Why Traditional Media Plans Leave Brand Growth on the Table

Advertising Media Planning

(Note: See my other article on Why Digital-Only Media Plans Leave Growth on the Table)

Your CEO is mad at you.
You are only using one type of paid media - traditional media - to grow and sustain your brand.
Let’s get your CEO un-mad at you.

In the same way that some marketers think a Digital-only media plan means they are more modern and progressive, some marketers believe that what has always worked for their brand (or at their last job) is the best path for their brand to grow.

Let’s get into the psychology of these two mindsets.

The Digital-Only Group

In my experience, the Digital-only crowd is usually trying to fight a perception or insecurity that they are not a modern marketing leader. As a result, they think that using TV, Radio, Outdoor and other traditional media channels could make them look old-fashioned and incapable of leading a modern marketing organization. In many ways I empathize with these leaders because they believe their choices need to be about perception rather than effectiveness. If you fall into this group I strongly encourage you to break free from your shackles by reading the converse to this article. 

The Traditional-Only Group

On the flip side, the Traditional-only group of marketers is often motivated by maintaining the status quo, where incremental improvements are acceptable and there is no reason to rock the boat. Their choices are about past effectiveness, are rarely consumer-centric, and are often about self preservation. If you are a year away from retirement this is totally fine. If you are not (you aren’t or you wouldn’t be reading this) it’s time to break out of this limiting mindset. The last thing you want your brand to become is Shake ‘n Bake, Tang, or any other brand that still exists, but only in a dark corner of store aisles on the verge of death.

Where Does This Leave Us?

For you, reticent Traditional marketer, there is one beautiful word that solves your problem: TEST

Test paid Social. Test Programmatic Media. And if you are really uncomfortable moving both feet off the shore, test digital extensions of your traditional media channels: Advanced TV, Digital Audio and Digital Out of Home. 

You should also test data sources. Use location data and credit card purchases to tie your investments to sales and visits. A smart agency can do this without you needing to know many of the details. Learn by doing.

And follow the data: Nielsen (and just about every other major research provider) found that brands who combine Digital and Traditional media, without increasing their overall budgets, saw significantly stronger ROI and results. Just by expanding your media mix, even if you don’t do it particularly well, your brand will likely see stronger results. Then you can ask for a raise - in brand budgets and for yourself (you earned it).

Just by expanding your media mix, even if you don’t do it particularly well, your brand will likely see stronger results.

Or perhaps you are a modern marketing organization who over relies on Traditional media because of its exceptional reach and ability to drive consideration and conversion. Your challenge is to think like a consumer. Where are they doing research? When do they need to be reminded ? Have I maxed out my brand’s growth through Traditional media? Sometimes we do what the data tells us (keep spending on TV and Radio!) without considering that the data is limited and does not account for other, better options. The simple litmus test is: How do our consumers experience the world, and this category, and how can we be there effectively? 

What Should Growth Oriented Brands Do?

  1. You need to test. Make sure your tests are robust enough to gain real learnings, but do not fall into the trap that you must go big or go home.

  2. Do not flip completely to Digital overnight. Strike a balance. Find the media channels quickly becoming digitized and leverage their new targeting capabilities as a gateway.

  3. The line between Digital and Not Digital is almost eroded - everything is becoming digitized or at least can be digitally bought and served (think Digital Outdoor billboards that can be bought in five clicks). Be efficient with your buying strategies to leverage the power of multiple media channels. This is where your media agency comes in.

Should the CEO have deep reservations about a Traditional-only media plan? The higher the spend, the more they should worry. For brands looking to grow and cross the chasm, keep the blinders off and go beyond Traditional.


  1. https://www.warc.com/content/article/esomar/breaking_the_walls_between_traditional_and_digital_marketing_challenging_how_marketing_as_we_know_it_drives_brand_sales_androi/125981

  2. https://www.warc.com/content/article/event-reports/les_binet_examines_how_digital_affects_brand_building_activation_model/126281

  3. https://digiday.com/marketing/monster-com-going-back-tv-advertising-decade/

  4. https://www.marketingcharts.com/charts/us-adults-traditional-tv-viewing-figures-trends-age-q3-2018/attachment/nielsen-traditional-tv-viewing-in-q3-2018-apr2019

  5. https://www.thevab.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Doubling-Down-FAANG-Spend-On-TV.pdf