You’ll probably know by now that the recent KFC apology ad was one of the most widely shared of 2018 so far. But while the hilarious apology rightly gained maximum plaudits for a nimble piece of creativity – something else went mostly unsaid. A humble print ad dominated the conversation. And although the ad ran in a couple of papers, it was then amplified into social media and even onto broadcast news. This is a perfect example of how we’re living in an integrated media world – one where digital and traditional media work hand in hand.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it though.

Around the globe, digital experts have consistently downplayed traditional media as “old hat” or even “dead.” Clients too, are often keen to put a digital element into their campaigns for fear of appearing to be lagging behind their competitors. Until now, it’s been tricky to assess just how much the impact of digital correlates with reality. But a new report called “Re-evaluating Media” has finally lifted the lid on exactly that.

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

  • Agencies tend to believe that online video and social media outperform every traditional media type (except TV.) As it turns out, the truth is almost exactly the opposite. With the exception of cinema, 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 brand building campaign, so if you want big impact – traditional media is always likely to be the winner.
  • The focus on digital has made both clients and agencies prioritise efficiency rather than effectiveness. Optimization of your ad spend is important, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of creativity.

What, so digital sucks now?

No, no and no. Digital skills and expertise are a key part of any marketing campaign. 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 particularly good for campaigns aimed at a niche audience.

But like any other medium, digital can’t do everything well. That wouldn’t be so controversial, but no-one on the agency side has admitted this. If agencies are serious about bringing accountability to clients, then there has to be an acceptance that digital has its downsides. Thus far, the evidence suggests that traditional media gives the best bang for your buck if you want to grow or promote a brand. If you need convincing of that, just ask yourself who invests the most in traditional advertising?

This isn’t about saying traditional media is somehow superior to digital. But it is about recognising their relative strengths and weaknesses so you can make a more informed choice.

What are the lessons for marketers and clients?

If anything, my hope is that this report ends the debate about whether digital or traditional media “works best.” As KFC proved, a fully functioning advertising campaign in 2018 is about smart integration.

Your business might do that by going mostly digital. But equally, you might be wise to do plenty of traditional advertising. In all likelihood, you’ll probably do a bit of both. The key here is to stay open to all the possibilities and working out what will get the job done.

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 we have hard data to challenge those claims. More importantly, smart brand owners can go into discussions with their agency with the knowledge that they might oversell a digital solution, instead of an offline media that may be more effective.

This report has proved once and for all, the future of marketing isn’t digital or traditional – it’s both. And that can only be a good thing.

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