Offline Advertising in the Digital Age: Why traditional advertising isn’t dead

Tube Ads, Print Ads, Radio Spots; are they still worth it?

When TV was first introduced, people said that radio would die out, but it didn’t. Radio adapted and still holds a place today in modern media. Much in the same vein, often people talk about the death of traditional marketing methods in the digital age, but hopefully this article can convince you that it still has relevancy today and more than that, these methods can be incorporated into your marketing strategy to significantly improve your brand awareness and extend your outreach.

As an agency, Davies + Scothorn has seen the best performance attained when layering both digital and traditional with specific strategies and balancing the budget accordingly.

The benefits of non-traditional methods as it currently stands
When we talk about non-traditional methods, this might include things like social media, online video, mobile applications, blogs, news releases and viral marketing. Digital marketing is incredibly powerful, providing you with a platform to reach prospective buyers directly, that might be harder to otherwise, especially those who are not in your geographical location. Some of the main benefits are its cost effectiveness and scalability.

The perceived issues with traditional methods

Traditional marketing channels include billboards, radio ads, print ads, and direct mail. An issue people have with these marketing methods is that they are not directly trackable to digital activities and are hard to measure. Moreover, traditional marketing can be described as one-way street marketing, because you make impressions on consumers by talking either to or at them, whereas social media marketers can cultivate a dialogue through mediums such as Facebook and Twitter.

However, there are number of things you can do to overcome these hurdles, and we would say it is worthwhile to do so, because it can be incredibly useful to have multiple touchpoints, and if both your offline and online ads complement each other, you have the optimal opportunity to educate your customers and create a cohesive experience.

You need to think like your customer and understand how your target markets are accessing information and consuming content. By using a blend of both traditional and digital advertising you can reach a greater number of people and expand the impact of your brand.

What you can achieve with traditional marketing in this digital age and how

Social media can be a very crowded place, with countless companies fighting to get their particular advert seen, and then to hold your attention. Often consumers just tolerate digital ads rather than appreciating them or finding them helpful. Principally, you should overcome this by formulating a killer digital marketing strategy. Another way of capturing the attention of your target audience, in addition to a strong digital marketing strategy, is to approach things from a different angle and advertise on less crowded platforms, where people perhaps don’t expect to be presented with adverts. It’s a good way to increase awareness and it brings your brand into the real world.

The issue of tracking traditional marketing methods has been significantly diminished by the rapid rise of mobile advertising and tracking tools, which make it possible for companies to track offline campaign success. For example, you can incorporate digital tracking methods into offline billboards campaigns and use unique domain URLs to measure online impact of out of home advertising to verify the message is effective.

TV and traditional print advertisements continue to have a decent amount of reach, large number of consumers that watch regular TV. A study by MarketingSherpa found that traditional advertisement methods are still considered as the top five most trusted formats, including out-of-home, radio, direct mail, television, and print advertising. Moreover, reports by HubSpot show that respondents often found online advertisements to be too intrusive, whilst traditional advertising has seen high engagement levels.

Some audiences are still better reached through traditional channels. For example, when seeking the attention of professionals, billboards on people’s route to work and radio advertising during commute times can serve as great brand awareness builders. In this instance, advertising on the London Underground can be particularly powerful. The tube is the one place that digital is not supposed to be the primary attention grabber, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

On the London Underground there are nearly 5m passenger journeys a day, with an average platform wait of three minutes, and an average journey time of 24 minutes, which gives brands an amazing opportunity to engage with a large number of people in a unique way. Exterion Media’s neuroscience study ‘The Engagement Zone’ conducted earlier this year, evaluated how consumers consciously and subconsciously respond to ads in this environment, using measurement of cognitive activity, survey data and in-depth follow up interviews.

Some facts:

  • They found that travellers felt motivate to engage with advertising, regardless of whether the product category was relevant to them. The majority feel Tube ads are a welcome distraction, and commuters were found to actively seek out advertising on the Tube, with 3/5 noticing when new ads appeared on their regular journeys.
  • Interestingly, 65% of respondents felt that advertising on the Tube isn’t as intrusive as other advertising.
  • Overall, ads are actually liked; 80% of those who don’t like social media or TV ads like advertising on London Underground.
  • 7 out of 10 agree they have the time to notice of advertising on the Underground.
  • 6 out of 10 say ads on the Tube help the time on their journey pass more quickly

Evidence suggests commuters’ minds are active and alert during the daily commute, attributes that directly translate to engagement with the advertising environment. The Tube provides unprecedented access to the influential London audience that is alert, engaged and receptive to advertising, which might not be possible on other broadcast channels, as Londoners notoriously watch less TV. You can also connect with the huge percentage of people that flow through London on a yearly basis.

Exterion Media discovered that Tube users not only engage with advertising in the station environment, they are also moved to act on it:

  • 1 in 8 people are searching for or looking to purchase products relating to an ad seen on their journey
  • 40% are searching for a brand or category relating to ads they viewed within one week
  • Static ads were looked at most, but engagement was increased by video – showing Tube users to be 4 x more highly engaged with full-motion content.

It is hard to craft ads that grab people’s attention and also communicate an informative message in short amount of time. So be inventive! As suggested by the study, one way of standing out from the crowd is to merge traditional marketing methods with modern technology, in the form of digital signage.

Here are some examples of companies that have brilliantly utilised digital signage to achieve high engagement levels.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home used digital signage as part of their #LookingForYou campaign. The signage was activated by a tag contained in leaflets, which were being handed directly to shoppers at London’s Westfield Stratford shopping centre. As people holding the leaflets walked past the billboards, an RFID tag activated a video of Barley, a former Battersea dog, who then started following shoppers.

In 2015, Lifetime advertised the miniseries The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe in the New York subway. Kelli Garner, who starred as Monroe in the series, could be seen re-enacting the famous skirt blowing scene from The Seven Year Itch, which was activated whenever a train arrived or departed a station, giving the impression that the train’s draft was blowing Garner’s skirt.

As far as nudge marketing goes, the Melanoma Institute Australia executed a great campaign, powered by digital signage. To persuade people to donate to the charity a piece of digital signage displayed a growing melanoma. However, as people donated money to the charity via a nearby, contactless pay point, the melanoma reduced in size.

Bus stops are also a platform that can be used for digital signage. To promote the launch of Disney Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ in Singapore, the studio collaborated with Clear Channel and Studious Media to show the effect that the weather can have on your mood. Using local, real-time weather data, the signage displayed a selection of different imagery and messaging to match the conditions.


Don’t forget print publications. Yes – print. Before you cross print advertising off the list of possibilities, explore the packages they offer. Most will have a specific target audience that still gets the printed newspaper or magazine and a different audience that interacts more with their website, social channels, and events. It can be a good option when you need to cover a wide range of age groups – and there are cost savings when you buy packages if it suits your strategy.

In the print industry, publications such as Vogue and women’s lifestyle magazines have performed well, whilst others have suffered. There are a lot of blogs and editorials on the internet that can give you the same kind of content for free, but this factor, along with the sheer volume of opinions online serves to devalue their perspective. Moreover, because they are free, they need to have some kind of selling point, whereas magazines are already charging you a fee, so their advice can be relatively impartial. This provides brands with a unique platform to advertise to a more refined and relevant group of consumers, who will consider your ad in higher regard and with greater trust, because of the implicit endorsement of your brand by that particular publication.

In summary

The effect of communicating consistently via a variety of channels, is a strongly reinforced, powerful message and greater brand awareness. This will work to influence a higher consideration of your brand amongst consumers when they are ready to make a purchase or recommendation to people they know.

We know that multiple touchpoints have a higher influence than just one. So even if you cannot credit that billboard, radio spot, or print ad to a direct purchase or lead, you could make the argument that it had an impact earlier in their journey. So, when planning your next campaign, keep traditional marketing methods in mind, it could be the added boost that your brand needs to see an increase in revenue.

If you need help developing a marketing strategy or want to learn more about how your brand could benefit from an integrated marketing approach, please feel free to get in touch.


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