Over the past two years, growing amounts of the world’s population are signing up on social networking websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter. After seeing this phenomenon, the majority of marketing and SEO agencies have switched to concentrating their efforts on such websites.
Successful multinational corporations such as Google swear by solely investing their time and money on social media and digital advertising. Where does this leave the traditional methods of advertising?
Do we forget the basics and jump on the inevitable bandwagon of the advertising world?
The answer is yes and no. Social media plays a vital role on how customers discover, research, and share knowledge about products and services. A successful share will go ‘viral,’ and soon enough everyone will be talking about it. Let’s take the recent example of the Kony 2012 campaign. InvisbleChildren used YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to promote their objective. They made a video-documentary with an intense soundtrack and a deep monotone voice. This created an emotional response from a lot of individuals all around the world. This shows the power of social media—a 30 minute video generated such tremendous responses from teenagers across the world; the video had over two million views in the matter of days.
A good billboard advertisement, though, will outpace other forms of awareness such as word-of-mouth and the press. One key element traditional advertising possesses is spreading the message their way. Social media can turn a campaign upside down if it is spread with a negative connotation. A company has little to no control over their message through social media. In its essence, social media is not advertising—it is a mere form of word-of-mouth. Going back to the Kony 2012 example, after a week of positive responses, the filmmaker was arrested for stripping, masturbating, and vandalising cars. Over the next two weeks, the news spread like wildfire—even faster than the video itself. This shows how bitter sweet the social media world can be.
What impact do traditional advertising mediums have, then?
A study looked at on Forbes.com showed that:
- 72% of billboard viewers frequently or sometimes shop on their way home from work
- 68% frequently or sometimes make their shopping decisions while in the car
- 38% make the decision to stop at the store while on their way home
- 24% say they were motivated to visit a particular store that day because of an outdoor ad message
- 32% visited the retailer they saw on a billboard later that week
- 50% reported receiving directional information from a billboard
- 24% said they have immediately visited a business because of an outdoor ad message
What do all these numbers mean?
The objectives for each advert change depending on the campaign itself. Some may simply be an effort to raise awareness while some may be an attempt to directly increase sales. Whatever the case is, a good advertisement will reach a large portion of the target audience. We can conclude from the percentages above that people in their cars see the advertisement, and, to an extent, it drives their purchase decision. But how the billboard is structured makes a big difference. Below is an example of a good and bad billboard.
I hope it is obvious which one is which. The billboard to the left is crowded and the message is not clear. On average, an individual spends 20 hours a week traveling in a car over 200 miles. During this time, there are many opportunities for us to be exposed to different billboards. The Forbes.com study showed that drivers look at nearly every third billboard that passes by. You do not want to be looking at the billboard shown in the left above, but rather the one on the right—the message is clear, interesting, and gives quick contact details. The company name is also outlined for future research; drivers might find it inconvenient to save contact details on the go.
So what should companies do?
I don’t know why marketing agencies feel the need to choose between online and traditional advertising. The ideal marketing campaign will combine the extraordinary potential of social networking and traditional media such that the two complement each other. In fact, a lot of news stories in the media are prompted by ideas on social networking websites to begin with.
Let’s take the Old Spice campaign. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” spread like wildfire through the use of traditional and social media. But we cannot forget the single ad that started it all: a TV commercial. Building upon this, the campaign did another ad and it soon went online into the social networking world. Old Spice started delivering personal video responses to Tweets, YouTube and Facebook comments. Social networking websites were in their early booming stages at that time, and Old Spice capitalized on that.
Another good use of social media is branded social media. This is a good example of high controlled social media advertising. For example, a company can make a Facebook fan page where users will “Like” it. A Communicus study showed the following correlation between brand perception and branded social media.
Again, both methods have their strengths and weaknesses. When the objective is generating large engagement, mainly with those without any pre-existing brand involvement, traditional media will be stronger. On the other hand, building brand affinity and generating trial of new flavors, branded social media may be more useful.
The methods do not have to be restricted to TV. The simple rule is combining both forms of media through a medium that is the latest talking point. In its essence, any aspect of marketing an agency concentrates on should be simple, emotional, and consistent. Advertising agencies should ultimately try to utilize traditional advertising methods to attract a broader audience and communicate brand values. This will then direct consumers to social media sites. From there, a brand should manage social media to reinforce brand affinity and induce new product trial.
Forbes.com study available here.
Print ads with sound picture available here.