Is Traditional Advertising Dead? 

I’ve built my career in advertising working as a copywriter and creative director at agencies large and small. At this moment, it spans two centuries, two continents, and more decades than I’d care to admit. So I’ve seen and done some stuff in my time, and I’ve gotta tell you I’ve heard ‘Is traditional advertising dead?’ being asked since the ‘90s.

The answer? No. Traditional advertising isn’t dead. It’s simply been declared dead annually since the Internet first buzzed into life and then went into overdrive growth. The topic always gets attention, so it plays on…and on…and on. 

Sure, audiences are increasingly digitally-driven, but that doesn’t mean traditional advertising media has lost its place in the world. Ignoring traditional tactics and going all-in for digital tactics might make sense for e-commerce businesses, but for most brands and businesses, a combination of the two is often a better choice and produces better results. This is especially true for local advertising and businesses with bricks and mortar locations.

And of course, spending on traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio, broadcast TV, outdoor, direct mail, POS, etc.) has continued to drop as spending in digital media (online advertising, search engines, email, websites, social media, video streaming, mobile, etc.) has risen. That’s because you must go where your audience goes or risk fading into obscurity. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should leave all legacy media forms behind, so let’s look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of traditional media versus digital.

Traditional Advertising vs. Digital Advertising 

The biggest problems plaguing traditional advertising are the expense and inflexibility – think of it as a one-way street. The static message travels only in one direction, hoping to attract the attention of customers and prospects – if they ever see it at all. In contrast, digital is a two-way street, allowing for real-time conversations and communication with customers and prospects, so you’re not talking AT people, but WITH them. 

It’s also far more expensive to advertise through traditional channels. Here, digital advertising offers a distinct advantage since it’s less expensive overall. Since traditional marketing messaging is static, it’s time-consuming and expensive to update. A mistake or change in pricing, an embarrassing typo that slipped past everyone or other misfire can quickly sink your budget. From personal experience with situations like these, I can tell you they’re gut-wrenching, and not even remotely fun for anyone except competitors. With digital, messaging and tactics can be quickly updated whenever necessary, and then gradually fine-tuned to more effectively reach the right consumers and prospects.

Traditional advertising tactics are also broader in their demographic targeting, while digital efforts rely on tight segmentation and customization to drill down and then deliver the right messages to the right consumers and prospects to draw them into the sales cycle and convert. 


Traditional and Digital Advertising: Unleashing a Dynamic Duo

When comparing traditional advertising vs modern advertising, it’s evident that for most brands, campaign strategies and tactics are simply evolving. Today, smart marketers are creating integrated cross-platform strategies that incorporate both digital and traditional tactics. (Pro Tip: mix in a healthy dose of public relations.)

Modern advertising usually sees digital efforts leading the charge online, where audiences research, chat, review, and engage with brands and other customers before buying, and traditional media is used to support the outreach efforts and expand the campaign’s reach offline. Digital also helps build your business’s brand authenticity and credibility with customers in a way that’s more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to achieve with legacy media.

When done well, mixing traditional and digital advertising tactics will result in a bigger bang for your marketing buck, more conversions, plus a healthy stream of new customers and prospects flowing your way. The caveat? If any or all of this is done poorly, you’ll simply be throwing money down a virtual drain while risking damage to your brand and credibility. 

Sure, digital and traditional advertising can be done in house, but it requires some expertise. This is why I recommend consulting with an experienced marketing agency. I know, you’re thinking ‘but that’s too expensive!’ You might be surprised to find that much of the cost of an agency’s services will be offset by media buying efficiencies and digital ROI that’s simply not possible for the average business to generate on their own without the expense of hiring, training, and staffing a full digital marketing department or team. 

With constant changes in regulations, algorithms, and new platforms springing up all the time, keeping up can be a challenge for anyone, even professionals. But in agencies, it’s our job to keep up. After decades in the advertising business, I still learn exciting new things about our industry every day! Our level of insider knowledge and diverse range of skill sets mean agencies can create innovative, tightly-integrated strategies that amplify your brand and business messaging, both online and off. Like any other business, we’re results-driven. We must produce real, measurable results for our clients to win, or we lose the customer. 

That’s why we make a habit of winning. We’d like to do the same for your business. Give us a call for a free consultation, and we’ll show you how we can help you WIN.