Why Traditional Advertising Still Matters

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By Rieva Lesonsky

Online, mobile and other forms of digital advertising are top-of-mind for most marketers these days. But in the rush to digital, are you forgetting a vital part of marketing?

Two recent studies reveal that traditional advertising—including print, TV and radio—still has an important role to play in attracting customers. In fact, it may be more important than digital advertising, in some cases.

That’s because consumers like and trust traditional advertising much more than digital advertising. For example, eight in 10 consumers in a Marketing Sherpa study said they usually trust print advertising (82%) and television advertising (80%) when making a purchasing decision.

Direct mail advertising (76%), radio advertising (71%) and out-of-home advertising (69%) followed closely behind, in terms of trustworthiness. In fact, the top five most trusted advertising formats all are traditional media.

In contrast, online pop-up ads are the most-hated and least-trusted kind of advertising. Just 25% of respondents in the study trust pop-ups and 73% of consumers in a separate HubSpot survey dislike them.

Meanwhile, MarketingSherpa found, consumers engage with traditional ads to a surprising degree. For instance, more than 50% say they often or “always” watch television ads from companies they’re satisfied with. Half also read print ads they get in the mail, and 48% read print ads picked up in-store.Email is the only digital format with similar engagement levels:  Half of survey respondents said they “often” or “always” subscribe to emails from companies they like.

What kinds of ads don’t customers engage with? HubSpot’s survey showed that 57% of those surveyed dislike online pre-roll ads (those that play before a video) and 43% said they don’t watch them. In addition, many consumers block online ads altogether.

Common complaints about online ads: They’re intruive, they make websites load more slowly or they cover the entire website.

Pop-up ads, or ads that require users to click in order to close them, are especially annoying. Some 90% of consumers in the HubSpot survey said they dislike such ads. Mobile phone ads earn disdain as well—seven in 10 HubSpot respondents hate them.

Essentially, consumers dislike online ads that keep them from what they’re trying to do—read an article, browse a website or watch a video. Perhaps traditional ads seem more appealing because they’re also more controllable. Consumers can choose to look at your print ad, flyer or direct-mail piece at a time and place convenient for them.

Of course, digital advertising should be part of your marketing plan—it’s essential these days (not to mention affordable). But how can you take advantage of traditional advertising power, too?

Integrate your online presence into your traditional advertising. Say your website URL multiple times in your radio ad, show it at the bottom of your cable TV or print ad and include it in your direct-mail pieces.

Track the results of your advertising, using codes in print ads and custom URLs in digital ads to see which campaigns get the best results. That way, you can focus more of your budget on the formats that are most effective for you.

Be sure your branding is consistent. Whatever the format—online or offline—your advertising should convey a consistent brand message, using the same colors, fonts, style and taglines throughout.

By advertising both onlin and offline with an integrated—and consistent—approach, you get the best of both worlds. You can boost trust in your business, get customers to spend more time with your ads and improve customer acquisition and sales.


Rieva Lesonsky is the co-founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media and long-time editorial director of Entrepreneur Magazine.