For the first time in a decade, traditional advertising is headed for growth, bucking the prediction that it would fizzle. Though the 28th edition of the CMO Survey found marketers’ traditional spending decreased annually by 1.4 percent between February 2021 and 2022—compared to an annual increase of 7.8 percent for overall marketing budgets during this same period—recent evidence shows a shift is underway. In August 2021 and February 2022, marketers predicted that traditional ad spending would increase by 1.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

Leading this shift are companies that earn all of their sales through the internet; they’re predicting an 11.7 percent increase in traditional ad spending over the next 12 months. Business-to-consumer (B2C) service companies are predicting a 10.2 percent increase while B2C product companies forecast a 4.9 percent increase.

In a recent Harvard Business Review op-ed—with insight from founder and director of the CMO Survey Christine Moorman and academic experts from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the London School of Business—the authors outline seven factors driving this trend, including the ability of traditional ads to cut through digital clutter, the decline in third-party cookies and more.

First, the authors maintain that as consumers spend more time online, they’re becoming increasingly numb to conventional digital ads and engagement. HubSpot research found that 57 percent of shoppers disliked ads that played before a video and 43 percent didn’t even watch them. 

As marketers look for a way to cut through the noise, traditional ads are seeing greater engagement while the costs associated with them have fallen. A report from MarketingSherpa found more than half of consumers often or always watch traditional TV ads and read print ads they receive in the mail from companies they’re satisfied with.

Another trend driving the uptick in traditional ad spending is consumers’ trust in the format. The same MarketingSherpa survey found that the top five most trusted ad formats to drive purchases are all traditional: print ads (82 percent), TV ads (80 percent), direct mail ads (76 percent) and radio ads (71 percent).

With the imminent demise of third-party cookies, marketers will need to rely on segmentation methods that hew closer to traditional ad models, the authors suggest. The CMO Survey found that 19.8 percent of companies invested more in traditional ads as a result of Google and Apple’s forthcoming changes.

Marketers have also started tapping into the growing medium of podcasts, which saw a 51 percent increase in available inventory, a 53 percent increase in new podcasts and an 81 percent increase in podcast ad impressions, according to Ads Wizz. The reason for the medium’s growth is their on-demand approach is akin to traditional radio and listeners trust their podcast hosts. Edison Research’s Super Listeners 2020 study shows that 45 percent of podcast listeners believe the hosts of their favorite podcasts actually use the brands mentioned on their shows.

The authors also emphasize exploiting the digital lift of traditional media, like pairing mailers with QR codes, as well as precision targeting viewer segments across on-demand and live-streamed TV through addressable TV solutions like Finecast.

Lastly, digital effectiveness is being revisited. While the CMO Survey found that 54.8 percent of marketers track digital marketing performance in real-time, they’re becoming skeptical of digital media’s hyped returns. This is raising concerns related to ad fraud and bringing the effectiveness of digital ads under scrutiny.

The authors conclude that traditional advertising is “alive and well” and when used with digital marketing, it can reach more audiences, build and maintain trust and motivate buying from consumers who might otherwise ignore marketing messages.