Online versus the rest. Who wins, and why? 1000 words or so of commonsense.


The debate about above the line media versus online advertising rages on and on.

It seems to occupy the pages of every marketing and advertising magazine or newsletter at least every week. Little wonder marketing managers are confused and even anxious.

Despite research coming from all sides saying that TV still plays the biggest role in customer decision-making, (including the recent MOP Awareness Survey), those pushing the every burgeoning world of online ads keep trying to tip a bucket on traditional media.

But the truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

What seems to have been forgotten in this entire debate is the very obvious fact that different media do different jobs. The idea that any one media – online, for example – is all that a customer now needs to do is clearly ridiculous.

In our experience, online is a fantastic support advertising medium. It can be a very effective activation medium, is it’s crafted well.

Gamification - it's going to be big. But how big is big, really?
Gamification – it’s going to be big. But how big is big, really?

New technologies such as videos in messages, games in messages – so-called ‘gamification’ – and many other changes will see increased levels of customer responsiveness.

That’s why at MOP, we are enthusiastic users of online advertising. For the right jobs.

But the number of people who have successfully built a brand entirely online can be counted on the fingers of very few hands worldwide. And what we would really like to see is someone write a PhD on whether it was genuinely cheaper, faster, or more durable to build those brands online than it would have been using traditional media.

A lot of online advertising gets bought because it seems to be a cheaper option than other types of advertising. “Bung a few ads on Facebook” seems a low risk, low cost strategy, especially to inexperienced advertisers, or those with limited budgets.

But that’s a high risk strategy if it doesn’t work. Because what matters for clients is return on investment. Measurable sales results.

Yes, of course, general awareness is vital. You can’t achieve anything if your brand or product is invisible. Yes, getting people to engage is vital. We want our customers to seek us out and find out more. To spend quality time learning to love us.

No arguments there. And online helps in that regard.

But some wilder young heads in the growing online community – and they are, almost inevitably, young – seem to think that their responsibility ends there.

It doesn’t. Getting people to buy things is what really matters.

So here’s just a few thoughts to consider as you frame your next ad budget and strategy.

  • The bigger we see an ad, the stronger it’s impact. So ads shown to us on our giant 4k TV screen while we’re relaxing with a scotch in our favourite chair are simply going to have more impact than ads shown on our smartphone while we’re standing on a crowded tram.

We are in danger of becoming mesmerised by frequency in advertising, and forgetting impact. The same research would presumably support cinema ads and good outdoor billboards, or large-space press ads.

In short: impact matters. It stops the eye, and arrests the busy mind.

  • Online advertising has great difficulty providing consumers with anything other than a brief summary of a proposition.

“Long copy ads” might be a dying art form – sadly, as they have been shown again and again to work in many industry segments – but that doesn’t mean that they should be replaced with four-word ads either.

ogilvy ad
David Ogilvy wrote this ad decades ago: one of the finest long copy ads ever written, and a mine of useful information. Arguably, almost every word is still true. So when did we decide all this stuff doesn’t matter any more?

Unless you can guarantee your online ad will get your customer to somewhere where they can view, listen to or read to their heart’s content – like your website for example – then you also need to run longer ads that deliver them the solid information they need to make a real decision.

If not your website, then your packaging needs to deliver that information. Or a brochure you can be sure your customers will receive. Or details delivered by the salesperson they will talk to.

Somewhere along the line for most products and services we actually have to communicate with people as opposed to just prodding them repeatedly. And that’s before we even get into the irritate factor, such as is measurably obvious in some (not all) text messaging-based advertising, for example.

  • People want different information at different times, and at different stages in their purchasing process.

Our recent survey revealed, for example, that a hugely under-estimated and still very powerful ad medium is catalogues. Which is why, of course, major retailers keep using them. Why are they still so effective? Because they address the real world experience of consumers. Over a quiet cup of tea people can browse the catalogue at their leisure. They can physically take them with them when they go to the shops, mainly because we haven’t yet found it easier to make lists on our smart phone of that weeks’ offers and learned to walk round the supermarket with our phone glued to our face running over children left, right and centre – because it’s simply not easier.

When we ignore the real world and base our upcoming marketing activity on theories and recent brouhaha we are failing our clients and our employers. One of the commonest ‘canards’ promoted by the online enthusiasts is that traditional advertising interrupts people while content advertising provides them useful information that they will welcome. And Zap Kapow!, just like that we abolish a century of learning that people actually value and enjoy good, powerful, entertaining advertising that gives them the information they seek to navigate the world.

MOP logoPart of the problem lies with the training given to young marketers by the colleges and Universities churning out new graduates. One told us that her “advertising” course was nearly three years of continuous discussion of the online world and its possibilities. Presumably those lecturers think they’re doing their young charges – and their future employers – a good service.

They’re not.

For a commonsense discussion on advertising strategy and how to create a campaign that really works on all levels to drive real sales, including online – maybe, if it makes sense – just give us a call on +613 9426 5400.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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