Strengths & Weaknesses

I recently received an email asking me what I think are the relative strengths and weaknesses of each traditional form of media (as I have worked in all of these, I feel confident enough to claim insider knowledge about them - but feel free to correct me if I am wrong). Anyway, I thought that that was a great question to ask, so, after much debating about how to go about it, here's my response.

Some of you may or may not agree with these points, but what I am suggesting here is that in the majority of cases, this is what you will see as each medium's strengths and weaknesses:

Community Newspapers:

STRENGTHS: It has local appeal, editorial write ups, classifieds, inexpensive for local community coverage.

WEAKNESSES: There are longer lead times to get advertising copy in, they may have a high circulation – but low readership, every other business in town may be advertising, and you only have 4 times a month to get your message across – and expensive for a larger reach across other papers. 
Your ad can become buried with every other ad. Usually read once a day, in the morning before work.

BEST USED TO: Target specific markets, you can ask for long copy in editorial, encourages community feel and responsibility, and best used for small retail stores.

BEST TIPS: Try to get editorial coverage to go with the ad spot, don’t crowd the space within the ad – leave white space to draw peoples eyes to the copy. ALWAYS negotiate the positioning of the ad in the paper, and shape the ad itself to dominate the page it is on.

Daily Newspapers (usually Capital City)

STRENGTHS: It is timely, daily, and easy to have new specials each and every day to reflect news and current events. Broad reach across huge readership. Material changes are usually quicker, easier and less hassle.

WEAKNESSES: Expensive to use as a frequency builder for branding, No localism to tie yourself in with your community, wasted circulation from people who just don’t receive a copy, a short shelf life for information. Read sometimes twice a day, in the morning and sometime again before 1pm.

BEST USED TO: Great effect by retail advertisers, for daily specials. Talks to people who are looking to buy TODAY!, They have a short lead time and deadlines – which you can use to your advantage for buying space.

BEST TIPS: Be creative, don’t crowd the space of the ad. It can be expensive to get the position you want, but you can usually negotiate when close to deadlines. Shape your ad to dominate the page by either clever text or photos – but always keep it simple. With one idea, a short headline. Make your copy relevant and distinctive. Create an emotional response, use humour. And highlight the benefits not features to sell.

National Newspapers

STRENGTHS: Usually targeted at a high end readership. Have high quality art, printing and copy.

WEAKNESSES: Expensive, immediate restriction for the number of people who would be interested in the ad – products or services. Long lead times, short deadlines.

BEST USED TO: Same as daily newspapers.

BEST TIPS: Same as daily newspapers.


STRENGTHS: Glossy images, high visual component. Targeted to specific audience. Good if not great reproduction of quality artwork. Regional flexibility for some magazines is available. Significant amount of pass-along readership. Long shelf life. Ad’s are all a part of the readership experience in a magazine.

WEAKNESSES: Long lead times for each issue. High production costs. Slow, if not glacial frequency builder with readers. NEVER, EVER use them for time sensitive offers.

BEST USED TO: Build images and branding. Target specific readers/demographic.

BEST TIPS: Use “The Bleed” creatively, look for long term editorial calanders or events that issues will cover and tie in with them. Negotiate positioning, especially for long term contracts. Offer product samples for stories, contests, etc. Keep your message simple, think outside the box to create visual interest.

Regional Television:

STRENGTHS: Small audience reach – unless prime time spots purchased, audio and visual appeal for products and services, target specific shows. 
Credible and prestigious in viewers eyes.

WEAKNESSES: Average to high production costs, high costs of entry into the TV medium. Commercials are largely ignored as they are used by viewers for toilet/coffee breaks. OR – they are muted thanks to the ever ready in your hand remote control.

BEST USED TO: Build brand awareness, equity and build the image of your company in peoples minds. As a foundation or jump off point to get people to look at other mediums for more details.

BEST TIPS: Ensure a minimum 6 week campaign. Billboards or show specific sponsorship is an efficient and cost effective way to tie your business to a show. Ignore the “R.O.S.*” offers.

Metro Television:

STRENGTHS: Large if not mass market reach, again audio and visual appeal for products and services. Is seen as intrusive and with repetition highly effective. Credible, high status and prestigious in the viewers eyes.

WEAKNESSES: Extremely high production costs, high cost to target specific programs that you know your customers watch, the dreaded remote to mute or change channels. Big name brands have huge budgets, and production values – they also repeat their commercials ad nauseum. They have repetition on their side, you don’t.

BEST USED TO: With frequency, build relationship with viewers, builds also your image and branding amongst the viewing public.

BEST TIPS:  Make sure you weight your commercials (at the start of programs – not the end). Have one basic idea, stick to it and make your point clearly and concisely. Use emotion or humour to involve the viewer. Consider spending more on the production values and script to create a commercial that will last. ALWAYS identify yourself, your location, what the actual product or service is – clearly.

Regional & Provincial Radio:

STRENGTHS: Smaller, local audience reach. Frequency is competitive. Radio is personal and listeners take ownership of “their station” and will more often than not – shop at a businesses that advertises on “their station” than one that doesn’t. It is economical, low cost of production and entry into the medium. 
Short lead in times and deadlines. Local radio is forever evolving – ownership of the station during a change helps to build your brand. Radio can be imaginative and creative – it can even be your product talking to the customer. Radio is listened to, on average, an astounding 10.5 hours a day!

WEAKNESSES: Local, no visuals, can be seen as a background medium.

BEST USED TO: Build frequency, what I call “the nag factor” nagging at people so that you are front of mind for the listener when they require your products or services. Promotions, and targeting specifically your local community.

BEST TIPS:  Focus on frequency, and more of it. Sponsorships for news segments, traffic and weather reports are worth the investment as that is what people usually stop and seriously listen to. Focus your script on ONE if not THE most important idea, create a moment for the listener to identify with so they are entertained and engaged. Be different. Become an “expert” that they can call on to discuss news with.

Metropolitan & National Radio:

STRENGTHS: Specific demographic targetability. Frequency or spots, portability. Is seen as a personal brand by metro listeners who proudly will state who they listen to. Is listened to, on average about 10.5 hours a day!

WEAKNESSES: Is a true background medium. Is expensive to reach your audience, and build a relationship with them.

BEST USED TO: Tell a story through creative means. Be frequent, and in the face of people listening.

BEST TIPS: Capitalize on the power and reach of the station by using sound to grab an audience and deliver them to your door – be it from a live cross with the stations promotions vehicle.

Website (Yours):

STRENGTHS: Reach a captive audience – actively seeking to engage with your business. Your campaigns, specials and offers can be specifically targeted to geographical areas. Measurable stats available. Is cost effective with limited waste. Can use audio and video to really produce stunning results.

WEAKNESSES: You get what you pay for. Your target customers may not have the same system that your website is designed for, ie: they could be using a mobile phone, tablet, PC or Mac, or different programs to view your site.

BEST USED TO: As a part of the whole message that is out there in all mediums. Can be used as the key part of your advertising for very small outlay.

BEST TIPS: Hire a professional to build and maintain your site. Optimize it for search engines, link with other businesses. Build a blog or community. 
Create specific “landing pages” for each of your campaigns, so if someone is searching – they will land on that page and not have to search your site for the information. Stay “above the fold” as much as possible.

Websites (Others):

STRENGTHS: Buying advertising on other sites can be seen as aligning with them (ie: radio station, tv station or newspaper). Quick turn around. Limited waste. Various different types of advertising available from banner to text. Cost per click or Pay per click is worth the investment. As is per 1000 impressions.

WEAKNESSES: Negotiate to pay for conversions only for CPA campaigns. Online banner ads are more likely than not blocked by firewalls in peoples workplaces. A little something called “Banner Blindness” has started to build up over the years.

BEST USED TO:  Promote competitions, special offers or time restrictive offers. Generate brand awareness across other sites. Boosts online sales and leads. Build a community of users.

BEST TIPS: Utilize “Banners”, pay for a graphic artist or professional to create them. Keep your messages simple, to the point and ALWAYS have a call to action button on every page.


STRENGTHS: Frequency of a group of commuters who pass a certain location. Dominance of that location. Can create ownership of an area effectively. Simplicity of visuals. Back-lit, revolving and TV Billboards create some very unique creative opportunities to think outside the box. Quality is usually very, very high.

WEAKNESSES: High Cost. Market restrictions. Limited message that can only be read in 3 seconds. A long, long lead time before your signage is up and out there. It’s effectiveness can be affected by weather, and other buildings/construction or cars and trucks blocking the message. Can sometimes be not available for long periods of time, and you could be “bumped” for a higher paying client.

BEST USED TO: Build your image, logo in the publics eye. Reach and target a specific area, suburb or street. As a reminder to people, and support other media.

BEST TIPS: Be specific and simple in your message. Negotiate everything, from “space available” bonus before and after your contract, to lighting.

Store (External):

STRENGTHS: Frequency, high visibility, dominance of the building. Long life and continuity for shoppers.

WEAKNESSES: Restricted by council guidelines, centre management, rules and regulations. Less than 3 second recognition if driving by. Angle of signage and who is to see it – from the sidewalk or from the road? Weather and parking restrictions/obstructions.

BEST USED TO: Limit the message and keep it simple. Use images rather than words. Try not to block out windows so no one can see in or out. Create a creative showcase for your products and services. Build a neighbourhood/community feel to your business.

BEST TIPS: Be specific. Any more than 6 words in one sign is wasted space. Use images. Make sure the windows and signs are all lit at all times of the day and night. Use high contrast lettering - Black on White for example. Distance test and time test all signage and displays. Keep displays changing every two weeks.

Store (Internal):

STRENGTHS: Visually impactful. Tactile and demonstratable. Captive audience. Quality of product or service. Limited waste. Not limited by message length.

WEAKNESSES: Short shelf life, expensive visuals. Can cause clutter, can block space. Intrusive and ineffectual if done badly.

BEST USED TO: Build a “I already own this” moment. If a customer can handle an item, they are more likely to buy it. Create space for people to move so they can see, use and even compare products.

BEST TIPS: Allow space for line of site to other parts of the store, put items that are used together – together! EG: Batteries and torches. ALWAYS have baskets available, or, at the very least - trolleys. Allow for customers waiting at the register to read about new, upcoming or other products and services. 
Demonstrate the usefulness. Allow for complaints and problems to be dealt with away from the registers (from people buying those very same products and services). Look closely at your store layout and design – does it help or hinder customers (not you! Your customers)

Promotional Products:

STRENGTHS: Identify your brand with a product. Tend to have long shelf life’s. Quality pens are used up to 2 years after they are given out (and that’s a long time in peoples hand every day with your logo). Can be creative, playful or useful.

WEAKNESSES: Cheap products tend to be next to useless and will damage your brand if they fail catastrophically. Some items if too quirky will have a short life span, or given off to the kids to play with.

BEST USED TO: Brand your name. Slightly longer messages. Phone number, website or address at a minimum should be on them.

BEST TIPS: Go for quality, the best that you can afford will always make a lasting impression rather than the cheapest you can get. Something that is tactile or will be used is the best thing to go for.

Direct Mail:

STRENGTHS: Specifically target areas, generally low cost entry. Personalization of names to people receiving the mail out. Not limited by the message length. You can easily measure the response with a direct mail database or list.

WEAKNESSES: High cost for quality. Wastage. Of all of the mail out you send out – only 20% will consider using your services, 15% will take it with them to do something about it. 5% will sit on the mail out or store it for later. Can be seen as intrusive junk mail.

BEST USED TO: Use with other media (ie: website for more information). Can be used to build a database of customers for future reference. Use a time limited offer to get people in.

BEST TIPS: Always try to personalise where possible. Make sure that the mail out itself is creative and will make people stop and look at it. Better yet, a sample is a fantastic way for people to try before they buy. 95% of samples are used. With only 5% thrown out.


STRENGTHS: Can be knowledgeable, helpful and insightful about products and services, and their competitors. Years of experience can lead to people using them as the “expert in their field” and seeking their help. Branded shirts or apparel will help to identify them with you – especially shirts with their name embroided on them (not name tags).

WEAKNESSES: Can be lazy, ineffectual, not care and cost you more money in the long run. Can misdirect, mislead or misrepresent your company, thus costing you money and clients. Can actually ignore customers to carry on with what they are doing, or ignore them to continue to do nothing. Will talk about you and your business to other people outside business hours, saying …. Well – you take a guess what it is that they are saying about you and your business.

BEST USED TO: Sell your branding, image and success. Become an ambassador, or an evangelist for your company. Recognise what they bring to the table, how they do their job and celebrate victories and defeats.

BEST TIPS:  Train them, cross train them, develop, grow and encourage them. Listen to them, after all you hired them for their skills.

And here is the final one, and as you know by now, it's your customers… Customers Invisible and Visible:

STRENGTHS: Will spread by word of mouth, text, twitter, and every other medium the good service, quality of goods, expert knowledge and more about you. Will build a relationship with your business and return.

WEAKNESSES: It will take only one bad interaction with you to undo years of work. Will have no qualms telling everyone, by every medium, about your poor service, products and management.

BEST USED TO: Build your standing online and in the real world community. By servicing their needs, recognising their good and bad experiences. Create a relationship with them.

BEST TIPS: Treat every customer as a friend. Recognise them when they enter your store, involve them with the experience of using a product or service. 
Give them opportunity to try. Allow for feedback and most importantly, listen and act on that feedback – don’t just give lip service about it.

And that's it. I would love to hear your feedback on this list and what you think, please comment below.

This post was written for the B4C by Earl Pilkington

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