When Should You Use Digital or Traditional Ads?

June 3, 2019
When Should You Use Digital or Traditional Ads?

Most marketers will admit that running any kind of marketing campaign is a bit of a gamble. But what if there was a way to load the deck, and still make adjustments on the fly rather than going all in’ on your first hand? 

That’s the power of digital marketing. 

With people spending more time on their devices than ever before, the ability to reach prospective customers via digital channels is changing the way we advertise. 


What is Digital Marketing?

For the purposes of this article, digital’ marketing refers to social media, search, on-demand music streaming, and similar online-based media buys, while traditional’ marketing refers to AM/​FM radio, broadcast television, billboards, print, and other related media buys. 

We’re excluding direct, private communi­cation including email, direct mail, and text message marketing from the mediums discussed. 

Neither digital nor traditional is good’ or bad,’ but there are some important differences you should note before choosing a direction.


#1 Timeliness and Relevance

One of the biggest benefits of running digital ads relevance and timeliness for a better ad experience. 

Well-aligned ads that do not interrupt a user’s experience will continue to outshine those that cause disruption and irritation. If the ad is relevant, the sale component can be much softer, as the user has been identified as interested and is more likely to buy in the first place. The ad becomes a part of the experience rather than a hindrance. 

Traditional ads are typically generalized and must be placed and repeated more often to be remembered. This makes advertising more difficult when you have a very specific persona you wish to target. 


#2 Better, Real-Time Data

One of the most useful benefits of digital marketing is data tracking. Tracking campaign data will show you exactly where it succeeds or fails when converting leads to customers. This can often answer the main question we have after a campaign flops: Why? Tracking the engagement, conversions, click-throughs, and other pertinent KPIs can give you a black-and-white ROI and tell you which factors are performing or not. 

Traditional media makes it difficult to track metrics and see exactly where a prospect converted in the process. Did it take 10 ad impressions to convert them or just 1

Traditional ads such as billboards or radio can flop for a variety of reasons. An ad is placed and runs for a set period of time. All you can do is track your sales revenue and look for any trend changes. Unless you survey new customers on how they found you, the key piece of the lead acquisition puzzle is missing. This can lead to a false correlation between sales revenue, attributing it to improvements to a campaign that may not have caused it. 

This lack of data makes decision making much more difficult since you have to make assumptions on why the campaign was a success or failure. 


#3 Small Budget Friendly

Digital advertising is friendly to smaller marketing budgets freeing up funding for creative and testing.   

In the past, most small businesses had financial barriers to entry in advertising. Placements were just too expensive. As a general rule of thumb, newer media platforms are less expensive advertising spaces and are a good place to look with a limited budget, assuming your ideal audience is on the platform. 

Social media ads, in particular, have empowered small businesses with limited budgets to participate and get great results. Small businesses can also effectively run national or global campaigns as opposed to only local ones. 

With traditional ad placement requiring a higher minimum threshold of ad spend; national campaigns are out of the question for most smaller businesses and marketing departments.


#4 Easily Reach Younger Generations

People under 30 are constantly on their phones checking social media. Tap into that by serving up relevant ads. Research shows millennials and GenZ check their mobile devices over 20 times per hour. This gives you a window to engage with them any time of day.   

But digital marketing isn’t just for audiences under 40 years old. Studies have shown that 80 percent of business executives in B2B industries research products or services in the evening on a tablet at home (IDG Global). This insight fuels our understanding of prospect behavior and how to reach them effectively at their point of curiosity or pain. 

As a whole, millennials and GenZ don’t consume as much content on traditional channels as their older counterparts. Cable and FM radio consumption have been replaced by popular streaming services Netflix and Spotify. Acknowledging this shift in behavior is essential if you want to put your ad dollars where your target audience hangs out. 


#5 Less Risk by Adjusting on the Fly

With a digital approach, a campaign can have the plug pulled’ before the entire ad budget is spent ineffec­tively. For every campaign we run, we suggest doing a series of mini-tests to measure engagement and overall interest. These tests are critical to avoid blowing the whole ad budget on a message that isn’t working. 

Having goal metrics is key. If a campaign has been given significant time to run and is not delivering, pause it and use the data you have to make adjustments. 

With traditional ad buying, a placement is purchased for a set amount of time and exposure. Again, with a lack of access to accurate, real-time data, campaigns have to run the full course before analysis can happen. This makes decisions on the fly nearly impossible, often times resulting in overspending on ineffective ads that waste money. 


#6 Omnichannel Approach

Using an omnichannel approach is a great way to test the waters online. This allows you to sample and test on various platforms rather than committing to just one. 

This can be done by sampling different placements within an ad network or using different platforms all together. Common ad networks include Google and Facebook, which offer a variety of ways to engage with their users (i.e., newsfeed video, search, marketplace browsing). 

If you are starting to dabble in digital ad placement, you can run similar ads on different platforms and let the market tell you which platforms perform better. Experiment with YouTube pre-roll, Facebook video, Google Search, or Instagram Stories, using the same creative to tell you which placement gives the best ROI

Buying traditional media placements for various platforms opens you up to a slew of issues including attributing sales for a given channel, seeing which placement performs better, and exponen­tially higher cost. 

When you are married to one approach, it limits your ability to pivot if the ad isn’t effective.


Why Marketers Care

As marketers, digital gives you more control over how prospects experience your brand. The ability to manage your budget with ease allows you to experiment with A/​B tests, such as a video vs a graphic or search vs. Facebook ads. 

Digital marketing allows you to reach your audience easier and more efficiently. The sooner you start spending your ad budget with conversions and KPIs in mind, rather than just getting your name out there,’ the sooner your ROI will improve. 


In the End

We market to get results. If you can’t accurately track your campaign data, how can you be sure it is effective or just wasting money? 

Traditional marketing still has its place, especially for local businesses and general awareness. But the world of digital has many benefits that cater to your business’s specific goals. 

With tight budgets and your marketing department’s reputation on the line, strategy is key. 

If you need recommen­dations on the best platforms to leverage for your next digital campaign, drop me an email at ryan@​appliedart.​com.

And don’t forget to sign up for our Ideas & Insight Newsletter!