I have been listening to some recent podcasts suggesting that traditional media is dead. Mitch Joel’s Twist Image Podcast recently hosted the authors of Z.E.R.O, Joseph Jaffe and Maarten Albarda, who advocate for zero paid media as a conversion model.
At the moment most major brands disagree with the strategy because traditional media is still delivering. For example, I noticed a subway car before the holidays filled with transit ads for something called the Art of Shaving. The ads were somewhat cryptic to me because I was not familiar with the brand. Since I teach advertising I decided to go to the site to learn about the brand because I could tell from the quality of the copy and art that it was professional grade. The Art of a Shaving was a Procter & Gamble site selling shaving kits as gifts. The brand also has retail locations.
Clearly P&G thinks there is some value to traditional advertising, but I have two criticisms of the ads. First, I was likely one of very few people who actually took the time to go to the site after having viewed the campaign on the subway. As such, P&G would have benefitted from a more obvious execution, though the ads did deliver a brand identification. Second the target was off. The ads only discussed shaving for men and did not indicate that a woman should check out the site. Women are a great target for buying men’s shaving items as gifts.
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The Art of Shaving did one thing right. They used traditional media to generate interest in the brand and drive potential page views or retail visits. Transit ads are often forgotten in the social media world, but people still commute to work and ads on the subway have a captive audience. With all the clutter in social media and the small likelihood that content will go viral, marketers still need traditional media to drive response. As time goes by and more and more content appears in social media traditional ad executions and multiple impressions will be important to get people to pay attention. The old hierarchy of effects model from the advertising literature that suggests people need 7 exposures to a message before responding still has value as a concept.
The big question with social media is how to get the content into the hands of those who might benefit from it. Can you rely on your followers to do that for you? An established brand with many loyal followers who are active creators and critics might expect people to share a very interesting piece of content. However, sharing content depends on the individual’s motive to appear intelligent to others and provide their friends useful information. Relatively few pieces of marketer generated content meet those criteria.
As such brands have to use traditional media to get some attention where they can control the message. The media planning process is so much more complicated when you have many new outlets, but still must consider the old ones. Welcome to the traditional, online, social media, mobile world. It is only going to become more complicated as mobile grows.