Digital vs Traditional media

When discussing digital versus traditional media, it has to be kept in mind that digital is an evolution of traditional media, and it would not exist without respect to its predecessor. 

When comparing these two types of marketing options, we can simply compare; Old vs New, Fixed vs Mobile, Long vs Short, Assumption vs Analytical, Expensive vs Inexpensive.

Despite the differences being identified now, it’s paramount for brands or agencies to know, they can substitute the ‘vs’ with an ‘&’ and the comparison becomes a combination to effectively sell to audiences.


Old vs New

‘Old’ entails the media used before the internet was democratised. Brands would place their messages on TV, Radio, Newspaper, Billboard, Pamphlets and Magazine. While  ‘New’ means everything that is; liked, shared, sent and posted on technology utilising an internet connection. Such as; social media platforms, blogs/vlogs, adwords, SEO/PPC, SEM, emailers, pop-up ads, and whatever else that takes up pixels on your devices screen.


Fixed vs Mobile

‘Old’ advertisements stay fixed to a location, such as a billboard on a corner of a busy intersection, or a time slot on a TV/Radio channel. Now ‘New’ media is free to roam around  the internet without restriction going from one platform to another. The ‘New’ can even morph it’s dimensions to fit the required devices screen, having contact with a potential consumer 24/7.

Essentially, ‘Old’ media waits for you to find it, whereas ‘New’ finds you based on a plethora of data – more on that shortly.


Long vs Short

Now, this category applies to a) time to create and implement content and b) the time that content has to engage with its respective audiences.


  1. ‘Fixed’ marketing like a TVC will go through a painstakingly arduous process before becoming a 30-60 second film. There are briefs, pitches, pitch consultants, juries, selections, meetings, approvals, scripts, disapprovals, storyboards, castings, location scouting, rehearsals, designing, filming, editing, submissions, bureau approvals and finally sleep. It’s no wonder the industry has broken this all up into three stages; pre-production, production and post-production. With the advent of Social Media platforms like Youtube, ‘Mobile’ media can be filmed the same day the idea is drawn-up; with a point-and-shoot and some intuitive editing software. The question of quality is definitely one to consider, but again, it comes down to the place in which you want to steal attention and how much you’re willing to pay to do that.
  2. As alluded to, this section applies to the time in which you could/can hold your audience’s attention. Digital as opposed to traditional has a finite amount of time to attract a blogger blogging with a catchy title, or five seconds for a video to show value before being skipped by a Youtuber Youtubing. The time for exploring and constructing creative stories is greater across traditional channels; as the viewer cannot move on past it with a flick or a click.


Assumption vs Analytical

“The future is big data” – give us a like if you’ve heard this statement before and give us a comment if you believe it. This statement is currently true and the ‘Short’ media proves it in its ability to understand consumers habits better than they do. Digital campaigns can be directly targeted to people who have similar interests, search history, or fit a required demographic profile.

When choosing ‘Long’ media you as the business are deciding to hit a broad base of consumers all at once, leading to lower conversion rates. Handing out pamphlets on a busy intersection is a perfect example of this. There is an enormous number of ‘traffic’ – so to speak – but only a fraction of drivers on the road will be needing your product or service. The cost to design, print and pay an employee to stand in the hot African sun all day, may appear cheap but there is no way of accurately identifying its impact on your target market and sales. Where as digital marketing is founded on algorithms and real time data, which allow for continuous learning and re-engineered strategies, to effectively place your banner ad (the 21st Century pamphlet) in the right digital intersections to get the traffic you so desire.


Expensive vs Inexpensive (Somewhat)

As shown in the TVC example under the Long vs Short section, the cost to run an advert (depending on the complexity of the story) can be astronomical. And to engage with the millions of people plugged into their TV at that specific moment; be it a popular award winning show, the final of a sporting event or just prime time – the gatekeepers of TV land in South Africa (SABC or DSTV) will drive up the price based on supply and demand. This is where digital marketing really comes into its own as you – the business – can decide the budget you place behind your online spend with the potential to reach millions of people.

It’s no wonder that online media spend has surpassed TV, broadcast and cable in the US. Brands have identified they can spend less and receive more, in; time, data and engaged audiences. Traditional still has its place and there is a good reason why it is more expensive. The quality of award winning TVC’s, Billboards and Newspaper wraps can attest to that. We have seen those same pieces then placed across digital platforms, maximising their success talking directly to those who are talking about them.

The above comparisons show the differences between Traditional and Digital, and there is no doubt there is currently a superior choice with regards to adaptability, directness, measure, turn-around time and cost. However, the conclusion when comparing these two forms of marketing is that any business making their products, services or story known is best achieved through a strategy that combines both. Simply put: potential buyers only become sale figures once they have engaged with a brands marketing message through multiple touch points. That is why it is not only important to create awareness, but to also remind the customer you are there. Once they have digested your brand on a myriad of media, only then will they start taking action, which will increase your bottom line!

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