I’m still surprised to see so much commentary around digital vs traditional media. It’s a redundant argument people – all channels have a place and the extent of that place and the budget allocated to it is determined by our marketing and business objectives and the ROI on those. Surely in this day and age even the smartest professors get this! So I thought I’d re-post my article from back in March. Happy to engage in some lively debate. Happy reading!

Why is the Traditional vs Digital Media Debate Even Happening?

Our industry appears to be caught in a strange debate around the virtues of traditional versus digital media. And I am constantly surprised to see the virtues of one espoused to the detriment of the other.

The debate we should be engaging in is what is the right channel mix to deliver on our clients’ business objectives. And the answer will differ significantly for each client and industry depending upon those objectives.

Driving this debate are the many new, emerging channels fighting for their slice of the pie and not always comparing apples with apples. It’s a given that emerging media will challenge traditional media channels as they endeavour to carve off some share of spend for their medium. Traditional media is copping it from all angles while the shiny new toys of emerging media strut their innovative wares – with many successfully driving great new ways to engage consumers in this “always on”, ever complex media landscape – but often not with the massive reach marketers are hoping for.

While advertising expenditure in digital media channels continues to grow, so to do the claims that traditional media is dead. But I can’t help thinking that this is a redundant debate.

The media landscape has fragmented and evolved enormously. Traditional media channels are becoming digitised (TV, out-of-home, radio, print) and consumers are spending vast amounts of time online, on mobile and social media. Digital and social media are starting to use the traditional media metrics of reach, frequency and even TARPS. At the same time many traditional media players have invested in strong digital offerings and technology to facilitate the automated buying of their inventory.

So what then is digital if most of the so-called traditional channels have digital environments in which audiences connect, engage and consume their content? As the lines between traditional and digital media continue to blur we have to question if these labels are even relevant any more.

And then we have to consider how the digitisation of traditional media channels will play out for marketers who are demanding more transparency of their media buys – in particular the murky world of digital media bought programmatically.

The challenge for all parties is that in a programmatic environment you don’t know what you are buying up front. You program the buying parameters around the audience you want to reach, their attitudes, past behaviours, interests, demographics, likelihood to purchase and so on. Then the inventory made available by the publishers, that most cost efficiently meets the buying parameters, calls up your ad. You don’t have the ability to see a list of the websites it appears on prior to the campaign going live. This is a challenge for the many marketers who like to see and approve TV spot lists to ensure that their ads are appearing in suitable environments. It will certainly be interesting to monitor the take-up of programmatic TV buying in the future.

In any case we have to understand our target market’s media consumption, and ask ourselves what they are there for; what messages are welcome and will cut through and drive engagement; and in some more intimate environments are we likely to annoy them (if the message is not adding value) and potentially have a more harmful effect on the brand?

The rules of marketing have not changed. We still need to identify and understand the brand’s reason for being and how it adds value to consumers. We then need to craft the right messages that communicate that value to the right people, in the right place at the right time.

What has changed is the media landscape. There is no question that it is more complex than ever before. It is the media agency’s job to simplify this for clients; to craft the optimal channel mix; to work with creative and content partners to ensure that the messages are on point and fit for purpose for each channel; and deliver the best customer experience.

Ultimately we need to be very clear on what we are trying to achieve; be that generating brand awareness, improving brand health or driving consideration or purchase. And it is only by intimately knowing and profiling consumers, their media consumption and purchase behaviour, that we can craft the optimal mix of channels to capture their attention, generate interest, stimulate interaction and engagement, drive purchase / usage and facilitate social sharing. This is and should be our primary responsibility and focus, regardless of the channel.

I think it’s fair to say that the pendulum has swung too far away from the so-called traditional media channels. There is no question that TV is still the fastest and most effective way to build reach quickly. It no longer commands 80% of the budget, but for big brands wanting to build brand equity and drive sales outside of heavy discounting, it still plays a vital role. And let’s face it, it’s hard enough to communicate brand value in 30 seconds, let alone in 1 to 2 seconds without sound. There are many channels that make up the optimal media mix for advertisers. The challenge is getting the message and the execution fit for purpose. And with so many channels available this can be a costly exercise for marketers.

To address this challenge with many of our clients, Zenith uses its ‘CX Suite’ – a proprietary set of tools, data, analytics and processes that allow us to map the current consumer journey and to craft an optimal CX journey to convert consumers into customers. CX Suite allows us to connect and measure the performance and impact of communications through each channel in driving core brand metrics such as brand awareness, consideration, purchase intent, preference, choice and advocacy / NPS.

The research integrated into CX Suite allows us to identify our clients’ real challenges in their competitive set and to establish key objectives for media and specific channels to drive results in the areas of greatest opportunity or weakness. By setting clear objectives and roles for each channel upfront and being able to directly measure the impact each channel is having on driving desired brand performance, we help our clients to understand and demonstrate the ROI on their advertising spend. 

As a marketer, I was constantly challenged by the board to demonstrate the ROI on what was deemed the company’s “biggest discretionary spend”. So when I was approached a couple of years ago to lead the Melbourne office of Zenith I jumped at the opportunity and set about bringing together the right people to develop and connect a suite of tools and processes that marketers can really rely on to deliver evidence of ROI on their marketing spend; and it’s great to really see it come to life now and truly add value for our clients. 

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