Online vs. Offline: Where Should Your Ads Be?

Posted by: Mike White Thursday, January 16, 2014

Where your ads go is just as important and how you create them.

Ads Online vs. Offline

With the rise of the internet and the success of online marketing tactics like blogging and web video marketing, the game has changed. Buying your annual yellow pages ad and a few TV spots is not going to cut it anymore.

However, this doesn't mean that advertising is dead. Although they may not be as effective as inbound marketing techniques, ads can still play a role in your marketing. As always, it depends on your business and your target market.

When it comes to advertising nowadays, you have two major options: online and offline ads.

Online Ads

These include ads like:

  • Search ads, Pay Per Click (PPC), and Adwords ads: These are usually text-based ads that will appear in search results (highlighted in yellow or with "Ad" next to them), although some search engines have introduced more elaborate ads, including images.
  • Display ads: These are the ads that you'll see on websites themselves, usually at the top (banner ads) or the sidebar.
  • Retargeting ads: These are the display ads that will show specifically to people who have visited your website or completed a specific action (such as putting an item in their shopping cart).
  • Social media ads: These are the ads that go on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and can either look like traditional display ads or can look like regular stories on users' feeds.

These kinds of ads are great for immediate, take-action-now kinds of goals. Download this ebook, Start your free trial, or Shop now! People are usually looking to do something online, after all; your ad offers them an idea of what they should do.

Online ads also allow for exact targeting when it comes to who sees them. You can set it for people in a certain area, or on a certain website, or whose behavior online meets certain criteria (such as visiting your website). This helps you show ads to exact who you want to see them - meaning they're much more effective.

The important thing to remember is to tailor each ad campaign to the kind of online ad - an ad and call-to-action that works well for a search ad may not work as well as a Facebook or Twitter ad. Understand what your target customer is doing and looking for in each situation in which they'll encounter the ad, and come up with what will most appeal to them in that moment.

Offline Ads

These include ads like:

  • Print ads in magazines and newspapers
  • Billboards, benches, and other community-space ads
  • TV ads
  • Postcard direct mailers
  • Pre-movie ads at movie theaters

These ads are better at announcing specific deals or offers or helping you build brand awareness about your business. While they are not always as effective as online ads, you can still get a lot of mileage from them if you plan and implement them well for your target market.

While you may not get the same kind of targeting with offline ads as you do with online ones, you can get a different kind of targeting. Niche magazines or publications, for instance, can help you target people with specific interests - interests that you cannot always infer or notice online. TV ads, meanwhile, can help you target people of a certain demographic - again, not always noticeable online - or people with certain sensibilities (Are they watching a serious or comedic program?).

The challenge with offline ads is that people are long used to ignoring them, so you have to do something that will get their attention and then stick in their mind long after they've seen your ad. This means knowing your target market is more important than ever, to make sure you create an ad that blows them away.

The good news is that technology for offline ads is somewhat reviving them, as with billboards that respond to immediate information (such as the Mini Cooper personalized billboards or the British Airways billboard that identifies planes as they fly overhead). Getting creative with your offline advertising medium - and not just your message - can help you stand out from the crowd.

So Which is Right For Me?

As always, it depends on your target market. Consider what you want them to do and how best to reach them. Then, once you have decided on online vs. offline, create an ad that will most appeal to them - that way, you can maximize the effectiveness of reaching them.