Which Advertising Medium Is best?

Television gives you an opportunity to speak to a captive audience that is more apt to fully tune into an ad. In a similar way radio offers an improvement over print in that the listener is captive to the message unless they switch stations. On the other hand, Newspapers are typically scanned by the reader. If an ad is seen at all, the headline will be glimpsed and the copy largely ignored. Readers tend to peruse magazines more carefully than they do newspapers, but the ads are flipped by.

Maybe we can gain more insight into this issue by looking at people’s views of the different media. A 2005 post-election survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed television far outstripped newspapers as a primary source of information. In a Boston Globe article Lance Morrow, a professor of journalism at Boston University, argued that print is a thinking medium and the visual is not. While Thomas Cooper, a professor of media arts at Emerson College said viewers can get more complete news with the explosion of available television channels. Does this mean print or TV is more involving?

A few years ago, the Wharton School of Business at Penn did a study to track the return-on-investment experienced by small businesses as a result of advertising. The businesses were monitored and measured for seven years, but only three conclusions were reached: 1. There is no direct correlation between dollars invested and results gained. 2. Results are inextricably linked to the message. 3. Results increase with repetition. The study found that ads that speak to the heart of the customer and touched a nerve were the ones that turned little companies into big ones. Everything hinged on the message. Is it predictable and boring? Is it believable? Is it relevant? The study also found that once you identify a message that generates a positive response repetition works – with study participants seeing double and triple growth in years two and three (Williams, 2009).

The Wharton study doesn’t tell us which media to use, but it does tells us that success all hinges on your message. And I believe the same applies to new media.