Magazines vs. TV vs. Online

Which medium is the most effective? It’s a question that every type of marketing agency is asking every day. Many people, media publishers and agencies default to the medium they have the most experience in.

One of the most recent studies getting coverage from McPheters & Company gets what will be a controversial heading “TV and Magazine Ads More Effective Than Ads on Internet“. The study, commissioned by Condé Nast and CBS Vision, a major publisher and a major television network (insert red flag of potential bias) concludes that:

Within a half hour, magazines effectively delivered more than twice the number of ad impressions as TV and more than 6 times those delivered on-line.

Among web users, 63% of banner ads were not seen. Respondents’ eyes passed over 37% of the Internet ads and stopped on slightly less than a third.

Though TV doesn’t deliver as many ads per half hour as do magazines, net recall of TV ads was almost twice that of magazine ads; magazines in turn had ad recall almost three times that of Internet banner ads.

I don’t question these results. I do believe that many Internet users have trained themselves to ignore banner ads. Also, I do believe that both television and magazines can be an effective advertising medium. However, I think the study doesn’t consider a number of things, including:

Cost – What’s the cost per impression for each of the three scenarios. Sure, maybe my banner ad only gets noticed say 1/3 of the time. However, if my banner ad cost is 1/20 of a television or print advertisement, then which is the better investment?

Placements and technology – These days, anyone who buys on-line media will not buy just banner ads. Typically there are sponsorship, custome placements in certain sections of sites and on-line promotions. In addition there are a number of different types of networks that can use technology that’s not available offline to serve the ad to the right audience at the right time.

Rich media and video – Not all banner ads are created equal. Rich media ads and video ads tend, in general, to get a much higher response rate than regular banner ads and sometimes higher than their offline counterparts.

Optimization – If your on-line media buy isn’t working, you can modify and optimize your buy on a periodic basis, even monthly. You can’t do that with a print and television ad nearly as quickly if at all.

Maybe the problem here is that we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe it shouldn’t be which medium is most effective. We should take a look at the brand and product we’re trying to promote and customize an approach based on our customer. With a budget large enough to do TV ads or even print ads, an integrated campaign using all three components together should be considered. Its just not a simple matter of plugging and playing into the “most effective media”.

– Paul Herring