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Is traditional advertising losing its grip?

Updated Monday 18th October 2010

Don’t interrupt me, ask my permission before sending a message; is traditional media advertising losing its grip?

Advertising and marketing communications are in transition. In the 1950s hard-nosed ad men sought to sell us the sizzle not the steak but this is no longer the case: the word on the branded high street is that it is more important to achieve a balance between substance and spin with communication messages - if you want to keep your customers.

However, getting the message right is only part of the job, advertisers must also decide on the media that will carry the message. Traditional media  (press, television, outdoor and radio )is losing its grip as it attempts to interrupt our daily lives to deliver advertisers' messages.

New media adopts a different approach: permission-based emails glide into our mailboxes and the web is open all hours for us to dip into at leisure.

Media-savvy advertisers seek to set up dialogues and form long-standing relationships.

A man dressed as a giant E making a 'Me' sign Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Nahuel under CC-BY-NC-SA licence

The shift in advertising spend from traditional to new media is increasing all of the time. Indeed, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau, the first half of 2010 saw UK marketers invest £1,968.6 million, lifting the medium to a record market share of 24.3%.

Nevertheless, shifting your advertising spend to new media will not guarantee success.

In order to become a connected communicator and use new media effectively, advertisers face various challenges.

Firstly, it is essential to understand who is listening, who is online, and to identify what customers are looking for from digital communication messages.

New media metric tools enable advertisers to analyse customer behaviour. Google has turned knowledge of consumers’ wants and desires into a multi-billion dollar business.

Google Adwords uses digital technologies in a revolutionary manner to earn revenue and provide a form of targeted advertising that can pinpoint specific consumer needs on a one-to-one basis. Google AdWords turns the conventional linear communication model on its head.

The traditional mass-market communication model involves sending a single message to many untargeted customers – for example, a television advert in the commercial break of The X Factor could reach over 10 million viewers in a scattergun approach. Google Adwords enables advertisers’ to send many highly targeted messages to one customer.

In other words, online the 1-to-many communication model is converted into a many-to-1 model.

The next challenge is to determine who is interacting with which platform - online, off-line, mobile, interactive television, and to understand migration patterns between each platform.

For example, Seven Brands international and multicultural brand consultancy found internet access in parts of Africa to be less than ten per cent and so use SMS platforms to deliver branding messages to target customers.

The Open University and the BBC work together to produce television programmes and, increasingly, are discovering that some types of programmes can drive traffic directly to OU and BBC websites and then these sites become a tool for providing more interactive content, making links, promoting programmes and creating interest for future events.

This is a rather subtle approach: a soft form of advertising. This type of integration is in early stages but smart marketers understand the importance of getting the right platform, watching the integration between platforms, and providing appropriate content for each platform.

Getting the content right is also a difficult challenge. No longer is it sufficient to set up a web site with a picture of the corporate headquarters, a store finder and a bit of blurb about the company and then fingers crossed, visitors will flock to the site. In these digitally connected times, it is essential to develop integrated campaigns, which use each media to its best advantage.

Marmite, a brand built on nutritional benefits, have a long history of making innovative use of advertising media effectively. The brand has made a smooth transition into 21st century by seamlessly using the web and social media to spread its Marmite fan base.

Finally, the bottom line is advertisers should aim to understand new media and work out how to make the right connections. Today advertising is all about engaging the customers’ interest. Getting it right means being able to join the conversation and reap the benefits of blended communications campaigns. Getting it wrong means customers will bounce right off your site and into the digital ether.

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