Five Lessons Digital can Learn from Traditional

March 19th, 2013

With the array of smart platforms available for branded communication today, it’s very easy to get excited about the reach that can be earned and the intimacy that can be gained through digital advertising. However sometimes core communication practices can be missed when the primary objective is to leverage technology for marketing communications. Here are some lessons on core communication from the traditional advertising world that may have been forgotten online.

1. Quality Execution

Media bookings were expensive for traditional advertising. This meant that production quality was high because a lot was at stake, no-one wanted to waste the expensive media. Whilst digital bookings can be cheaper the reach is the same, so the quality of production should be just as important.


2. Emotional vs. Behavioral Sales

Banner ads use your previous clicks to chase you online and try catch a sale based on your search history. Great print used creativity and beautiful copy to hit an emotional chord with the audience, regardless of their purchase history. Selling a product shouldn’t be about happening to catch someone at the right time, it’s about creating love beyond reason for a brand. You may be able to sell product based on getting the timing right, but you can’t build up a brand based on behavioral sales alone. With the use of the social graph, online ads have a unique opportunity to make stronger emotive connections than before, so imagine the communication power of combining behavioral and emotional tactics.

3. Context

TV ads were booked so that they were shown before certain shows, not only to target a certain demographic but also to leverage the mutual interest in the show and aspects of the product. YouTube pre-rolls often have nothing to do with the clip, creating an annoying disruption. Pre-rolls on news-sites mean that ads are shown to an audience that is often in a tense or anxious emotional state, not good for conversion.

4. Attention Grabbing vs. Disruption

When reading a paper you aren’t forced to look at an ad before reading the article, this meant that ads had to fight for your attention with creativity. Often digital advertising forces you to view an ad before viewing content. Advertising shouldn’t be disruptive it should be engaging and a forced view does not count as engagement.


5. Authentic Spread vs. Begging for Likes

The term ‘shrimp on the barbie’ from the Tourism Australia ad with Paul Hogan was an infectious piece of cultural friction that meant that the advertisement got widespread recognition and views. This was done without a single ‘RT’ ‘Like’ ‘Share’ because it was made in the 80s. Authentic engagement and advocacy will be created through good content, not through attempted exploitation of platforms and social footprints. Pleading for online engagement makes your ad, and by association your brand weak and inauthentic.

If you were to boil it down the key difference between traditional and digital advertising is that traditional had a focus on message, and digital has a focus on medium. One creates ads around a core communication whereas the other focuses on the experience of receiving communication. Given that digital advertising is relatively new, a focus on medium is not surprising, however for genuinely powerful messages, lessons from message-focused advertising should be utilised.


Michael Goldstein is a digital strategist based in NYC. He is also a regular contributor helping out with social media. Find him on twitter and follow him on Slideshare

#0retweets, things I hate about digital advertising from Michael Goldstein

Photo Credits: David OlgivyVW ad and Wild & Free.








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