It is well documented that digital advertising budgets are rising and traditional media spending is declining.

What is less clear is where this mix will level off. Will traditional have a long-term role and if so, what will it be?

Let’s start with a couple of observations to set the table:

  1. The euphoria surrounding digital marketing is justified. Almost four billion people are online today – or nearly a billion more users than just three years ago.
  2. The lines defining traditional and digital are getting blurred. For example, is it traditional or digital when we watch TV on Hulu, read newspapers on an iPad or listen to the radio on a phone?
  3. As media planners, we still use the “traditional and digital” terminology, in large part because the market still talks in this lexicon. But the reality is that we have moved on to thinking about channels in terms of the strategies and messaging we are planning. So what we typically refer to as “traditional” might be better defined as those channels that deliver one-way communication, e.g., radio, billboard, TV and print. And what we typically refer to as “digital” might be considered to be channels that encourage two-way conversations and invite engagement.

The Best Partnerships Yield the Best Results

If you fail to think about media in a new way and understand how the various mediums in this new mix work together, then you risk not achieving the full potential of your audience reach. Careful consideration and the successful mixing of campaign channels is essential. Each channel offers its own unique benefit to achieve the type of engagement you are seeking.

The effectiveness of the media mix – the partnership of traditional with digital – depends on multiple factors. Each campaign should be treated differently, but the factors below should always play an important role in determining the channels deployed:

  • Audience demographic
  • Product or service
  • Geographic location of your target
  • Niche markets
  • Campaign budget
  • Type of campaign (brand awareness or call to action)
  • Campaign goals
  • Type of conversion desired

The Important Role of Traditional Media

Brands and consumer perceptions are established over a period of time, so the purchase decision requires focused messages for all levels of the buying process. When entering the sales funnel, many customers may not be in a position to make a decision or even be ready for a two-way conversation.

With their widespread distribution and extensive impressions, traditional channels are well served to deliver these invitations to first meet the brand. Only after this awareness has been made comes the time to pair traditional marketing efforts with a more two-way conversation approach to help guide the customer to a decision and ultimately an action.

The Untraditional Growth of Traditional Media

Advancements in technology now make it easier to consume traditional channels – television, newspaper, radio and magazine – in more ways than ever before. Today, 50 percent of homes in the United States have Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) programming (Netflix, Hulu Plus and/or Amazon Prime) – the same as the number of people with recording capabilities – making access to TV programming easier than ever before. These new advancements have also added the ability for two-way conversations to what was previously known as a one-way channel.

The Proof is in the Numbers

With a growing number of ways to now consume traditional media, it is no wonder the consumption times continue to rise.  And with the vast quantity of traditional channels available, the sheer number of engagement per channel is hard to ignore.

A 2016 study found that Americans spend a daily average of 245 minutes watching television, more than the time spent on mobile (186 minutes) or laptops/desktops (131).

Audio streaming is also on the rise, having seen the largest upward trend among all channels with a 97.4 percent increase over the past year. Millennials are listening in big numbers: 54 percent to Pandora, 23 percent to Spotify and 20 percent to iTunes Radio.

According to Nielsen rankings by channel, AM/FM radio garners the largest audience per month with 240 million listeners, just ahead of TV’s 226 million viewers, in terms of one-way conversations.

Even though radio has the largest audience per month, TV wins in time spent per month.

  • TV viewers watch an average of 6 out of 7 days per week.
  • Teens and adults ages 18-34 watch the least amount of TV, but still average about 21 hours per week.
  • Adults 50+ win the most TV watched per week with a total of 47 hours.

In terms of reach, radio leads all other platforms, with 93 percent of adult consumers tuning in. Two-thirds of traditional radio listening occurs away from home, largely in automobiles.

  • 95 percent of adults age 35-49 listen to radio on a weekly basis, making them the largest reachable audience.
  • Radio also reaches 92 percent of 18-34 year olds per week – compared to 77 percent reached per week through TV – clearly debunking the misconception that only older adults are listening to radio.

While TV and radio remain effective mediums to reach all age groups, print has evolved into a medium more applicable to niche markets. According to Nielsen Scarborough’s 2015 Newspaper Penetration Report, approximately 52 percent of adults 65+ read at least one newspaper per week, compared to 17 percent of 18-34 year olds. Among their challenges, newspapers are not gaining inroads online like TV and radio.

The Beauty of Success

The bottom line is that campaigns need to be versatile and adaptable. Dove, a well-known brand owned by Unilver, certainly found the right mix of traditional and digital with their “Real Beauty” campaign. The campaign successfully combined billboard, print, TV, YouTube and social media to direct 1.5 million visitors to the Campaign for Beauty website, increase sales by $2.5 billion and claim the third most all-time shared video on YouTube (3.74 million shares).

The right mix allows for exposure across various channels, communication with customers and the opportunity to reach your current and potential consumers no matter where they are.

That’s real beauty.