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Updated 30 Mar 2020


Traditional versus digital media – Is there room for both?

We live in a digital age but from a marketing perspective, which is better –  traditional or digital marketing? The answer is not as straightforward as many would think. 


Andrew MacKenzie, 18 November 2017  Share  0 comments  Print


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Every marketing strategy has one goal, and that is to resolve a challenge that a brand or business is experiencing. This challenge may be getting customers into your store, building brand awareness, driving sales, launching a new product or service to market etc. 

First, you need to establish what you want to achieve with your marketing and then determine the correct media channels to achieve this. 

The second step is to identify what media your target market consumes and then develop a media plan accordingly. By doing this, you eliminate any media bias and also develop a more focused approach.

Is traditional media a waste of resources? 

In the last five years, there has been a significant drop-off in traditional media spend, but we have to remember that digital media channels only started picking up real traction over the last five years as well. 20 years ago, marketers had no option but to use traditional media channels. 

Related: Social media: It’s ever-changing, but you can stay on top of it

Today our choices are significantly more due to the arrival of very successful digital and social media platforms, notably Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and the introduction of their paid media options, so it makes sense that there will be a certain amount of drop off relating to traditional media spend.

Traditional media channels including magazine print, radio, direct marketing, out of home, newspapers, events and trade shows, and television have all seen a significant decline in spend, some as high as 32%. On the other end of the spectrum, digital platforms are exploding from a media spend perspective, with social network sites leading the race, followed by search engine marketing, and pay-per-click advertising.

Why digital leads the way

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A lot of this is linked to digital media's ability to be far more accurate in target market focus, and the fact that it is cost-effective compared to traditional media. Easy message modification is possible on digital media platforms, and it is extremely measurable and scalable. 

Added benefits of digital platforms include the fact that it can be accessed on a range of devices from desktops to laptops, tablets to smartphones, and an even more enticing possibility, the chance that your post could go viral (for the right reasons of course). 

With everything though, there are risks with digital marketing, particularly on social media, where brands often forget that the consumer owns these platforms as they are free to comment based on their view. Such comments and opinions have ruined many brands, so digital marketing, and in particular social media content strategies, should be carefully thought out.

A bit of both is the answer

Traditional media still has its advantages, particularly when thinking about regionalised or local content that is relevant to the target market. This is particularly evident in regional radio, print and out of home media.

Related: 5 Marketing tips for small businesses

Traditional media also has great reach, in other words, you can reach a lot of people based on circulation figures, which should be readily available from most credible traditional media channels.

Most marketers would agree that there is still room for traditional and digital media as part of an integrated marketing mix, but this should always be determined by who you want to reach. It is true, however, that there is a significant push towards digital media spend globally. I would argue that the cost-effective nature of digital media has a lot to do with this, we are, after all, living in tough economic times, where every rand counts, so make sure you get measurable returns from your media channels, whether they are traditional or digital.


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About the author


Andrew MacKenzie

As the chief cat-herder of a team of creatives, Andrew has to constantly maintain an objective view on creative concepts, always aiming at big ideas that work for clients. He relies on almost two decades of experience, from his junior designer beginnings through to his current speciality – through-the-line advertising. A people person to his core, Andrew’s skill is drawing the best out of the creative teams he oversees. And how well is he doing it? We’ll let the awards speak for themselves, from the pinnacle of local and international awards shows, including wins at the Loeries, Assegais, Clio's, Epicas and Cannes to name a few.

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