Before getting into web marketing, I started out in advertising sales at a local television station. I spent most days bombing around in my ’95 Eagle Vision, dropping in on local business owners uninvited and presenting them with the question, “Why aren’t you on television?”
The Soaring Eagle. R.I.P.
The most common response? “I can’t afford it. I allocated my entire annual budget to the Yellow Pages,” sometimes followed by, “I upgraded to a color ad this year!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It took every ounce of strength not to shake them uncontrollably. For the love of God! It’s 2008! (Hire any Yellow Pages rep who was successful after the year 2000. Now that’s talent.)
Most of these businesses could have afforded a pretty solid TV advertising schedule with a simple reallocation of ad dollars but it was incredibly difficult to get them to pull the trigger.
“Call me next year.”
What I realized in practically every situation was that they had no hard numbers to justify their allegiance to the Yellow Pages. No conversion data, no referral reports- just the feeling that what they were doing was working and a deep, unspoken fear of change. And so year after year they fell victim to a senseless upsell, increasing their spend and sinking deeper into the abyss of an irrelevant “marketing strategy” — I use that term loosely.
The Dog Days Are Over…Right?
My career evolved and I entered the most exciting, relevant marketing industry in existence. My frustrations would cease! How could anyone deny the power of the internet? Of social media? Surely we’ve surpassed “fad” status.
I’m comforted (or was) by studies like this one conducted by Nielsen illustrating that since 2009, traditional media channels have seen a significant drop in trust– as much as 24% — while word of mouth endorsements, branded websites, earned media/editorial content rank highest on the consumer trust meter (all of which are Terakeet’s forte). I’d never have to wage the YP battle ever again!
Of course, to the dismay of my optimistic naivety, a similar pattern began to unfold. Traditional media, although it has lost much of its relevancy and impact, is still revered by many CxO’s as the non-negotiable foundation of any marketing plan and remains a primary area of investment.
Just yesterday I heard that a local, mid-sized car dealership is still spending $6,000 per week on one color ad in the Sunday paper. When asked what kind of return they’ve seen from it, they replied, “People definitely see it.”
Nearly $300,000 a year spent on an antiquated medium that has shown no measurable results. Have we all gone mad!?
And yet, while the newspaper sales rep is signing his annual renewal with ease, we battle skepticism and are bombarded with questions like “How many visitors will come to my website with SEO?” “How many more widgets will I sell if I rank #1?” “What is the ROI of social media?”
All valid questions which deserve answers (and we’ll gladly provide them to the best of our ability) but in addition to answering these questions and educating the world about the value of what we do, we must force businesses to ask similar questions of the mediums they’ve been investing in for the past 50+ years.
How do you know that your print ad is working? Who, exactly, are you reaching? How do you know that commercial impacted your bottom line?
Does it still make sense?
Now I’m not claiming that television, radio and print advertising are completely obsolete, but rather, I question the frequency in which they’re being employed based on data-driven results as opposed to habit, and whether we’re being aggressive enough about challenging these norms.
In my next piece, I explore why online visibility strategies have yet to be widely adopted as an alternative to traditional advertising channels and break down 6 reasons why they should be.