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Traditional Versus Digital Advertising

Digital Advertising Must Work Harder to Please Customers



Looking for a More Efficient Ad Platform?

Photo courtesy of Viktors Kozers. Copyright October 25, 2008 Stock.xchng.

In this increasingly digital world, is traditional advertising still effective? Four or five years ago, consumers reported that they preferred traditional advertising to digital media advertising. Market research showed that one of the main reasons for this preference was that consumers resented the interruptions that seemed standard to digital media advertising.

Advertising that Interrupts Versus Advertising that Interacts

People very often use the Internet to accomplish something. Advertisements that intrude on their Internet sessions are typically not viewed positively. In fact, many Internet users will just close the advertisement without even looking at the content. And if they happen to accidentily click on the advertisement such that it opens, a negative attitude

A collaborative study, called "When Advertising Works," conducted in 2008 by Yankelovich and the media consulting group Sequent Partners revealed strong differences in the attitudes of consumers toward traditional advertising and digital media advertising. More than 4,000 separate ad image impressions were collected and analyzed, along with the situational variables that were associated with the images. From this study, market researchers were able to discern the importance of context to the receptivity of people to advertising.

Internet users were asked in a survey about their impressions of ads:

  • 56 percent of respondents said traditional media ads made a positive impression. 31 percent of respondents said digital ads made a positive impression
  • 13 percent of respondents said traditional media ads made a negative impression.
  • 21 percent of respondents said digital media ads made a negative impression.
  • 32 percent of respondents had neither a negative nor a positive impression of traditional media ads made a negative impression.
  • 48 percent of respondents had neither a negative nor a positive impression of digital media ads made a negative impression.

Traditional media advertising includes magazines, newspapers, billboards, out-of-home (OOH) ads, radio commercials, and movie theater commercials, viewing television, listening to the radio, or reading billboards and out-of-home ads on the sides of buses, etc. The contexts in which people encounter traditional media tend to support distraction.

Digital media advertising includes Internet banner ads, email messages, social media networks, social entertainment media, such as video games, and video-sharing websites like YouTube. Consumers who use digital media may be focused on achieving something online and may be too busy to switch gears. Digital media is geared toward helping people be informed, solve problems, and find entertainment. Since people tend to dislike being interrupted when they are trying to accomplish something online, digital media advertising has to work much harder than traditional media advertising to make a positive impression on people.

One important distinction, at least for early versions of digital media advertising, is that the ads were typically not embedded in the digital media. This is certainly one factor that contributes to people perceiving digital media advertising as intrusive. This problem is rapidly being addressed, however, as an increasingly large number of digital media ads are being embedded in programs and applications. Viewers of online video content, for example, have become accustomed to seeing a video ad appear before their selected video content. Graciously, these ads can be skipped quite easily. Online video content viewers are more likely to give video ads a chance for two reasons: (1) They have already chosen to view a video so the transition from ad to selected content is not stark; and (2) a great many video ads are quite entertaining, creative, and of exceptional quality.

One particularly surprising finding of the Yankelovich study was that consumers tended to promote traditional media ads that they liked by word-of-mouth much more than they did digital media ads. With the growth of social media sites and the gearing up of most websites and blogs for easy sharing, this phenomenon may no longer hold true. Based on this study, marketers and advertisers may do well to combine digital media advertising and traditional media advertising in order to encourage consumer promotion of their brands by word-of-mouth.

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