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Digital Marketers: Don’t Ditch Traditional Just Yet

Digital Marketers: Don’t Ditch Traditional Just Yet

It’s no easy task being a digital marketer today. We’re supposed to be incessant disruptors, dedicated to changing the world by breaking conventional rules and finding new opportunities to turn the status quo on its head with little regard for established norms or pre-existing rules of the game. So I can only imagine your surprise when I tell you what the next big shake-up will be. Quite simply, digital marketers are opening up to the fact that what works and is good for business is not always the most cutting edge technology. Sometimes, the right step forward is pulling from the past.

This year, get ready to see integrated campaigns which leverage the combined power of digital and traditional marketing tools from innovative brands. We’ve already seen a surprising number of traditional media campaigns from innovative brands this past year. Take for instance Airbnb’s “Mankind,” a heartstring-tugging ad campaign about human kindness centered around a 60 second TV spot. And even the king of the disruptors, Uber, took its fight with New York’s city hall to the airwaves on TV and radio.

As we enter the new year, here are three predictions of what to expect from digital marketers who are taking a cue from the traditional playbook:

A Steady Drumbeat of Traditional Ads

It’s hard for cutting edge shops to deny the basic fact that traditional advertising still does several important jobs well. It’s easy to buy, it’s easy to get massive reach quickly, and it is an efficient way to generate basic awareness.

For many fast-growing digital brands, the real race is to hit economies of scale faster and traditional advertising – TV, radio, outdoor – can provide a straight line to this goal, almost literally creating awareness and brand preference over a weekend. It can also be more cost efficient than digital efforts.

TV is especially relevant, as revealed in a recent study by MarketShare which noted that when compared to other media outlets, TV has the highest relative efficiency in achieving KPIs at similar spending levels.

Traditional tactics are also a surefire way for new-to-market brands to gain legitimacy in the mind of consumers and rally press when they don’t have the clout to try something that has high potential to fail. Even Snapchat, known for shaking up the social space, married its high-tech capabilities with a more traditional Times Square video billboard for their New Years Eve campaign that showcased user photos from around the world.

Traditional with an Unexpected Twist

Innovative brands looking toward traditional will utilize these tools in unpredicted ways to surprise their audiences as well as break through the clutter of the space to be noteworthy. They are betting that this strange juxtaposition will drive conversation amongst consumers.

OOH is one traditional medium that digital brands have successfully leveraged to shake up their marketing efforts. PricewaterhouseCoopers released a study last year that puts global OOH advertising revenue growth at 4.6% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) which to reach $45.37bn by 2019. This might be surprising if you haven’t seen the revolutionary ways this medium is being used.

For example, R/GA and the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” campaign used motion tracking technology to transform a traditional OOH billboard into an X-ray machine that creatively showed how love and friendship is experienced by all, no matter what race, religion, sex we are. And last year e-tailer Jet announced their launch via a slew of outdoor ads, from taxi toppers to billboards.

By pushing brands into the physical world, digital companies are looking to drive awareness, increase consideration and open themselves to an audience who they may not be able to reach otherwise.

Culture Shaping

Today, brands must fight even harder to win over the hearts and minds of consumers. One way they can gain relevance and staying power is not by reacting and adapting to new cultural standards, but leading by shaping culture themselves.

By pursuing massive traditional campaigns, digital brands insert themselves into the wider cultural conversation and force consumers who are accustomed to interacting with them in the digital space to view them in a new light. Airbnb is already doing this through provocative TV campaigns aspiring to change the way we view travel and view humanity as a whole. Jet is using a traditional/digital strategy to supplant Amazon. As the brand utilizes traditional billboards ads to inflate their brand image, attempting to create parity with Amazon in the cultural conversation around online shopping. For younger digital companies, it is extremely important to create a conversation and buzz around the brand as it snowballs in growth.

Ultimately, the best marketers will continue to help their companies grow by pushing for innovation and transformation in the way they connect with consumers, regardless of whether it is through traditional or digital mediums. And true pioneers will go one step further to combine both marketing strategies to build a more powerful, resonant brand message that resonates across all consumer demographics.

“Digital Marketers: Don’t Ditch Traditional Just Yet” originally appeared on

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