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Traditional or Digital Advertising: Where Should You Put Your Marketing Dollars?

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According to a recent report from Forrester, “By 2016, advertisers will spend $77 billion on interactive marketing – as much as they do on television today.” That means in just five short years interactive marketing—including “search marketing, display advertising, email marketing, mobile marketing, and social media”—will be as big of an industry as television marketing is today. This represents a massive shift in marketing mentality from one-way marketing message promotion to interactive marketing communication.

It’s no secret that digital media are becoming serious players in the marketing game. The ubiquitous nature of Internet-connected devices, including computers, smartphones, televisions, e-readers, and more, has made digital marketing communications a lucrative business. But when we step back from our computers and set down our smartphones, we’re still confronted on all sides by traditional medium marketing campaigns. Television, print, and radio advertisements are still the dominant players in the advertising industry. But how much longer will that be the case? Digital media is gaining an incredible amount of traction in the marketing world.

And why not? Making the move to interactive marketing makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. Here are a few that stand out:

Low Cost Barriers
Although social media isn’t free (more on that here), it’s generally far less expensive to market via social networks than through traditional marketing media. The big reason is because of the overhead. When you buy newspaper ad space, there are physical production costs that come into play. When you engage in digital marketing, this physical overhead declines significantly, allowing you to shift resources to other campaigns or other projects within your company.

Get More for Your Money
When you air a television commercial, you have the opportunity to reach as many viewers as are tuned in (literally and mentally) at that given moment. With digital strategies, your marketing collateral is shareable and constantly accessible. With programs like Pandora and Hulu making it easy for us to consume traditional media on our own timetables, television and radio broadcast advertising is becoming a more and more inconvenient way to reach customers. Digital marketing strategies can reach your audiences when they’re most receptive.

Trackability
The bedrock of any good marketing strategy is a concrete way to measure its impact and success. Traditionally, marketers have had to rely on estimated numbers provided by the medium hosts in order to assess an advertisement’s impact. The local newspaper may boast a circulation of 500,000 readers per day, but how did they achieve that number? And how accurately can they predict how many of those potential readers might give your ad some eye time? With a digital strategy, everything is trackable, from the number of impressions a message receives, to the amount of interactivity with that message, to the number of times people click through to your website, to the number of seconds they spend looking at your online product page. You don’t have to rely on third-party estimates; the exact, accurate data are recorded.

Superior Audience Targeting
Companies that provide digital marketing platforms are becoming more and more adept at offering specific audience targeting tools. With a radio advertisement, you broadcast a commercial to every individual in the listening audience; with digital marketing, you can often pinpoint specific audience demographics, breaking your target out by factors like age, geographic location, likes, and dislikes. Your advertisement doesn’t appear to platform users who fall outside of your given parameters, so you’re targeting just the audiences you believe to be most receptive to your message. And if you’re paying per impression, see Get More for Your Money above.

These are just a few reasons why digital media marketing is likely to experience explosive growth in the next few years. It’s already happening; Forrester’s forecasts are really little more than an extrapolation of current trends. The more marketing dollars shift from traditional to interactive digital media, the more I hear people argue about the dichotomy between the two platforms. What should we do? Should we focus on new digital strategies or stick with our tried and true print and broadcast ads? I’m willing to bet you’ve heard some version of this discussion in your office, and it’s really a great question.

As with every other decision in marketing, the answer lies in your target market. If you’re aiming your product at a target audience that regularly reads the newspaper, then of course you should utilize print advertisements. If you’re targeting consumers who are major social media influencers, then you’d be out of your mind to avoid digital strategies. If your market is as likely to turn on the TV as it is to log on to Facebook, you should probably consider a cross-platform strategy.

The question isn’t, “What platform do we use?” The question is, “What platform do our customers use?”

What do you think about the predicted digital marketing explosion? What will be the state of traditional media in five years? Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments below!

 

 

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