Traditional or digital media? Is that the right question?

This week’s post is based on Mark Ritson’s confronting, thought-provoking Mumbrella’s video “Beyond Digital Marketing” where in a nutshell with shocking statistics he challenges the idea of focusing marketing communication efforts on digital and social media. He shows that brands’ followers on social media channels are not more than 1 to 8% of the brands’ existent customer base and that the number of those followers who actively engage with the brand is even smaller. He argues that traditional media is still the most effective channel to reach consumers, and the whole digital marketing phenomenon is a “tsunami of bullshit” that marketers are getting into as a consequence of social media being incorrectly sold as the only way to survive in today’s business environment.

To begin with, I have to say that I completely agree with him on the fact that a marketing communications strategy should not start by focusing on which digital channels should be chosen but on what communications strategy will work best. I cannot conceive a business that instead of assessing the different communication channels available and selecting the best one/s to achieve the communications objectives, gets straight into digital without considering first its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, not every company needs to be on social media. If social media works for some businesses, it does not necessarily mean that it will work for everyone. Many factors need to be considered first such as the nature of the business, the audience that wants to be targeted, the business objectives, and the budget.

Secondly, it cannot be truer that marketers cannot be proper marketers if they only know about digital marketing. Mark Ritson pointed out an important argument for marketing students or recent graduates who are trying to develop a career in that field. As marketers, we should understand the whole picture and digital marketing is just one piece of the picture. Hence, I could not believe when I heard Mark Ritson saying that there are companies that have their marketing departments split into digital and marketing. It is worrying as these functions should not be treated as silos, but as a whole in order to have a real integrated marketing department.

However, I disagree with Mark Ritson in the way he presents traditional media as the panacea and social media as a useless marketing channel. He is doing himself the same thing as the “rubbish editorial” he is criticising. It is not true that traditional marketing is completely dead nor that social media is a channel only for people to socialise so brands should not participate. Reflecting on the latter, I do not think either that people sit down to watch TV because they want to watch advertisements!! So applying his logic, brands should not participate in TV channels either because they are not invited.

I think the point here is not to discuss if traditional media is better than digital or vice versa. What matters is to see what works best for the particular type of business and the communications objectives that want to be achieved. For instance, digital channels are a great opportunity for small businesses that do not have the budget to convey their communication messages through TV or radio. Likewise, big companies like Lenovo have found that social media has been a great channel to engage with and provide more value to consumers. On the other hand, companies like General Motors stopped their advertising on Facebook because it was not working for them.

So, traditional or digital media? The answer is either or both. Actually, a better question would be, what communication channels would work best based on my business and communications strategy and objectives? Every channel has its strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, many successful campaigns have used traditional and digital media for a more integrated marketing campaign. For example, “The best job in the world” campaign aimed at promoting Australia – and especially Queensland – as a potential tourist spot, used print advertisements and digital media as the main channels for the campaign. Another example is the Commonwealth’s bank “Can” campaign, which started off online and then moved to TV and outdoor ads such as billboards.

In the end what matters is where your target audience is and that you communicate your message through the most effective channel/s. Thus, traditional media is not dead, but neither is digital and social media. What do you guys think?


9 thoughts on “Traditional or digital media? Is that the right question?

  1. Hey Catalina!

    Firstly, I really enjoyed your blog post this week and I must say this week was one of the most discussed and exciting.

    I agree with a lot of the comments you made, especially that not every company needs to be on social media and it will not necessarily work for everyone. However, I was a little disappointed with some of Ritson’s views because he came across as a little conservative towards social media and does not really acknowledge its full strength as a vital source for some companies…

    Yes he may have said it may work for smaller enterprises but he should acknowledge that these smaller companies survive on social media at the start because operating traditional advertising is way too expensive for them. To say that it is a “tsunami of bullshit” is just not entirely true in my opinion because there are ACTUAL results in it working and this is many of these smaller companies CORE marketing strategy. So therefore I agree with you that digital channels are a great opportunity for small businesses that do not have the budget to put their communication messages on TV or radio.

    I think yes that Digital marketing should be a tool to the overall strategy and bigger picture… but I just wonder if companies such as General Motors have really understood how they can benefit from the use of social media marketing? Maybe they tried using traditional advertising methods through a social media platform instead of understanding what social networking is all about. We don’t want advertisements and brands on our social network… but content worth sharing with our friends and this is where I think larger companies get it wrong. If companies have a personality, lets see it on social media!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Matthew, it is true what you say about consumers wanting content worth sharing rather than brands advertisements. I personally believe many companies do not understand yet how to leverage the power of social media and see it merely as another channel for ads or selling. Hence, they fail. I personally don’t believe social media ads perform well as a selling tool… they might perform better in raising awareness. Either way, there are other ways in which social media could be used more productively and engage more with customers. So yes, I don’t completely agree with Ritson in some points as I find his arguments biased. I don’t think social media should be ignored completely as a marketing tool.


  2. Hi Catalina, these are some interesting points that you have brought up in your blog post!
    I’m agree with you that brands should not think about which media is better than the other (traditional or digital), but they should think which media will be suitable for their businesses instead. Totally agree that there are some factors to consider when you choosing the advertising platforms, such as nature of business, objective, budgets, etc. However, I would say that digital advertising does have more advantage over traditional advertising. Not only small enterprises will benefit from it, start-ups and some medium or even large brands could also find it useful if they know how to utilize it properly. It is true that traditional advertising might have a large number in terms of statistic, but that doesn’t mean there are no bias or errors involved. Like what you have mentioned in the post, there is no guarantee that when people are watching TV, they are also watching the advertisements (could be only watching Netflix). Yes, people also do the same thing on social media by ignoring them or even shut them down on Youtube, for instance. But, one thing to consider here is the other things brand could do on social media other than advertising, such as a good and engaging brand community, a funny and interesting marketing campaign videos that go viral, public figure endorsements, etc. All in all, it may or may not work as direct advertising, but there is always a hidden message or advertising behind every things they do that could lead to higher brand awareness. Furthermore, honestly i would say most of the people who prefer traditional advertising are those from older generations (Gen X) because they are more comfortable with it. But, for both Gen Y and Z, we are more exposed to internet and digital world thus i don’t think we will see traditional advertising that much in the future. But, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there is no need for traditional advertising or traditional advertising is dead. Both are still important in marketing strategy. it’s just that brands should consider more on digital advertising nowadays seeing the benefits they can get from it. On the side note, I was wondering too why some brands, like General Motor failed in social media. Maybe they focus too much on digital advertising to the point that they are ignoring traditional advertising. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Vivian. Thanks for your comments. I guess advantages of digital media over traditional media are many including that you can target and tailor better your communication messages to your intended audience, and now with mobile devices, there is the opportunity for real-time marketing. However, traditional media has advantages over digital media as well, such as wider reach for instance. I also believe it is much easier to avoid advertisements on digital channels than on TV or radio. Anyway, it is a fact that younger generations are watching less TV or listening less to radio, but as Ritson’s statistics show, in 10 years TV will still dominate the video format.


  3. Hi Catalina, I like your post this week, which is very interesting and discussed topic in marketing.
    I agree that you said the tradition and digital or social media, which have its strengths and weakness, they all depends on target audiences and the functions and characters of industries and different categorized companies, so they should be used in different ways in order to achieve the marketing effects, capture audiences and customers’ attention, to get influences on the products or services or brand broadcasted, as well as the companies specifications.
    For the traditional media, like magazines and newspapers, it has strengths to maintain the content in the history form the long run, look through the different time of different years and months and weekly, can find the resource and contents according to its published. In addition, if the tradition media can do good marketing strategy and meet readers’ requirements and tastes, so that theses traditional media can have access to target specific segmentation, especially for those audiences who love paper reading. For example, the magazine called ‘Vogue’, which present good messages and content with a good products images and pictures, every moth it will put the classical representative fashionable city chic person, to performed how the current trends and update style, so that attract a majority of audiences who love fashions and popular styles.
    In terms of digital, social media, these new media marketing demand that present and broadcast the products and survives post at first time. They need fast post, just like its name: using digital and social way to press it, such as Facebook, blog, twitter, Instagram etc. This is a reason that these media marketing can meet the consumers’ needs- the sense of social needs according to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Thus, it is an easier way to do marketing, because it’s social or digital media, that platforms have many different backgrounds friends or the preference fans, one the new products they used or the new restaurant they went, it will make audiences fell my friends have already used that products, so it will make customers think that I want to give a try that new products or go to the new restaurant.



  4. Thankyou for writing up this blog post. Mark Ritson totally gave me a whole new outlook about digital marketing

    The talk by Mark Ritson about his takes on social media was really an interesting one and I agree that marketers need to remember that social media alone can’t deliver all a brands KPIs and that it has its place supporting wider integrated marketing plan made up of various digital and traditional marketing channels.

    I totally agree that digital marketing can be really useful for small businesses, basically using social media to connect with consumers on a local level fits more with what Mark says about social media being more for people to communicate with each other, rather than brand communications. For example if I have a café or restaurant in Melbourne, I would totally use Instagram as a platform to reach to customers, since there are many food bloggers that use this media. That way it would help me build a good customer base. On the other hand lets talk about universal studios, as discussed in class we can see how they are being more of an “uninvited brand” on their Facebook page, creeping out on their customers. This is the reason why they need to stick to using more of a traditional marketing method.

    Thanks for sharing ☺Cheers !


  5. Hi Catalina,

    Thank you for your succinct summary about Mark Ritson’s talk and your opinion about his point of view about digital and traditional marketing.
    For me, i find that, in Mark’s presentation, there are new interesting angles about the effect of digital marketing especially the role of social media in a marketing strategy. It is like a wake-up call for some company who always consider social media as the whole marketing strategy to spend money on and forget the other channels. However, i cannot totally agree with Mark because his thinking is too much aggressive and just one side when denying the role of social media. Before creating any marketing strategy, a company need to understand their consumer insight, their consumer target, the nature of their products and sales channels. So that, if they are big company intend to launch a mass product with plenty of marketing budget, they can run a holistic marketing campaign which includes different marketing tools and channels. On the other hand, if they are going to launch a specific products with limited budget, they can utilize the social media or digital marketing target to their core users.
    I do agree with your opinion about Mark’s presentation. It is better to ask which is the effective and suitable channels for this product and target consumer than digital or traditional.



  6. Great read, Catalina!

    This is a particularly interesting topic for myself (being a ‘Digital Marketer’ according to my job title). I think I share most of your views on this topic. Certainly I don’t consider digital marketing as a separate discipline from broader marketing, and that regardless of the focus of your occupation, if you work as any type of marketer, you should have a full understanding of all forms of marketing (and even advertising and communications if possible!). The more you understand about the “big picture” in terms of the marketing/communications mix, the more likely you will be to successfully apply your expertise within your role- in my case a digital specific role.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with your summary. A marketing strategy shouldn’t begin with a selection of mediums; more so it should begin with a knowledge of your target market and how the business can best reach them in a way which will achieve the businesses goals. If that is through digital and social media, then that is the right approach for that business. If it’s through mass media and traditional media, then that is the best approach for them. There is no ‘one size fits all’- and that is awesome for us! As options for marketing grow, so do the marketing opportunities for aspiring marketing professionals.



  7. Hi Catalina,

    I really enjoyed this blog post and I agree with you 100%.
    I definitely think that digital media versus traditional media can both work as effective as each other, depending on the business’s nature, objectives, and the message they want to convey to their consumers.
    As you mentioned, for some companies traditional media is the way to go, but for others it’s only digital media that can help them further expand their business and accomplish their desired objectives.

    However, I also think that traditional media is slowly dying because of the fact of the e-market business rapidly growing in this day and age. I think that one day social media/digital media can definitely take over all businesses whether they like it or not. I strongly believe in this logic/theory because of they way young people are so dependent on digital media and the wonders it can accomplish for a business. People who are 40 plus and who only count of traditional media will also slowly become redundant from their jobs if they don’t have at least some knowledge of how social media works, and how to use it effectively in order to promote certain products and services for the company they work for.

    As I said, I do agree that we still do need traditional media for NOW, but in the future I believe traditional media will completely vanish because of the younger generation being so dependent on digital media.


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