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Digital Advertising Platforms vs. Traditional Channels: Know When and How to Choose

July 16th, 2019   ||    by Callie Wheeler

The modern marketer knows that a mix of digital advertising platforms and traditional channels in their marketing strategy is no longer innovative or edgy, but is instead industry standard. Even so, “a mix” is a vague notion that leaves room for a variety of customizations based on messaging, industry, audience, and intent, and finding the right balance is crucial for success.

For example, which medium is best suited for branding versus sales conversion? What about B2B advertising versus consumer marketing? All these questions and more have answers—you can know when and how to use the right advertising platforms.

Messaging and Intent

What do you want your ad to accomplish? This question may seem obvious, but it’s a great place to start when determining the right channel.

If your goal is to improve reach and build your brand, there is little doubt: television and other traditional channels are the right choice. Nielsen’s CMO Report 2018 found that over 60 percent of marketers consider TV and radio to be effective channels, with the CMOs surveyed specifically pointing to television for its brand-building capabilities. This tactic is vital to growing their prospect universe and filling the funnel.

Alternatively, if your goal is conversions—say, abandoned cart offers or content downloads—digital advertising platforms are the right choice. Forbes reported Google is the clear winner for digital conversion rates, with Facebook’s rate only a third of the search engine’s.


Another way to look at your channel mix is to consider your audience. Many brands cater to several audiences, whether those be segmented by industry, age, location, or even buyer—B2B versus B2C. Advertising platforms’ effectiveness can vary by these audiences, necessitating specific strategies for each individually.

Branding Strategy Insider illustrated this point with a B2B brand-building example that relies on a mix of both digital and traditional channels. Brand awareness can be achieved via television and out-of-home advertising—ever notice all of those Amazon Web Services ads at airports, or Microsoft and IBM ads on television?—while further progress can be made with social media, earned media, and public relations. These channels target a specific audience knowing their buyer is on the go, busy, and stays informed via television, industry news, and print media.

The Right Tool for the Right Goal

Ultimately, the value found in traditional channels and digital advertising platforms is best seen when selected for the appropriate purpose. Just like you wouldn’t use a butter knife to carve a roast or an electric blade to slice tomatoes, identifying the right tool for the job is key for a great marketing mix. It’s a good reminder not to discount the old standbys, too—there’s a reason major brands continue to invest more in television, radio, and print over digital.

Now all that’s left is to take stock of your own strategy this year. Are you pairing the right messages, audiences, and goals with the proper channel?

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