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Advertising: Do television and print advertising have a future in a digital age?

Updated on February 16, 2017

Advertising: Television and print advertising have no future in a digital age.


‘’Advertising is the art of creating awareness of a business in the mind's eye of a consumer’’ (Lauren, L., 2016). The digital age is among us, and now more than ever, the ‘mind’s eye of a consumer’ is focused on screens. This has had an enormous impact on traditional media methods of advertising such as print and television. Digital natives no longer pay avid attention to billboards, rely on advertisement columns in newspapers, or waste time sitting through television advertisements - they just fast forward. This paper will discuss whether or not these traditional methods of advertising still have a place in today’s digital age and in the future, or if they are simply a waste of resources. It will be observed in detail if any one method is the core method of advertising, or if they simply complement each other and grow with the times. After all, advertising is based on attempts to engage consumers, primarily buyers, and influence them in their purchase or acquisition decisions. Yet how exactly that is accomplished is still up for grabs. (Schultz, D, 2016.)

Literature Review
Traditional advertising is any form of print and television advertising. Print advertising is one of the most traditional advertising methods, and dates back to the beginning of marketing. It can be seen all around us - on posters, billboards, shop windows, and throughout daily newspapers. It would be a bold statement to make by saying that print has no place in the future of advertising for this reason, as it has been a relevant and effective method of marketing through generations. Print advertising complements digital advertising by generating reminders to consumers about brands throughout their day when they happen to be ‘offline’. The key strategic decisions for digital marketing are in common with those of traditional marketing (Chaffey, D., Ellis-Chadwick, F., Mayer, R., & Johnston, K., 2009), which is why it may be so that traditional and digital methods work together to create the ultimate campaign. This paper will investigate whether this is the case further on. For now, it simply poses the question; if print advertising can maintain itself as a relevant source of advertising alongside digital advertising, can television do the same?

Television Advertising Effectiveness

Television advertising was once impossible to avoid as a viewer, until recent years when technology was developed so that television users could fast-forward advertisements. Recent surveys carried out by YouGovand based on questions set by Deloitte investigated whether this popular new technology, such as Sky Plus, was affecting the impact of TV advertisements on viewers. The survey was carried out among 4,199 respondents. Some alarming results showed that 86% of television viewers now skip through advertisements. However, 52% of respondents stated that when they do see television advertisements, it is the most memorable form of advertising, while just 2% suggested that online advertisements were most affective. Furthermore, it was reassuringly highlighted by 48% of people that shorter ad breaks would deter them from fast-forwarding – not dissimilar to the TV advertising method used in the United States whereby only 2-3 advertisements are shown at a time. This suggests that consumers are not opposed to watching television adverts, they are simply time saving when they get the chance to do so. It does not take away from the affects of the advertisements themselves. Notably, there has always been the issue of zapping; which defines the act of channel switching during commercial breaks (Kaplan, 1985). However, McConnochie (2005) suggested that just 4.1% of overall commercial avoidance is from channel switching, which may suggest that zapping has always been a hurdle, but is not as big of an issue as absolute commercial avoidance due to having the ability to fast-forward With this in mind however, James Bates – media partner of Deloitte – confirms that while television advertising may generate billions of commercial impacts per day, it is almost impossible to know how many are actually being viewed (Plunkett, J., 2010). For example, in 1997 television advertising expenditure in the United States was $42 billion, while only five years later it was $58 billion – a 38% increase – regardless of the decline in views (Danaher, P.J., Bonfrer, A., and Dhar, S., 2008). However, regardless of both the cost and inconsistent measurement of reach, it has been suggested that television advertising will continue to occupy a large proportion of future advertising budgets (Kwak et al., 2009) as it is vastly memorable and displays a brand message so clearly. This suggests that where television advertising may be declining in views, it still has a future as a core method of advertising due to its level of effectiveness.

Brand Familiarity & Advertisement Interference

With relation to television advertising being classified by consumers as the most memorable form of advertising (YouGov, 2010), it must be noted how brands execute their advertisements to avoid interference in all methods of advertising.

Brand familiarity, in particular, plays a large role in all methods of advertising (Kent, R.J., & Allen, C.T. 1994). Findings suggest that while consumers observe advertisements, the effectiveness of each advertisement is diluted by those of the brand’s competitors (Burke and Srull 1988), but more exposure to a brand throughout this dilution means more effective marketing. However this does mean that advertisers generally tend to avoid locations used by their competitors for advertising when buying media. Procter & Gamble, for example, purchases product class exclusivity during cable television programmes, while General Motors use data on competitive clutter to negotiate for enhanced protection from competitors ads (Kent, R.J., and Allen, C.T. 1994). It has been suggested that advertising for familiar versus unfamiliar brands should differ, as consumers retain information from unfamiliar brand advertisements differently to familiar ones (Machleit, Allen, and Madden 1993). To test this, consumers were exposed to test and comparing ads for unfamiliar brands. When being exposed to test ads by familiar brands, it was made evident that no interference resulted from then also being exposed to test ads either by competitive familiar or unfamiliar brands. This concludes that familiarity of a brand gives it the competitive advantage whereby it has the ability to avoid interference. Aside from other considerable factors such as ad executions, processing objectives, and exposure time, consumers seem to find ads by familiar brands the most relevant factor (Kent, R.J., and Allen, C.T. 1994).

In traditional and digital advertising alike, familiarity and recognition are common practices used to engage with customers through advertisement. Observing methods like this that are common across print, television, and digital advertising certainly do suggest that there is a future in print and television advertising. It can then be assumed that perhaps digital advertising is simply an additional method as opposed to a replacement for more traditional methods.

Creativity Effectiveness

A second method used across both traditional and digital advertising - to back up this point - is creativity throughout imagery in ads. Creative ads have been to thank for increased levels of awareness alongside other favourable attitudes towards the brand (Yang and Smith, 2009). The motive behind ad creativity is primarily to stand out from competitive clutter if a brand is less familiar than the market leaders. Gaining attention of potential consumers that is comparable with competitive market leaders through contrasting creativity is referred to as the ‘’contrast effect’’ (Smith and Yang, 2004). To gain understanding of how and when an ad’s creativity generates these effects, they are measured by aiming to reach three goals. Firstly, the effects of the creativity of an ad are examined by looking at the positive effect, and the desire to delay cognitive closure. Secondly, tests are carried out in order to determine if the above variables have an impact on the key variables surrounding brand purchase intentions and ad reviewing intentions. Lastly, based on models built in the past by MacInnis and Jaworski in 1989, it was predicted that the creativity of an ad only influenced the consumer based on their involvement with the ad. It was further concluded through these studies that ad creativity triggers open-mindedness in a consumer which creates curiosity around the product. Consumers are often close-minded and sceptical when processing information about advertisements proposed by brands, particularly those they are unfamiliar with. The positive effect was then proven to be a result of creative ads. This means that consumers respond positively to a brand and its message. This creates a trusting bond between the potential consumer and the brand, and encourages the consumer to perhaps purchase form this brand rather than its competitors. The creativity of an ad tends to trigger these stimuli right before the consumer purchases the product, and when a consumer has high-involvement with the brand’s advertising (Smith and Yang, 2009). However, this is not always consistent amongst both traditional and digital advertising platforms. With the advance of technology nowadays, consumers have a wealth of control over what advertisements they are exposed to. As previously mentioned, almost 90% of viewers skip advertisements on digital devices such as Sky Plus television (YouGov, 2010). On online platforms such as YouTube where advertisements are also present, when there is the option to skip the advertisement just 25 % of online video ads are viewed to completion (Cohen, J., 2013). However, YouTube now present ads to their viewers based on the viewer’s interests and demographic and navigate more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S. (, 2016). This may suggest that although only 25% of ads are being viewed, due to their creativity and involvement with the consumer, it may have more effect than the 24% of viewers who do not skip ads on television (YouGov, 2010). The rise of the viral video also affects the use of YouTube and other online video source websites as it is an extremely effective method of advertising. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) carried out a survey which made it evident that over half of marketers used viral video advertising in 2009 (McCollum 2009). The reach was 70% in 2010 according to the Web Video Marketing Council.

Vivid Imagery Effectiveness

With previously mentioned studies in mind, imagery and its effects should be observed. When print and television advertisements are vivid and thought-provoking, it can be extremely effective – similarly to digital ads. Conceptualized vividness in advertising must be ‘’emotionally interesting, concrete, image-provoking and proximate in a sensory, temporal or spatial way’’; according to pioneer researchers Nisbett and Ross (1980, p.45). This method complements the previous theories mentioned behind creativity in advertisements, and is fitting for both traditional and digital platforms. As was suggested, advertisement must allow a potential customer to relate to the concept of the advertisement, and to have their attention grasped by exactly that. Intuition suggests that vivid ads should be more persuasive than pallid ones. However, previous research on the impact of vivid content elements in ads finds conflicting results (Taylor and Thompson, 1982). Some studies differ in that they find that vivid content in ads produce a positive persuasive effect as previously mentioned. However others find that sometimes it has no effect, and sometimes a negative effect. However, this is to be expected, and encourages studies to focus on the interplay between the type of advertising used, how it is experienced, and who is likely to be affected by vivid visual imagery. Recent conclusions to studies have been that those who are high visualizers experience clear and in-depth responses to visual imagery and react accordingly to thought provoking images. Low visualizers react the opposite way, and are generally not prone to being affected by vivid visual imagery (McKelvie, 1994). How visual imagery is recognised in advertisements was studied further with relation to facial recognition, images that provoke thoughts of one’s parents or loss of a loved one, and also tendencies within different genders. This imagery creates false memories or brings up existing memories surrounding the brand where the consumer felt happy or comfortable. This creates a bond felt by the consumer with the brand, and being satisfied with the product (Rossiter and Percy, 1980).

Literature in Context

As was first discussed, the traditional method of advertising that is television promotion seemingly remains an extremely effective method of advertisement due to its scale and impact on viewers (Kwak et al., 2009). This is so, regardless of 86% of viewers skipping ads (YouGov, 2010) alongside 4.1% of viewers zapping through television commercials (Siddarth and Chattopadhyay, 1998). This can be seen in practice by Arla – the dairy powerhouse. As a company within the food industry, whose main products are the Lurpak and Anchor butter brands, Arla needed a campaign that made it stick out from its competitors. As leaders in their market, their familiarity for consumers is already a strong advantage (Kent, R.J., and Allen, C.T. 1994). However, as a company in the food industry, it faces vast pricing competition. While in competition with discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, it is impressive to observe how their television marketing campaign enabled Lurpak and Anchor to grow 19% between 2011 and 2014. Total television advertising revenue increased by 3.5% which helped them to reach £4.63 billion – a new record high figure for the dairy powerhouse. Arla use television as their number one method of advertising and reaching their target audience (Pugh, N., 2014). Arla’s Stuart Ibberson says: “We always start from each brand’s target audience. TV is a central pillar to our campaigns. No other medium has the scale or reach of TV. We use other, specific media to amplify TV, but with TV at the heart of everything we do, that’s proved to be the best way to get to our target audience.” This certainly backs up the point that was made previously about how television advertising and online advertising can be used hand-in-hand as opposed to replacements of each other. Arla have seen a rapid increase in online interaction based around their brand since linking it with their television campaigns. (Pugh, N., 2014).

The demand for traditional advertising methods in the digital age and in the future was then discussed in terms of creativity. Creativity is an extremely effective method of engaging with potential consumers. It encourages increased levels of awareness alongside other favourable attitudes towards the brand (Yang and Smith, 2009). This is evident when observing the effectiveness of the Coca Cola ‘’drinkable’’ campaign (Litza, T., 2015). When promoting Coke Zero, Coca Cola created a campaign that reached users through print, television, and online platforms all at once. The campaign was launched at events such as the College GameDay in the U.S., where Coca Cola could target large audiences and particularly Millennials. According to the global corporation, 85% of Millennials have not tried Coke Zero, but 50% of those who have tried it become monthly drinkers. (Whittemore, N., 2015). At an event such as College GameDay, Coca Cola collaborated with the well-established brand ‘Shazam’ to provide the mobile application service whereby you pour yourself a glass of Coke Zero on your mobile phone, which rewards you with an actual free Coke Zero at 7-Eleven, Domino’s, QuikTrip, and Subway (Swant, M., 2015). This boosted vast awareness of both the Coca Cola brand and the Shazam music-identification service app. It was stated by Ogilvy & Mather New York President Adam Tucker that "engagement through fame" is 12 times more effective in driving market share in comparison with standard rational or emotional campaigns. However, Coca Cola – being one of the most recognised brands across the globe – have familiarity to their advantage (Kent, R.J., and Allen, C.T. 1994). Less familiar brands may need to use emotional or standard rational campaigns in order to create positive persuasive effects and high involvement for the consumer’s view on the brand. Furthermore, vivid imagery and its effects were investigated.

The effects resulting from vivid imagery in advertisements were observed. It was proposed that, to be effective, advertisements must be emotionally interesting, concrete, image-provoking, and proximate in a sensory, temporal or spatial way (Nisbett and Ross, 1980, p.45). It was further tested that vivid imagery that created false memories in the mind of the consumer of previously enjoying that product helps customers to feel a connection and satisfaction with the brand immediately. This was executed by presenting imagery in ads which would provoke facial recognition and thoughts of parents or loved ones – building brand new memories in your mind surrounding the brand’s product in circumstances where you felt comfortable or happy. With the vast rise of awareness around the third-wave feminist movement in recent years, many companies took advantage of this in order to create emotive marketing campaigns that aimed to create the positive effect. For example, Barbie dolls were suffering from brand image problems and experienced a decrease in sales due to giving children unrealistic body image expectations, and putting it across that girls were only interested in the material things in life (Forbes, 2015). Mattel then successfully reframed how parents thought about Barbie dolls by creating the Barbie campaign; ‘’Imagine the Possibilities’’, which then went viral across digital and television ads. The campaign implied that Barbie can be played with in order for young girls to play out their dreams to become successful and powerful women. The imagery used surrounds a little girl is playing in her bedroom with her Barbie. However, she is pretending to be a Doctor or a Professor in a university using the Barbie doll, which provokes memories in the minds of parents whereby they see both themselves as children and their own children playing with Barbie dolls in particular. It then helps both adults and children to believe that Barbie is a doll to be used to create ambitious and strong women who can be anything they want to be and that they have the choice to do so (Handler, R., 2015). This campaign was a giant success through using emotive vivid imagery through both traditional and digital advertising methods. It garnered results of 36% and 44% above the toy industry norms, respectively, for attention and likeability (Forbes, 2015).


While television advertising helps to build the brand and display the message, print and digital advertising work together to capture the mind’s eye of the consumer in all other aspects of their daily routine (Lynn, L., 2016). By exploring methods used by marketers in order to capture the potential customer effectively, across both traditional and digital advertising methods; brand familiarity (Kent, R.J., & Allen, C.T. 1994), creativity (Yang and Smith, 2009)., and vivid imagery (Nisbett and Ross 1980) are the key components. By putting this to practise and exploring these factors in the context of advertising campaigns, it was evident that both traditional and digital methods were needed to truly make an impact. These methods complement each other - as was suggested at the beginning of the paper and was further explored in detail to prove it as true. It seems there truly is a future for television and print advertising in the digital age, and that digital advertising methods only open up more creative possibilities for the marketing world.


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