Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing | Gambling vs the Scientific Method

Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing | Gambling vs the Scientific Method

Gambling is the wagering of money on an event with an uncertain outcome, with the primary intent of acquiring more money or material goods. 

The Scientific Method consists of systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses to arrive at a certain conclusion.

I am going to use an example to demonstrate why traditional marketing is like the former and why digital marketing is like the latter…

Imagine a traditional advertising firm preparing a quarter-page ad for their client to be displayed in the Washington Post. As of 2018, the average cost for this is $40,855 USD. Let’s assume this client sells high end dress shoes for men.

The process would look something like this:

  • The 6-person client team brainstorms several ideas for the best advert while enjoying coffee in their boardroom (that the client pays for in bloated fees).

  • This is a big decision. Once they press “go” - $40,855 is wired to the Washington Post and there is no going back.

  • They have created 8 different ad ideas that all seem promising and now they must decide upon a winner.

  • Finally, after much debate, the team decides. They send it off and cross their fingers that their client sees a noticeable bump in shoe sales.

Now let’s see how a digital marketing agency would approach this:

  • The client team is an efficient team of two people. One digital marketing strategist and one digital media buyer (aka the Facebook ads guy). The team comes up with 8 different ad angles that they feel might work.

    • One ad angle shows a busy businesses man enjoying a moment of comfort in the dress shoes.

    • Another ad angle shows the businesses man getting a promotion while wearing the shoes.

    • Etc.

  • The team wastes no time splitting hairs about which version of the ad is going to be the best.

  • Rather, the team builds Facebook ads for each ad angle they think might work and launches them simultaneously – each of the ad sets is launched at $80 per day targeting men ages 25 - 60.

  • Five days later, the team checks the ads and notices that two of the ads resulted in significant sales and a 5x return on ad spend, three of the ads resulted in some sales and a 2x return on ad spend, and two of the ads resulted in no sales.  

  • The team turns off all ads but the two top performing ones, ramps up ad spend for those specific ads as well as introduces a handful of new ad ideas to test.

  • This process continues, in an iterative fashion, over the next 90 days until the same $40,855 is spent.

Which strategy sounds most logical and most likely to succeed?

The traditional advertising agency puts all its eggs in one basket and hopes for the best. The digital advertising agency employs the scientific method and is almost guaranteed to arrive at an ad that works very well.

And yes, I am biased to paint a picture that highlights the superiority of digital advertising over traditional advertising. But – I am not the only one who thinks so. In fact, the market as a whole agrees with me.  

We are at the tipping point right now. Using the United States as an example; digital marketing spend is surpassing the aggregate of all mediums of traditional marketing combined.


The research firm eMarketer is predicting that U.S. digital ad spend will increase 19.1 percent this year, to $129.3 billion, while traditional advertising will fall 19 percent, to $109.5 billion. That means digital will account for 54.2 percent of the total, while traditional will only represent 45.8 percent.

The take-away?

If you are still on the fence about jumping into a robust digital marketing plan, now is the time to jump in.

Written by Sean Wiggins, founder of North Digital.