Traditional Vs. Digital Advertising

Digital marketing is extremely important for any business to achieve growth. Here's some proof!

The marketing landscape has been shifting over the last three decades. With the rise of the internet and users’ growing dependance on it, many traditional marketing channels and ideologies are becoming more obsolete as a variety of new ones take their place. In this article we’ll talk about these new avenues and how they serve as evolutions of well-established traditional channels.

Traditional marketing is all marketing methods conducted without internet-connected electronic devices. These are the channels and tactics that marketers have developed and utilized forever up until the last thirty years, and as a result, are often resistant to moving away from. Traditional marketing methods are tried and true, but they're becoming less all-encompassing than they once were.

Some Traditional Marketing Channels

  • Radio
  • TV
  • Print (Newspapers, Magazines)
  • Billboards
  • Direct Mail

We wouldn’t go as far as to say marketers should completely abandon these channels. There are still plenty of applicable uses for them, especially with specific audience age groups and marketing objectives. But modern marketers should be shifting their budgets toward primarily digital channels.

Before we get into breakdowns of different traditional channels and their digital counterparts, we want to address a concern that’s probably popped up in your mind by now.
“Why should I be listening to a digital marketing agency’s opinion on traditional marketing?”

This is a valid concern, and our response to it is:

We aren’t writing a blog about digital marketing being in many ways superior to traditional BECAUSE we’re a digital marketing agency. We are a digital marketing agency because digital marketing IS BETTER today than traditional marketing.

Our entire existence is predicated on the belief and knowledge that, in most ways, digital marketing offers you more return on your investment through better targeting, less wasted ad spend, and lower cost of production/delivery. Additionally, digital marketing allows for a level of action on the consumer’s end that traditional can’t. But don’t just take our word for it, let’s dive into how digital has improved upon traditional tactics.

First, an Overview of the Digital Landscape

The internet has changed the way people work, learn, watch TV, connect with friends, and do nearly anything in between. The impact this invention has had on humanity cannot be understated, and the resourceful marketer understands just how powerful of a tool it is.  

Some Stats About the Internet

  • There are 311.3 million internet users in the USA (91.8% of global population)
  • Global Internet Users increased by 1.9% in 2022
  • Internet users spend on average 6 hours and 37 minutes on the internet daily
  • 95.9%of internet users own a smartphone

The internet has taken over the world, and as a result, digital advertising has largely taken over modern marketing. In 2022, 73.3% of all ad spend worldwide was digital (DataReportal). Advertisers are wisening up to the advantages of utilizing digital advertising, not the least of which is the pure reach of internet users.

This was part of a continuing trend in marketing over the last few decades.  In fact, global digital ad spend has grown 262% from 2017-2022 (DataReportal). It isn’t just the big corporations that are pumping their money into digital channels either. In the year 2021, 91%of all marketers increased their digital budgets (Gitnux). 

So we understand the gigantic size of the global internet user base and how pervasive it is in all aspects of everyday life, now we’ll show some of the exciting digital channels that advertisers can explore.

Social Media is the first digital marketing channel we want to highlight because there isn’t a great traditional analog to it. While you can say the digital equivalent to direct mail is email, it’s harder to say what social media is replacing.

The truth is likely that social media is primarily replacing the physical interactions people used to have with each other. Instead of calling up your friends that you haven’t heard from in a while, you look up their Facebook page. This is definitely painting social media in a more negative light than how it really is, but the point is that social media allows for advertising opportunities where traditionally there were none. Brands didn’t have the opportunity to advertise during a friendly phone call or walk in the park, but they can now that many of those same interactions are made digital.  

Social Media Stats

  • The USA has 235.1 million social media users over 18 (88.6% of total population over 18)
  • 60.9%of Americans over 13 use Facebook
  • The average user spends 2 hours and 31 minutes on social media daily

People spend a ton of their time on social media, so your brand should have a large presence there. It also offers great targeting because users share who they are and interact with the things they’re interested in. 72% of marketers believe social media ads are more effective than traditional marketing channels (Gitnux).

Cable TV vs Streaming TV

Television has been one of advertisers’ favorite marketing channels ever since 1941, when the first television commercial aired (a wristwatch commercial played during an MLB game). TV was consumers introduction to, and for many decades the only avenue for, video advertising. Video advertising is great, because it demands the viewers’ attention and creates a deeper branding opportunity than nearly any other channel.  

We explored Streaming and Cable TV in further detail in our article Streaming TV: The New Age of Television. We’ll give you the headlines here:  

  • As of July 2022, streaming has passed cable in total viewership (LG AdsSolutions)
  • 80% on streaming tv consumer use ad-supported options
  • Instead of cable just playing ads on specific programs, streaming allows advertisers to target by user demographics and preferences

TV will likely always be a solid channel for video marketing, but advertisers just need to make sure they’re shifting away from increasingly antiquated methods and utilizing targeting that reaches the desired audience for their message.


Going even further than streaming, the next evolution of TV and video marketing is YouTube. We call it an evolution because YouTube offers more niche and personalized programming than television ever could. Beyond the advantage of having content that appeals to everyone, there is the added benefit that it allows YouTube to collect tons of data about the site’s users so your targeting can be super detailed. 

YouTube Stats

  • YouTube is the second most visited website in the world (behind only Google)
  • YouTube ads reach 72.5% of the US population (DataReportal)
  • 62% of YouTube users are on the site daily (HootSuite)

This is another digital channel that doesn’t have a direct traditional comparison. Video content has moved beyond television to include new platforms for shorter form videos and video streaming, who now take up a huge slice of the video media market. If you do any form of television marketing, we’d absolutely recommend running ads on YouTube as well.

Direct mail is physical mail sent to a consumer’s house and e-mail is messaging sent to the user’s inbox. There actually are some real benefits to direct mail, such as their high open rates and increased brand recall, but it is a much more costly tactic than email.  

Downsides to Direct Mail

  • Limited to the availability of home addresses in your database
  • Many associated costs (Design, Printing,Postage, Address Lead Lists)
  • Low response rates. If the mail is asking for an action to be performed, it’s hard to tell if the consumer followed through.
  • The mail must go through transit while email can arrive in an inbox immediately 

At scale email is just so much easier and cheaper. Privacy concerns continue to grow and with them is a reluctancy for consumers to give out their home address. Email addresses are seen as much less intrusive, so consumers are comparatively more willing to share theirs. On top of that is that email costs very little to make and deliver making the variable costs of direct mail much higher.

Billboards are one of the traditional marketer’s favorite tools. It’s easy to understand why they love billboards because there’s a proof of concept to them. It’s a huge space to showcase your brand. And if you can see the billboard, then you know others can as well.

Display ads are ads that are shown whenever users are browsing the web or on ad-supported apps. They are a sort of digital billboard shown only to your targeted audience. Social media ads work in a very similar way and are another alternative to billboards.

Marketers can become upset if they aren’t seeing their own ads because they begin to wonder if anyone is seeing them, but this is a fallacy since the marketer may not be their own target audience. With billboards, everyone that passes by will see it, but likely most of them will not be your targeted audience and there’s no guarantee that the target audience will see your billboard.

With display ads you can target to where ONLY your audience sees the advertisement. This ensures that your audience is seeing the ads wherever they are and that ads aren’t being wasted on consumers that won’t ever use your brand.

The last digital tactic we want to highlight is search engine marketing. Search engines are used every day by almost all internet users and are one of the highest converting marketing channels out there. Most digital marketers focus their search engine marketing on Google.

Google Stats

  • Number one largest web site globally by visitors
  • 91.9% of global search engine market share
  • Handles 8.5 billion searches per day

Google Search Ads allow you to showcase your brand to users who are already searching for relevant topics. If someone is looking for an injury lawyer, you want to be the first one they see. It is quite possibly the easiest lead generation there is and an absolute necessity for any business with simply no traditional alternative. 

Why You Need to Be Marketing Digitally

To summarize, digital marketing is extremely important for any business to achieve growth. People are spending more time at home and on their phones than ever before. You must reach people where they are and where their attention is, and that is on the internet.

We utilize all the digital channels we’ve discussed here, but they don’t all work for every brand and every goal. Successful marketing plans are personalized to your business and objectives, so talk to us for help building out a plan that works for you.


Isaiah hates PowerPoint but he loves the Dolphins. The team. Not the animal. He's clear about that.

Download Our Free Organic Playbook for 2023

Make your organic marketing efforts work for you, not against you. Utilize this playbook to be fully prepped for your organic business growth this year.

Thanks! We'll Email You the PDF Shortly!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.