As the above image implies, the debate over whether to use digital or traditional media can sometimes feel like a battle for advertising supremacy. Punches are thrown on both sides and we wait to see who comes away victorious.
If you’re of a certain age, the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em analogy may leave you feeling nostalgic. Much like the traditional advertising methods hospitals have leaned on for years. There’s a comfort and sense of affection for traditional outlets such as newspapers, direct mail, radio, and network television.
However, we can’t ignore the other player in the ring, digital advertising. Healthcare audiences live and communicate in a digital world. To reach them, healthcare marketers have to bet on digital tactics.
But embracing digital doesn’t mean leaving behind the nostalgia of traditional media. In fact, they are more effective when employed together. Digital and traditional media are no longer opponents in the game, they’re teammates. Understanding the strengths of both is the first step toward achieving a successful integrated healthcare media strategy.
What is traditional media?
Traditional media generally refers to the tried-and-true advertising methods organizations have relied on for decades, such as radio, broadcast television, print, and billboards.
These forms of advertising can be both broad and targeted in their messaging and reach. Each medium has its own set of generally accepted rules, and even some stereotypes. Despite negative perceptions, traditional media continues to provide data and trackable results for marketers.
“Traditional media is about time tested methods that are data driven and speak to marketing fundamentals,” says Ann Hansen, one of our media strategists. “While [measurable] ROI is important, healthcare organizations do need to be cautious to not solely focus on the targeting and tracking of specific ads. There is significant value in creating awareness and familiarity among healthcare consumers. Over time, consistent frequency will bring about engagement. Data is important, but it needs to always be put into perspective related to the larger organizational goals.”
What is digital media?
Digital media refers to advertising or content delivery that occurs online, by way of a computer, digital display, or mobile device. Today, digital media takes many forms. Within the healthcare industry, digital marketing typically occurs via websites, display ads, social media, email, streaming platforms, pre-roll video, native content, and more.
“Often when healthcare clients say they ‘want to go more digital’ the first question you should ask is what that means to them,” says our digital marketing manager Troy Boehm. “Given the constant advances in media, education is often an important first step in developing strategies. Marketers know they want to incorporate a diverse media mix, but at times do not know the best way to segment those efforts.”
It is interesting to note that many of the digital media giants significantly use traditional media to promote their brands and products. In 2019, Amazon Prime Day was promoted as an omni-channel campaign, with an approximate television spend of $8.1 million, compared to a digital campaign buy of $5.9 million. Google and Facebook have also had very active branding campaigns using traditional media.
Blending traditional and digital media
Today’s consumers are vastly different from those of the past, and successfully reaching them has never been more challenging. Healthcare consumers prefer to do their own research online before consulting with a medical expert. Physician reviews, hospital ratings, social media, and word-of-mouth play more important roles than ever before.
Advertising is constantly changing. Programming, content, and messaging are more fragmented and disrupted than ever. While many healthcare marketers seek to limit the number of media outlets they advertise on, the reality is that successful marketing plans need to incorporate a blend of many efforts to produce a desired reach, frequency, and outcome.
Deciding on the best media mix and gaining leadership consensus can be tricky. Everyone has an opinion and a bias. When developing an integrated media plan, it is important to justify recommendations with data.
A one-two punch
In spite of the way they are often positioned, traditional and digital media do not need to compete for a place in annual marketing budgets. It is not an either/or proposition. Each has its own strengths, and most agency media planners would agree that traditional and digital media complement one another, each playing a vital and unique role.
Keep in mind that traditional media outlets still hold more credibility with certain audiences. While digital marketing dollars are steadily increasing, traditional marketing channels continue to offer important capabilities that digital channels can’t easily duplicate. Here are some examples of differences as well as synergies between traditional and digital media.
Healthcare is local
Patients view their local health systems as backbones of the community. They expect them to be involved and active in improving community wellness. Traditional advertising provides unique opportunities for organizations to solidify a community presence that digital media simply cannot.
Narrow targeting may miss interested consumers
According to a July 2020 Nielsen perspectives article, most digital advertising methods simply cannot communicate as much information as traditional media. This is first and foremost because digital ads can't accommodate as much text. The article also notes that given the fact that digital media has less reach than traditional options, if a marketing strategy is too digital-heavy, it will likely miss many interested consumers.
Traditional casts a wider net; digital drives engagement
Traditional media is a perfect way to get your message out to a wider audience and use specific calls to action to encourage them to learn more online. Once a consumer engages with your organization online, the interaction changes from awareness to active communication. Digital marketing then works in tandem to further engage specific audiences with personalized messages and create two-way communication opportunities.
While many organizations are leaning toward a digital-first philosophy, our advice is to advocate against being digital only. By viewing media as a unified category with an ever-expanding variety of available tactics, healthcare marketers can develop stronger campaigns with effective reach at the most efficient cost.
Aligning strong creative with diverse media strategies allows hospitals and health organizations to thrive in an advertising environment that is often overwhelming to consumers.
In the end, it’s not about letting traditional media spend and digital marketing dollars duke it out in the ring. It’s about using the best tactics each has to offer for your given audience and developing a plan that can be monitored and adapted as necessary.
- Marketing campaigns should aim to reach targeted consumers via multiple channels.
- The success of any campaign ultimately depends on the quality of the message and content being distributed.
- Effective media buys can do a lot to position marketing messages in the right place and for the right amount of time. But if the product, service, or experience is not messaged properly it will not be successful.
- Be in tune with the needs and wants of both current and potential patients.
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