Want Awareness and Demand in the Virtual World? Then Advertise in the Real World.

With the advent of Web 2.0, who needs offline advertising? You do. Read on to learn how offline awareness and demand generation tactics such as television, radio and outdoor advertising is still a critical part of the media mix equation. When e-commerce was younger, it was an article of faith among marketers that online advertising alone could not generate sufficient response for an online enterprise to succeed.

Creating awareness required offline advertising. Then the Internet evolved into Web 2.0, followed by the social-media juggernaut, and some savants proclaimed advertising in what used to be known as traditional media to be irrelevant. Turns out they were wrong. If your online business is a household name, like Amazon or eBay, you may not have to advertise in any media, online or offline. But if you don’t yet enjoy that level of awareness, you won’t achieve it, or anything close to it, without investing some of your advertising dollars in offline media—especially television, radio and print. Why is this? One reason is the annoyance factor of online advertising—popups that cover what you’re trying to read, banners that spring into irksome action when your mouse passes over them, a video loop of someone dancing for joy over a low mortgage rate. Maybe this kind of thing was a novelty at one time, but I don’t need research to know that invasive interactive advertising is universally resented now—which means the brands behind these ads are at risk of being resented as well.

In contrast, print and radio ads, blessedly static and non-distracting, don’t force themselves on you. And TV spots you’re not interested in at least afford you the chance to refill your drink… or get bypassed by DVR technologies. Moreover, print, radio and TV advertising is often consumed by those actually interested in the product information they provide. According to leading media agency WebWindows, as well as findings by Google and Deloitte, another reason is psychological: “[N]ewspapers and magazines are integrally woven into the collective psyche of the people and even in the times of the Internet, they remain the main source of news, analysis and information.” In addition, “newspapers are synonymous with trust and quality and so people put more faith in the print media than in any other media.” Compare that to the Internet—the least trusted medium of all. If Marshall McLuhan was right and “the medium is the message,” is it wise to rely solely on online advertising to establish your brand and image? Of course, it’s not all about image.

Online sales require driving traffic to websites and here, too, offline advertising delivers. Recent research by SendTec and JupiterResearch shows that offline advertising initiatives drive online response. Among the findings: * 66% of those who responded to an offline advertisement visited the website or a search engine to learn more * TV and print ads are the most likely offline formats to drive online search response (70% and 57% respectively), 32% for radio, 27% for direct mail and 17% for outdoor * Mobile technology is enabling consumers to react more to offline ads that are outside the home, with 66% conducting searches on their handheld devices in response to a magazine or newspaper ad Okay, but how many people really respond to print and broadcast ads? According to editorialtoday.com, “more than 53% of television viewers have been triggered to search information online by television advertising, while 42% of magazine subscribers have been driven to a website by magazine ads. … Ads in newspapers drive 34% readers to look for services and goods online.” That’s a whole lot of eyeballs and wallets, folks. The there’s the matter of immediacy. Online advertising tends to take a very long time to take effect. SEO usually takes weeks before results become noticeable. Building reciprocal links and blogs can take even longer. Response to most offline advertising occurs within days or even hours. If you can’t afford to spend way in advance of any return on your investment, you can’t afford to ignore offline media. So what kind of offline advertising works best to drive traffic to your website? The same kind that’s always worked—ads with a come-on: * “For a free sample while supplies last, go to …” * “Get your XX% discount coupon at …” * “To activate your free trial, go to…” * “For financial peace of mind, go to…”

The bottom line: More than ever, as the virtual marketplace for pay-per-click, SEO/SEM and behavioral targeting becomes increasingly crowded and fragmented, baking television, print and radio advertising into your marketing mix is a necessary complement to your online demand and awareness strategies.