In the Rush to Digital, Leave Room for the Millions Who Still Like TV and Print

It's Trendy to Go All-New Media, but We Need a Mix of Strategies to Assure Growing Brand Awareness

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In an era when much of the media mix is going online, what is the best way to build brand awareness? I bring this up is because so many clients have been shifting all, or most, of their media dollars online -- even those in consumer packaged goods. And I believe it is a mistake.

First, allow me to give you some context:

1. I'm a huge advocate of digital marketing, having created one of the nation's first digital marketing agencies in 1999, Fingerprint Interactive (since merged into Brownstein Group).

2. 78% of our work is digital, and nearly 100% of our campaigns have a digital component.

3. Our agency does not buy media; we work with partners who do.

With that out of the way, I must say that I was floored when a client revealed to me last week that his brand manager, who oversees several leading national CPG brands, had shifted all their advertising dollars online. "All?" I blurted. "So you're assuming that all of those who buy your product in the supermarket get all of their consumer information online? They no longer read magazines, watch television or listen to the radio?" C'mon.

More and more ad dollars are moving from traditional media to digital, and that makes perfect sense. But there is an irrational shift to go all-digital. Just because it's the trendy thing to do, does it necessarily work?

According to Felix Salmon of Reuters, "It's a known fact in advertising circles that only idiots click on ads -- and yet advertisers still think that click-through rates mean something, and that a higher click-through rate means a better ad. It's the measurement fallacy: People tend to think that what they can measure is what they want, just because they can measure it. And it's endemic in the online advertising industry."

All I have to do is look around me to see people's media-consuming habits. My wife and kids watch TV every night -- often with a mobile or tablet device on their laps. My employees, their families and my friends consume media in similar ways. I've spoken to many others in various age categories about their routines and hear similar answers. My study may not be highly scientific, but it does confirm that people of all ages and income brackets still watch, read and listen to a variety of media.

A senior-level marketing executive at Microsoft commented to me, "There's no magic formula that you move your marketing dollars from one bucket to another [online] and suddenly it will work. In fact, pre-roll video is now the most effective form of digital advertising, which is essentially TV -- just without the high viewership."

Why would a marketing manager risk missing so many consumers by going exclusively online? It is the result of a few factors: pressure to be modern in the media plan/buy; wrong assumptions that people have stopped watching TV, reading magazines, looking at outdoor ads and listening to radio, and the belief (wrong, in my opinion), that brand awareness can be achieved with equal effectiveness online.

While there are a few hundred TV channels, most people only watch a handful. Conversely, there are millions of Internet sites to visit. Most people visit dozens and don't stay very long. I have yet to see a more effective medium than TV for telling a story and introducing a new product or brand.

I'm advocating for a more rational media mix. Online ads, SEO and SEM, should absolutely play a key role in many brands' media plans. But not exclusively.

Marc Brownstein is president of The Brownstein Group, Philadelphia.
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