Is traditional media ready for a comeback?

By Woven Agency, Wednesday March 7, 2018

Breaking with tradition

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the size of a medium-sized asteroid recently, you won’t have failed to notice that things have gone a bit digital these past few years.

Websites, social media, email, video streaming, display ads – and all the platforms on which they can be displayed – have taken hold of the marketing landscape and, to an extent, taken it over, displacing traditional media such as direct mail, print ads, posters and radio.

Whilst the figures below are for the US only, they highlight the growing global trend of marketing spend being diverted away from traditional budgets and into digital.

Digital vs Traditional media graph



Even TV advertising, that most sturdy of household traditions, has taken a hit, with 2017 being the first year that digital ad spending overtook that of TV.

But does the growing dominance of digital mean there’s no future for traditional marketing methods? Here at Woven, we don’t think so.

Let’s take a look at two old-fashioned favourites to explore further: radio and direct mail.

(Streaming) video killed the radio star. Or did it?

Family around radio

In the Jones’ household, Friday night was Deep House & Techno Night.


Ah, the good old days, when the family all gathered around the radio to listen to and discuss the day’s news and events…

Thank god they’re over with.

But, when it comes to advertising effectiveness, the radio days are far from finished. In fact, recent research shows there’s plenty of life in the old wireless yet. And it’s not too difficult to see why.

For starters, radio mirrors much of what’s good about digital marketing in that, with over 300 commercial stations in the UK, it’s a highly targeted medium that suffers little waste.

Want to hit up classical music connoisseurs, serious sports fans, London’s 16-24 demographic or housewives in Hartlepool? Then the naturally segmented nature of radio is an ideal medium. Or maybe it’s the time of day that’s most important to you? Got a product that enhances the driving experience? Then advertise during drive time. Want to talk about something in the work place? Then grab yourself a mid-morning or -afternoon slot. Got something that’s perfect for the little’uns? Then schedule an ad for school-chucking-out time.

As well as its ability to target an array of audiences by geography, demographic and even the time of the day, radio also carries a sense of trust that new-age digital has yet to foster. Recent Ofcom and European Commission surveys found radio to be the most trusted news source in the UK and Europe – a crucial plus point in an era of fake news and fudged statistics. (Yes, VW, we’re looking at you…)

And the cherry on top of this already appealing cake is that commercial radio listenership is at an all-time-high in the UK, bringing in a weekly audience of 36,000,000 people – about half the country’s population.

It may have been invented in 1895, but radio, with its power to tune (pun intended) your brand into all kinds of predisposed audiences at times you know they’ll be listening, remains one of the most powerful strings in the marketing bow.

You’ve got direct mail

Mail boxes

Hey, Son, which one of these is my Gmail address again?


The sound of the letterbox flapping, the sudden pulse of excitement as you hope to see your Amazon delivery nestled on your door mat and smiling up at you… the crushing disappointment as you realise it’s yet another flyer for Luigi’s Italian (and Mexican, Indian & Chinese) take-away.

That’s a lot of people’s experience of direct mail – just another thing to glance at before chucking in the bin. (The recycling bin, that is – remember to do your bit, kids!)

Before we continue, a quick recap, for those at the back: direct mail is the sending of promotional material to existing or potential customers in the form of A5 leaflets, sales letters (usually from BT or Virgin…), brochures or prepaid envelopes. And, whilst your initial impression of direct mail might be one of annoyance, there are several benefits to this time-worn marketing trick.

Like radio (and digital marketing), direct mail is a targeted approach that can be tailored to specific audiences, from long-time clients to new prospects, creating a higher level of engagement per advert and a reduction in marketing spend waste.

But direct mail offers a few benefits that radio and digital can’t. First, and not to be underestimated, direct mail is tangible. Even if your intent is to pick the mail up from the doormat and dump it in your bin, you have to interact with it. And, as you’re doing so, you might read it. And, as you’re reading it, you might say to yourself, Hmm, that’s interesting. And, as you’re saying to yourself, Hmm, that’s interesting, you might even decide to find out more about what they’re offering… Before you know it, you’ve signed up to a time-share in Aspen and a year’s subscription to Knitting For Dogs.

Second, direct mail is highly measurable. Want to track the success of your campaign? Simply count the number of inquiries or sales made, or the number of coupons redeemed from a given mail piece. Easy peasy, and the kind of clear, measurable success rates that digital campaign managers would kill for.

Finally, direct mail is cheap and simple. Creating assets can be done on any widely available publishing tool (many of which are free) in an hour so, and large-scale mail-out companies provide a cost- and time-effective method of dissemination.

Targetable, tangible, measurable, cheap, quick and easy – it might not be one of these new-fangled digital marketing thingamajigs, but it gets the job done!

Traditional versus digital? Or traditional and digital?

Giant jigsaw pieces

Not sure this 1,000-piece giant jigsaw idea’s gonna take off, Dave.


Tradition and digital are often discussed in terms of their comparable merit to one another (and this blog isn’t helping matters…). Which is cheapest? Which will get the most reach? Which will maximise ROI?

But what if you could make them both work for you? What if each were a piece of the overall puzzle, and that by using both you could really make the most out of your marketing? After all, the various forms of traditional and digital media all do slightly different things and reach people in slightly different ways, so why see them as separate entities when they could be used together to get the most out of your campaigns?

Maybe you’re a supplier of high-end kitchenware? Then a printed brochure mailed to customers and supported by a sleek and sexy Instagram feed would work wonders.

Or maybe you’re the aforementioned Luigi’s take-away? An A5 leaflet drop is a given, but why not coincide your efforts with a Facebook campaign offering a free meal to the hundredth liker of your page?

Or perhaps you’re a social media-savvy digital marketer fluent in all online platforms that could really benefit from a 2-minute radio ad or newspaper advertorial?

Whatever your business, whatever your goal, when it comes to your marketing try not to treat traditional and digital media as separate entities warring against each other.

It shouldn’t be a case of one or the other, this versus that – there’s plenty of room, and plenty of opportunity, to get the best out of both worlds.

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