The Role of Traditional Media in the Digital Age


It used to be the only options for advertising your business were the traditional media platforms: terrestrial radio and television, outdoor (now called “out-of-home”), print (magazines/ newsletters/newspapers), etc. In those times, planning advertising campaigns was as simple as achieving goals in gross rating points for broadcast, daily circulation for outdoor, and number of impressions for print. Since the onset of the digital age, virtually everything in our lives has changed, from how we consume news and information, to how we order food, to how we pay our taxes, and most significantly, how we communicate with each other. It makes great sense to employ media strategy tactics that reach people where they live, on their phones, tablets and computers.


Because of the effects that the rapid rate of change is having on our habits as consumers, many advertisers are tending to allocate all of their media budgets to digital (which includes programmatic buying of banner ads, pre-roll video, social media, and audio platforms such as Pandora). For small companies with minimal advertising budgets ($2,000-$4,000/month), this is an appropriate strategy, as digital can provide the most “bang for your buck,” It allows you to really hone in on your target, as well as provide real data to measure results. The issue is with mid-sized companies who employ a 100% digital media strategy and expect optimal results. This is a grave mistake.


Recent reports have concluded that digital media is far less effective than traditional media when it comes to brand recall. For example, when Bain & Company, a leading marketing consulting firm, did a study of a consumer goods product, they determined that while digital by itself is less expensive, the “recollected reach” (the percentage of total population who recall a message), is the lowest (approximately 30%) when compared with other types of media. They found that television advertising, for instance, is recalled at a significantly higher rate; as much as 60%.


The study also found that purchase intent increases to as much as 80% when consumers are exposed to a brand’s message across multiple channels that include both digital and traditional advertising. The fact is that different media channels provide unique benefits and types of exposure and engagement. This allows your brand to reach the consumer in various aspects of their daily lives, and at times when their purchasing decisions are most likely to be influenced.


In terms of media habits, have you found yourself watching television and engaging with your phone or tablet at the same time? How effective would it be for recall and brand awareness if you saw a commercial and then, a short time later, were served an ad for the same product on your digital device? This achieves the most difficult goal in an environment where we are exposed to millions of messages on a daily basis. Your ad stands out from the clutter and resonates in the minds of your potential customers.


It is this phenomenon that accounts for the fact that the lines between traditional media channels and digital are becoming blurred in the current and emerging media landscape.


Traditional media channels now all offer digital environments in which audiences connect, engage and consume their content. For example, the vast majority of radio and television stations offer advertising opportunities on their websites through banner ads, take-overs, and social media offerings, as well as programmatic buying campaigns outside of their customer base. Out-of-home companies now have capabilities through digital billboards, and online newspaper content is consumed at an astronomically higher level than their print products.


On top of that, there are more and more companies emerging every day providing tracking and reporting services for traditional media, i.e., radio and television. These are universal platforms that track responses to your ads, comparing increases in web traffic to the timing of radio and TV spots in real time. This helps to eliminate wasteful spending and maximize performance of specific creative approaches, radio dayparts, programming, etc.


Of course, there are still the usual considerations when crafting a multi-media approach to your advertising plans. Identifying the target audience, developing a creative strategy that will effectively communicate your products’ value to potential customers, relevant touchpoints, market research and analysis, determining budget, setting goals, etc. are still critical to the success of any advertising campaign.


Once the parameters are determined, what does your multi-media advertising mix look like? One strategy would be to utilize digital campaigns to target specific demographics, buying habits, online behaviors, search criteria, and social media practices to reach selected audiences who have shown an interest in content related to your product. This may be in the form of programmatic buying (utilizing computer algorithms to reach potential customers in real time) of targeted display campaigns, social media feed ads, SEM/SEO, audio platforms, etc. This would be the perfect environment to promote discounts, provide coupons, special offers or whatever makes sense for your company.


To vastly increase the effectiveness of these targeted campaigns, employ a mix of radio, television, and/or other traditional media in order to brand your product, either on a subliminal or conscious basis. This accomplishes two things. 1) It allows you to create name recognition in the minds of consumers so that when they see your digital ads, your messaging will resonate and register in their consciousness. 2) It gives the product being advertised credibility, and the potential customer will be more motivated to make a purchase as they have “heard of you before.”


The bottom line is that it is the media mix that will help you achieve your advertising goals by providing your customers a memorable and cohesive user experience. It really comes down to balance. A successful media strategy is one that combines the best of both traditional and digital media. That is what will help your brand succeed.



Candace Souleles is a media planning and buying professional, serving the San Diego, CA market and beyond for over 20 years. As senior media strategist and president of CNS Communications, Inc., she has helped a large variety of clients achieve success in their advertising endeavors, employing a multitude of media channels and advertising tactics.




You can reach her at 858-735-3501, or online at

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