With the explosion of online marketing and social media traditional advertising — or the “A-word” as I call it — has become quite unfashionable. Additionally, many small businesses have dabbled with it, with questionable results. As a result, more and more people are asking if advertising really works. If you listen to Internet Marketing gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk (who I’m a big fan of btw), the answer is pretty clear. “No.” They say that if businesses want to be smart they should stop pissing away their precious dollars on traditional advertising (TV, radio, print, outdoor) and start using Twitter, Facebook and Blogs.
Well, that kinda depends.
There’s a company called GEICO — maybe you’ve heard of it — and they seem pretty happy with their advertising — maybe you’ve seen it. GEICO spent 483 million on (mostly TV) advertising in 2006. I can’t find their ’07 — ’09 numbers, but considering that I see their ads everywhere I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more than 483 million now. So, if advertising doesn’t work you have to ask why GEICO would be throwing away that kind of money year after year.
And, it’s not just major national brands that benefit from advertising. I’m about to begin the 12th consecutive year of an ad campaign for a small client with a limited budget — a New York City church. We’ve run ads on the NYC city subways for 12 years, and it’s not inexpensive for a small client. So, last year because of the economy they told me that they (reluctantly) had to stop advertising after a successful 11-year run. But, after doing some research, they learned that the ad campaign — which has been covered in The New Times, USAToday and TIME — was more effective in attracting people than all their other marketing initiatives combined. They cut spending in other areas and continued the successful advertising with a good ROI.
Is the world (and world of commerce) rapidly moving more online? Yes. Should you be leveraging social media as part of your marketing plan? Definitely. But, to broadly claim that traditional advertising doesn’t work, or isn’t as cost-effective as social media, simply isn’t true. It really depends on what you’re selling and who you’re selling to. And, any advertising effort that isn’t as effective as it could be probably has more to do with product, client, or agency, that’s doing it.