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Why offline advertising still matters

Image of an old TV
Image of an old TV

You may sell your products and services online – and indeed many more brands are doing so now – but successful retail brands are built offline.

There’s no question that Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of online shopping. Some are calling it a seismic shift, and for good reason. However, just because every man and his grandma are now logging on to buy from your business, that doesn’t mean it’s where you should be advertising.

It seems counterintuitive to say this, but the fact is, enduring brands – those that can sustain sales growth in the long term – are more often built offline rather than online. And, dealing in the here and now, the effects of the pandemic on media consumption habits mean there’s never been a better time to be brand building in traditional channels.

Take the example of television. At the height of the pandemic, TV audiences surged by 30 per cent. But with many brands unsure how best to proceed in the new climate, TV advertising revenues shrank by 34 per cent.

In a market that works on supply and demand, brands that invest in TV advertising will now find they are getting better value for money than ever before. Likewise, ad-supported streaming platforms have seen huge audience increases – up 45 per cent year on year. Yet with many brands gun shy on account of the pandemic, rates have never been more competitive. And given this is a phenomenon created by Covid, the size of the shift is likely to be temporary, so now’s the time to make the most of the opportunity.

Just to be clear, we are talking more than just value for money. What really matters is effectiveness – and channels like TV are proven to drive sales. A 2016 study by marketing analytics firm Ebiquity found that television is the most efficient media channel for brands in many mass market categories, including fast-moving consumer goods, automotive, finance and e-commerce.

Using raw sales data from 21 advertisers with collective yearly advertising spend of $500 million, the study found TV to be the most efficient media channel, delivering almost twice the sales uplift of search and radio, and up to five times more sales uplift than out-of-home, online video and online display media.

Building a big brand

I’m not saying it’s either/or. Digital advertising certainly has its place in the media mix, and you shouldn’t forgo it entirely. But research – and history – show that big brands are built offline. Even the world’s largest and most successful online brands – think Google and Amazon – invest hefty chunks of their marketing budgets in offline channels for one very good reason: they work.

And Google and Amazon aren’t alone. Research from the UK shows brands such as Deliveroo, Uber and Netflix are increasing their spend in traditional channels such as TV.

So, if your business has only recently seen an increase in online purchasing, don’t suddenly switch your entire marketing budget to online. If you’re looking to grow your brand, you’re going to need a mixture of both on- and offline. Think offline to reach bigger and broader new audiences and look to digital to personalise the offering to these customers once you have them in the purchase funnel.

Given offline media reach has grown during Covid – and it costs less right now to reach bigger audiences – there’s never been a better time to go offline. But, to borrow a well-worn advertising catch-cry, this opportunity isn’t going to last forever.

Craig Flanders is the client strategy director of advertising agency Spinach.

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