There are many more differences between traditional and digital marketing than simply the mediums they exist on. The terms themselves can be quite vague:

What is traditional anymore?
What now counts as digital marketing?

So, before we get into the pros and cons of each marketing approach, let’s begin by defining what we mean by ‘traditional marketing’ and ‘digital marketing’.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional Marketing includes any marketing platforms or channels that existed before the boom of the internet. We’re talking:

  • Broadcast ads on TV and radio
  • Print ads on magazine and newspapers
  • Outdoor ads on billboards
  • Telemarketing
  • OOH Advertising

Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing is any form of marketing that exists online and involves promoting your businesses to audiences on the internet, including:

  • Social media advertising
  • Paid search results
  • Email marketing (aka e-Campaigns)
  • SEO
  • Content Marketing

As you can see, there are many ways in which marketers utilise the space both online and offline to market their product or service, so it’s highly likely that you’ve come across one form or another.

But which is more effective? Well that’s what we’re going to tackle today – spoiler alert, it’s not as straightforward as 100% Traditional or 100% Digital, in fact I’ll let you know now that if you want the best marketing campaign for your investment, then an effective combination of both traditional marketing methods and digital marketing methods is the way to go.

However, not everyone can afford to combine several forms of marketing so here is a definitive guide to every aspect of traditional and digital marketing so you can make an educated decision before spending that all important marketing budget.

Traditional Marketing: Examples & Benefits

This form of marketing is the grandfather to digital marketing as it has been around for decades.

Gaining traction in the 60’s, some of the first forms of mainstream traditional marketing existed within magazines, newspapers and other printed materials. Some of those ads were, shall we say, less than savoury…

Before this, however, commercial radio broadcasts supported by advertisements were circulating in the 1920’s. Listen to this one advertising a brand new invention called the ‘hairdryer’.

Traditional marketing is typically a more expensive affair, especially if you want to have an effective, memorable campaign. Therefore, you’ll usually see larger companies taking advantage of their deeper pockets and splashing out on a really extravagant TV ad spot or billboard.

In the age of the internet, you may be wondering why companies would spend tens of thousands on ads not based in the virtual realm, and this takes us to our first advantage of traditional marketing – impact and staying power.

It can’t be argued that, with the right marketing team by your side, adverts in the physical world or on television can stay in a viewer’s memory for a long time after viewing. Despite the criticism that advertising has received for becoming more and more encroaching on our daily lives, credit should be given to the sheer creativity of marketers and their ability to relay an impactful message about a brand.

Don’t believe me? Check out these clever billboard ads courtesy of the HubSpot blog.

British Airways, #Lookup – London

Thanks to some digital sorcery, British Airways placed an ingenious interactive billboard with a young boy pointing at BA planes as they flew past, accompanied by the name of the specific flight.

2. ORPHEA – Italy

One of my personal favourites, this ORPHEA billboard demonstrated the insecticide’s function by applying a spray-shaped layer of glue made visible by the hundreds of bugs that got stuck on it. Morbid but effective.


Located in dry, humid Lima in Peru, the University of Technology in Peru advertised to future cohorts with a billboard that also extracted moisture from the air and converted it into drinking water for the local residents, blending genius advertising with a free side of hydration: hydratising?

Television is a similarly innovative medium for traditional marketing advertising agencies to have fun with their visions for brands.

Their longer, primetime spots cater for the millions of relaxed folks who have come home after a long day of work to sit on the sofa and watch their favourite TV programmes.

Because it’s television, advertisers have been making their TV ads try and suit the medium as well as possible and so the production quality of these adverts are usually very high, and often have relatively long plot points like the TV shows they are wedged between. Here are some more of my favourite picks that I found online:

1. Virgin Trains “Very Fast Chair

This 1 minute TV ad for Virgin Trains shows a man travelling cross-country on a bench as it gradually grows all sorts of attachments and features until it is revealed to be a Virgin Train by the time the minute is up. Humorous and smart, this was no-doubt a great representation of what Virgin Trains wanted to get across to their customers.

2. Warburtons “Goodbagels” 

This TV spot from Warburtons starring the renowned Robert De Niro wove a light Goodfellas-esque tale focused on their new range of bagels. Being a Bolton-based digital marketing agency, this one is very close to our hearts.

3. Compare the Market – Compare the Meerkat

Probably one of the most recognisable ad campaigns in recent British history, Aleksandr the anthropomorphic meerkat has been the face of the insurance comparison site Compare the Market for over a decade.

After hundreds of adverts, corporate deals and even an entire toy range of the meerkat characters CTM has since solidified itself as one of the country’s top insurance comparison sites.

All of these examples have been in an effort to showcase the true sticking power that a traditional ad campaign offers in the hands of a creative team. However, a truly effective traditional ad campaign doesn’t come cheap due to the cost of production as well as the imaginative minds working alongside the brand.

Traditional Marketing: The Downfalls

This takes us into the less than ideal elements of traditional marketing that often lead brands sticking to digital marketing methods.

One of the main pitfalls of traditional marketing is that it offers very little interaction from its audience. A billboard on the street or ad spot on TV can be as heart-wrenching, stomach-churning or tear-jerking as the agency wants but its entire existence is to be witnessed and observed before the audience moves onto whatever it is they were doing; whether driving down the road or getting back to their show.

Traditional marketing is a one-way street that offers little more than brand awareness and whilst brand awareness is an important factor for a company, it can’t be argued that knowing what your audience thinks of the campaign and all the time and money you spent on it is of some importance.

It also means that there are very few ways in which to measure the success of the campaign, as there are no metrics like engagement and impressions that exist solely online to refer to.

Additionally, traditional ad methods can’t be customised or updated, so any opportunity to rectify mistakes exist solely pre-launch. There are also few options for targeting specific customer bases with one campaign. So, the tone of a Guinness TV ad might resonate less with some people than it would with others and the ad agency would have no knowledge of it either way.

Digital Marketing: Examples & Benefits

Digital marketing is the hip, young grandson of the marketing world. He is fast-paced and youthful, he encourages conversation with his audience, and is aaaaalways on social media.

Digital marketing is the realm of marketing that exists solely online and considering mainstream online advertising has only come into itself in the past decade or so, it is relatively infantile; bringing with it its own host of benefits and drawbacks.

Examples of digital marketing range from paid search engine results and social media pay per click (PPC) ads, to email marketing and website banners.

They are highly interactable forms of advertising because the audience is usually only a click away from the product page that the digital ad is promoting.

It also helps digital marketing agencies that billions of eyes are on the internet every day, so the pool of potential customers is much larger than traditional platforms like the more out-dated television whose audience is typically older and less likely to use the internet as much.

Social media is an aspect of this that shouldn’t be ignored. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have billions of monthly users constantly sharing their ‘hot takes’ on matters of varying importance so why would you not want a piece of that conversation pie?

The social element of social media sites through direct messaging and comment sections can easily allow customer feedback, both positive and negative, to reach the company directly. To learn more about this, make sure to check out the “Digital Marketing & Social Media” blog post on the Framework Marketing website.

Digital marketing also takes advantage of the many stats and analytics that are available online; either through your own website or through social media.

These analytics can offer insight into customer behaviours such as time spent on a site, conversion rates and bounce rates, all of which can then be used to tweak features of your online presence.

Contrastingly to traditional marketing methods, digital marketing can target specific audiences through the use of this customer information that is available online.

Similarly, sites like Facebook offer advertising options that make a digital marketing campaign narrowed down to certain demographics and customers that they think have particular preferences.

Another very important advantage digital marketing has over its traditional counterpart is that audiences can “choose” how they see adverts online.

This could be via their Facebook or Twitter feed, before any videos they watch on YouTube, or any other platform they like to use. The benefit of this is that you’re targeting consumers with your digital marketing campaigns whilst they’re relaxed and using the internet for their leisure.

It could be argued that infiltrating consumers’ downtime with ads is annoying and risks putting them off your brand entirely, but you benefit from catching consumers whilst their attention is more focused on the platform that they’re using.

Digital Marketing: The Downfalls

Now, being a digital marketing agency we may be slightly biased in our conviction against the wonders of digital marketing as we’ve seen first hand how it can transform businesses, but we’ll remain true to ourselves as well as you, dear reader, and let you in on some of the aspects of digital marketing that you should be wary of before delving headfirst.

Digital ads can be intrusive and annoying – as I touched on a little bit earlier, it can be frustrating when you’re just trying scroll down your social media site of choice and every fifth post is a sponsored post trying to find a space in your wallet.

Despite this, sponsored posts are the most innocuous digital ads around when compared to website pop-up ads and banners. The more ads that a website has, the more intrusive they become. They can distract from the content of a site and even affect the performance of a website as it takes the time to load them all up.

It’s a difficult line to balance because so much of a company’s revenue stream can rely on ads. The more ads you place, the more money you can get from advertisers, but this can come at a cost to the user experience.

Digital ads are less permanent – time spent online is fleeting and nonstop. The internet is built for constant crawling from link to link, from page to page, and this fast-paced nature discourages the user to sit back and smell the virtual roses. This lower attention span means that digital ads found online, via emails or on social media are easily ignored and scrolled past.

Digital ads don’t have the same wow factor as traditional campaigns that evoke emotion from the viewer.

By the same token, they’re not there for that purpose; digital ads found on websites are designed to get the viewer as close to that virtual shopping basket in as little time as possible – it just means that for those that don’t click through are very likely to forget all about the ad within minutes of it leaving their screens.

Having said that, not all digital ads are born the same and many do deserve credit. If you’re interested in seeing some truly imaginative digital ad campaigns, check out our faves from this year.

Digital marketing is constantly evolving – as I said, digital marketing is still relatively in its infancy and we’re still figuring out the best ways to speak to customers online. What this means is that there are several facets of digital marketing that need specialised knowledge for a holistic and effective campaign; from SEO to social media, to content marketing.

To learn more about SEO, check out our previous blog post here and you’ll quickly come to understand what we mean.

In conclusion…

Coming from a digital marketing point of view, I’d argue that the potential is endless and ever-changing and that the internet provides opportunity never before seen for companies, but if you have the budget to allow it, you wouldn’t go amiss to combine the best aspects of digital and traditional marketing.

Wanting the best head start in the digital marketing game? Check out the free Framework Marketing template so you can feel like a digital marketing guru before sundown.