a full-page ad in a magazine can provide unmatched visual stimulation that grabs the viewer’s attention like few other mediums. For decades, Canon has been placing full-page wildlife photographs with the tagline “Wildlife as Canon Sees It” in National Geographic, demonstrating the power of their cameras with striking visuals.

When to Use Broadcast Advertising

Radio and local TV offer the same localized targeting benefits as newspapers and local magazines, allowing you to advertise your service-based business to a large audience in a given area. If you can find a TV show or radio show that overlaps significantly with your target audience, all the better — advertising a fantasy football app during a football talk segment would be a perfect fit, for example.

Another significant advantage of broadcast advertising is reach. Even a local network television affiliate will have an audience of hundreds of thousands or even millions, allowing you to reach a significant audience with just a 30-second or 60-second spot. Targeted digital ads might be more precise, but if your product has a broad target market, it makes sense to reach as many people as possible.

Finally, the ability to demonstrate or explain a product or service can be a huge help to certain businesses. Attention spans are short online, and if it’s not immediately obvious what benefits your product offers, many customers will simply ignore it. TV and radio afford the chance to demonstrate the product, explain which problems it solves, and outline the benefits to a much more captive audience.

infographic showing statistics related to digital versus traditional media consumption demonstrating a persistence of traditional media among a growing digital media dominance


When to Use Direct Advertising

Direct advertising is most useful when your business is particularly reliant on repeat business. This principle is most obvious when it comes to the foodservice industry. You know that your customers only eat about 60 dinners and lunches a month, and you want to make sure that at least a few of them are at your restaurant. In order to do that, you have to stay relevant and recent in their minds, and mailing coupons and menus is a perfect way to accomplish that. If a customer gets home from work, sees a coupon for a half-off pizza, and decides they’d rather order in than cook, your coupon has just paid for itself.

Retailers are another business that can benefit enormously from direct mail advertising. Send catalogs featuring your newest and most popular products to your previous customers and you’ll keep their awareness of your brand high, increasing the likelihood that they’ll purchase from you again. You can even develop more than one catalog to target specific segments of your customer base or decide only to send catalogs to people who have spent more than a certain amount.

The important thing is not to waste your time and resources on guesswork. Don’t send direct mail to people unsolicited — wait until they express an obvious interest in your business, then use the direct mail to nurture that interest.

When to Use Out-of-Home Advertising

Out-of-home advertising is inherently limited in its capabilities — it usually doesn’t support audio or video, your audience is often fleeting, and you likely won’t have much room for detailed explanations of your product’s benefits.

What OOH advertising is very good at is making an impression. Marketers generally estimate that your potential customers will need to make contact with your brand around half a dozen times before they make a purchase and every point of contact counts. Your audience might see one of your ads on YouTube and one on Facebook, so they already know roughly what your company offers. If they also see your logo, branding, and tagline on a few OOH placements, your brand will build a stronger foothold in their minds. When they do decide to make a purchase, they’re more likely to think of you first.

OOH advertising is perfect for companies with strong competition in their space. The more competition your product has, the more evenly matched you are, and the smaller the differences between your business and the next, the more important it is to maintain that top-of-mind awareness that will make a customer turn to you first. Restaurants, gyms, attorneys, dentists, and banks are all examples of closely competing businesses that benefit heavily from OOH ads.


Chapter Four

Building a Traditional Advertising Strategy

As with any other marketing strategy, planning is crucial. In the case of traditional channels, where ROI is harder to track, a comprehensive strategy becomes even more important. Every strategy will look different, depending on your company and goals, but there are a few basic steps that should be followed in every advertising strategy.

Start With Buyer Personas

A buyer persona — an idealized version of your perfect customer — is the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. Every single decision and piece of marketing collateral that you create is built with that persona in mind, so it’s worth taking the time to build a comprehensive picture of your perfect customer.

If your business operates in the B2B space, you’ll need two kinds of buyer persona: the traditional persona and the ideal company profile (ICP). Your ICP is a picture of the kinds of businesses you’d like to sell to, including revenue, budget, structure, location, and other characteristics. Your buyer persona, in this case, will be a description of the decision-maker at that company to whom you’ll have to sell your product or service.

For most businesses, it’s a good idea to create negative buyer personas — describing the kind of customer you don’t want — as well as positive ones. There are some customers and accounts that will simply take too long to close, don’t have the budget to afford your services, or can’t benefit from what you have to offer. It’s not worth your time to market to those people.

Most importantly, your buyer personas will inform the channels you prioritize in your strategy. Use your own user data, customer surveys, and third-party data to determine which shows your customers watch, which radio stations they listen to, where they commute, and how they occupy themselves in their spare time.

Consider Your Journey Map

Your customer journey map is the next crucial factor to consider when establishing a new strategy. You should have a good grasp on the process your customers use to make decisions, from when they first become aware of a problem, the steps they take to weigh their options, and the final impetus that pushes them into a purchase.

What you can assume is that every touchpoint helps. Your customers will need to be reminded of your brand or product around half a dozen times before they finally make a decision, and every time they see or hear your name, your company rises to the top of a customer’s mind.

How Your Strategy Will Differ From Digital

When you start a traditional marketing strategy, there are a few significant differences between traditional and digital marketing that you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Time scale: marketers should expect to exercise patience when launching a new traditional marketing campaign. Unlike digital campaigns, traditional marketing channels don’t generate real-time analytics. Eager executives who want to know that their money is well spent will have no dashboard or reporting to look at, so ensure that you’re tempering expectations accordingly.
  • ROI: as we’ve mentioned before, measuring the ROI of a traditional channel can be difficult, if not impossible. The first option is to attach some unique campaign identifier to your traditional channels — a discount code or a specific URL, for example. You can also ask your customers where they first heard about you, giving you a sense of how many people are being driven down the funnel by specific channels.

More commonly, you’ll simply have to wait to see if traffic and sales rise in sync with your traditional marketing channels. For some impatient execs, this can be frustrating, so be prepared for hard questions about whether your campaigns are working.

  • Analytics: digital marketing generates an incredible amount of data. For every ad, campaign, placement, and website, you can generate reports that show how many people saw it, clicked on it, made a purchase, or any other behavior you can think of.

With traditional advertising, that won’t be the case. Other than simple data points like the number of people who watched the TV show during which your ad ran, you may not have access to detailed analytics about viewership and engagement.

Some cable advertising companies like Comcast now offer tracking tools that tie into your Google Analytics account and can pull data from the exact geographic footprint where your ads run. While it can’t tell you if viewers then went on to open your website on their phone, you can at least generate better demographic data.

In general, it’s best to plan on using traditional advertising as top-of-the-funnel touchpoints, designed to drum up awareness of your product or company.

These ads can also be used for the consideration stage, educating your customers about the benefits of your product — for example, food delivery services like Hello Fresh emphasize that their product will save users the time and hassle of cooking every night.


Chapter Five

Optimizing Traditional Advertising

Many companies feel driven to transition to the latest, most high-tech solutions with advanced metrics and comprehensive dashboards, leading to the abandonment of traditional channels. That’s a mistake.

Digital advertising might be taking over, but traditional advertising is still a valuable part of any marketing strategy.

In the modern world, however, traditional advertising is primarily viable as a supplement to your digital marketing portfolio. The final purchase will almost certainly be made online, so consider your traditional ads to be merely another pipeline delivering people to your website, where they can find the information that they need to finally make a purchase decision.

In order to fully realize the potential of both traditional and digital channels and strategies, you need an integrated approach that integrates new channels with traditional assets. Every company’s strategy will be different, but the following are a few examples of traditional channels optimized to coexist with digital data.

Use Intent Data to Direct Cold Calling

Cold calling is an inefficient strategy on its own — it requires one paid employee to make each call, seriously limiting the scope and volume of calls you can make and rendering any unsuccessful call a waste of time.

When cold calling is combined with the intent data you’ve gathered from your other channels, however, it can instantly become a more personable form of communication. Marketers can use intent data to identify which prospects are looking for a particular solution, what other solutions they’re likely to be considering, how ready they are to buy, and what their specific needs are. Equipped with this information, marketers can generate specific lists of the people that will be most receptive to a phone call, saving time and increasing ROI.

Integrate Geotargeting with Traditional Content

We mentioned earlier that the geotargeting of traditional media is rudimentary at best, but it can be significantly enhanced by integrating the geographic data gleaned from your digital channels. Using location data from your website visitors and social media followers, you can isolate the physical locations where your customers and prospective customers spend the most time.

Once you have the location data you need, combine it with the demographic information in your buyer personas. Depending on who your target audience is, you might determine that they’re more likely to be listening to sports radio than pop music, and you can place ads on the right radio stations accordingly. Even though your traditional ads themselves don’t generate much useful data on engagement or returns, you can at least ensure that the placement of those ads is optimized to the best of your ability.

Augment Lead Nurturing with Direct Mail

According to Mailchimp’s email marketing benchmarks, the average email open rate for all industries is 21.33 percent. By contrast, Postalytics reports that 80 to 90 percent of direct mail is opened, resulting in a 37 percent higher response rate than that of email.

Lead nurturing is an integral component of conversion rate optimization, and most lead nurturing strategies involve a personal follow-up to prospective customers. Most companies choose to send this follow-up via email, but the sheer volume of online communication, from email to social media to project management and chat apps, is overwhelming.

To hedge against the chances that your email is lost in the shuffle, augment your lead nurturing messages with direct mailings to your prospective customers. Use premium collateral with carefully designed messaging and visuals, not just a form letter on printer paper. The goal is to stand out with a physical letter, a postcard, or even a small gift to thank the person for considering your offer and agreeing to an appointment. The additional personalization afforded by direct mail can help you build trust and speak directly to your prospect’s needs, helping move them down the funnel.


Chapter Six

Integrating Traditional and Digital Advertising

During the planning phase of an integrated marketing campaign, you’ll need to conduct extensive research into your audience’s habits, including online habits, purchasing habits, problems and opportunities, and where they’re most reachable. That data will inform which channels you use to advertise, both in the traditional and digital spaces.

While we’ve mentioned a few techniques for using this data to bring your channels and campaigns together, it’s also important to think big picture — how to make sure that all of your marketing strategies are married together to create one cohesive campaign.

Why Your Marketing Should Be Integrated

Last-click attribution is all but obsolete.

Your website data can tell you that someone arrived at your website from an ad they clicked on Facebook, browsed a few blog posts and the pricing page, and then made a purchase, but that doesn’t mean that Facebook is solely responsible for driving that sale. The same user might have seen a billboard or an ad on TV that bumped your product to the top of their mind such that when they saw the Facebook ad, they felt more compelled to click on it. They may have received an email about your product months ago. They might have heard peers or colleagues talking about it on Twitter. With so many channels in play, it’s nearly impossible for you to learn every point of contact your brand has had with a customer between the awareness and purchase stages.

Since knowing which channels your customers will see is so difficult, your goal should be to ensure that your customers have the same experience and impression of your brand, no matter where they encounter it. To achieve that consistency, you’ll focus on:

a bar chart showing the gap in television media consumption between older and younger consumers; there is a steep decline from older to younger viewers in terms of television screen time


  • Consistent messaging: whether you’re advertising a new product, differentiating yourself from a competitor, expanding to a new target market, or simply trying to raise awareness, your points of emphasis, voice, and tone should be the same in every piece of marketing material.
  • Consistent branding: in addition to the verbal component of your messaging, your visuals need to be unified across all channels. The images you choose, graphics you design, brand colors, fonts, and styles should create a unified visual identity across all platforms.

Integrated marketing can generate consistent cost savings. With consistent visual and tonal styles, you can recycle content, using the same video clips and imagery on social media, in emails, in OOH ads, and on TV. With minor tweaking, you can extend the reach and lifespan of every piece of high-quality content.

Measuring the Success of Traditional Advertising

Measuring the effectiveness of traditional channels is difficult at best. In days past, marketers would run a TV ad and wait for a spike in sales. They might be able to focus on the specific product mentioned in the TV spot or the locations in which the ad ran, but otherwise, a loose correlation was the best they could hope for.

Today, tools for tracking the success of traditional advertising have improved, but are still not comparable to the sophistication of digital ad tracking. In most cases, you won’t be able to determine who saw an ad, whether they noticed it or skipped past it, or whether they went on to act on the ad they saw. To bridge that gap, there are a few strategies you can use to determine whether your traditional ads are making a difference:

  • Referral questions: ask your customers how they first learned about your business and which touchpoints inspired them to make a purchase. Not every customer will tell you (or even remember) every encounter with an ad, but it will give you some impression as to which channels are making a difference.
  • Brand surveys: if you don’t want to ask customers during the onboarding process, circle back and ask them during a later survey whether they’ve noticed a particular ad. To gain more responses, incentivize them to answer the survey with a discount code or giveaway.
  • Unique campaign identifiers: attach a unique coupon code, URL, phone number, or email address to each channel of your advertising campaign. When customers use those communication methods, you’ll know that traffic came from one of your traditional channels.
  • QR codes: attach QR codes to print and OOH ads. By creating a unique code for each magazine and each location where an OOH ad is placed, you can gain extremely granular data as to which placements are making an impression. Keep in mind that not everyone uses QR codes, so make sure to add a URL or other CTA as well.
  • Social mentions: if you run an ad during a particular event, such as a TV spot during a football game, monitor social media during that time for mentions of your brand name or the ad itself. Adding a hashtag to the campaign is an easy way to make those mentions more trackable. Pay attention to tone as well as volume — Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad got plenty of attention on social media, but not in the way that Pepsi wanted.

The best way to measure the effectiveness of traditional media is by using it to drive attention to your digital channels and website. If you add traditional ad spend to your marketing budget and leave your digital channels unchanged, you can safely attribute any spike in activity to the extra attention garnered by your traditional channels.



The Bottom Line

Digital marketing in all its myriad forms has come to dominate the marketing landscape, accounting for more than 60 percent of all marketing spend in 2020. But companies that abandon older forms of advertising in order to put their entire budget into digital channels do so at their peril.

While the online landscape has changed drastically in the last 20 years, consumers tend to be stubborn in the way they behave. They still watch TV, notice billboards, listen to the radio on the way to work, and will thumb through a glossy magazine when they see one. By taking advantage of more traditional forms of media and intelligently linking them with more sophisticated digital strategies, modern companies can create a marketing campaign and brand presence with improved reach, resonance, and effectiveness.


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