You can’t go far these days without someone telling you about the future of marketing. But is it really all its cracked up to be?

For the answer, you don’t have to go back too far. You might recall that the advertising moment of 2018 came from KFC when the nations biggest chicken retailer ran out of chicken. Their highly amusing apology became one of the most widely shared campaigns of the year. But while it rightly gained maximum plaudits at Cannes, it’s worth pointing out that it also started life as a humble print ad.

In a way this shouldn’t need to be discussed. But in the digitally dominated world we live in, it’s worth reflecting on that fact for a moment. The initial exposure the ad got via freesheet newspapers gave the idea massive exposure, which meant that the ad was picked up and shared across social media. And that should sound the alarm for marketers who have been repeatedly told that digital is the answer to all their marketing prayers

Welcome to the marketing casino

For the last decade, digital-first experts have consistently downplayed any benefits of traditional media. Instead they’ll happily tell you that old media are “inefficient,” “old hat” or even “dead.” Clients too, are often all to keen to double down on digital media to avoid appearing out of touch or to be lagging behind their competitors. But for all the hype, there hasn’t ever been a way to truly assess whether any of this digital spend actually works.

But now that has all changed. Radio Centre have created a report that compares the effectiveness of different media types apples to apples. And more importantly the research also investigated what media agencies think work best vs reality.

Radio Centre

Radio Centre took an interesting approach to their latest report. First they commissioned Ebiquity to do the survey on their behalf. And, crucially, they allowed them to work on the survey in such a way that no-one knew that the study was commissioned by a radio client.

I’d encourage you to read the full report, but here are a handful of the key findings:

  • Agencies believe the effectiveness of online media outperform traditional media in most aread. As it turns out, the truth is almost exactly the opposite. Traditional media actually outperforms all forms of digital media in the overall rankings.
  • Digital media of all kinds score lowest when it comes to generating emotional response. This matters, because emotional response is critical to any company who wants to build their brand.
  • The focus on digital has made both clients and agencies prioritise efficiency rather than effectiveness.

Wait, what so digital sucks now?

No, no and no. But it’s worth remembering that the dawn of the digital era came with grand promises that digital would finally bring accountability and transparency to advertising clients. But clearly digital can’t do everything well and the evidence shows us that they aren’t half as good as we’ve been told.

Again, there’s a high chance that most campaigns should involve a digital component. As this report shows, digital is particularity useful for direct marketing campaigns where reaching an individual at the right time is crucial. It’s also one of the cheapest media buys, and it’s a key tool for targeted ads that are aimed at a niche audience.

But on top of that anything from 50-75% of your spend should be on creative, brand building advertising. The catch is, you’ll be using traditional media to do that because if you want big impact TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising are better places to build your brand. If you need convincing of that, just ask yourself who invests the most in traditional brand building advertising?

What are the lessons for marketers and clients?

At the very least, this report should give business owners and marketers pause for thought. While everyone else argues about whether traditional or digital is “best,” we’re now at a stage where it’s becoming clearer the answer is yes to both. Yes to digital. But yes to traditional too.

That means you do need granular targeting and digital tools. But equally, remember not to discount tools like TV, outdoor, print, magazines and sponsorship. The smart money is on brands who know this and who use each media to best effect. My hope is that we soon realise that the debate about whether digital or traditional media “works best” is pointless. Because as KFC and other brands have proved, a fully functioning campaign in 2018 is about integration.

This report has proved once and for all, the future of marketing isn’t digital or traditional. It’s both.

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