Is Traditional Advertising Dead?

I get this question from dealers all over the country: Is traditional advertising dead? When I talk in terms of traditional advertising, I’m talking about radio, TV, and newspaper. If you just go by the numbers, you would think traditional is on its last legs, but, let’s examine the real story.


Newspaper—circulation is down 20 percent and classified advertising (the place most dealers run ads) has been on a steady decline. I think newspapers have bottomed out! Still today, even with all this negative news about newspapers, 57 percent of adults in the U.S. read a daily newspaper and 67 percent read a Sunday paper. They spend almost 45 minutes per day reading at least one paper and over an hour on Sunday. Newspapers still get the biggest share of advertising revenue in the U.S. Almost 22 percent of all ad dollars go to newspapers. Over 85 percent of that money is spent by local advertisers. There are over 1,600 daily papers in the U.S. with a circulation approaching 58 million. There are over 7,000 weekly papers with a circulation of over 50 million. I still have car dealers that use newspapers and they are still some of the top dealers in the country.


Television—has been hit hard over the last few years. The recession caused dealers and OEMs to reduce their spending dramatically, but indications are that a good part of that spending reduction will come back in 2011. Another factor that has cut into television is Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). Nearly one third of households with a TV have DVRs and that number will continue to rise. Some believe viewers scan past commercials; that may be true, but I believe that because of DVRs, people are watching more TV and one balances out the other. Make no mistake about it: the internet is taking time away from television. What we are finding, however, is people are multi tasking—watching TV and browsing the internet at the same time. Television is alive and well. Over 90 percent of consumers watch commercial television each week, with the average adult spending 26 hours each week watching TV. Only 0.5 percent of people never watch television. There is no medium known to man that is more effective than television.


Radio—even with satellite, seems to be holding its own, with only a minimal drop. But, what I keep hearing from the novice users of radio is “radio doesn’t work.” This is absolutely false. Radio is theatre of the mindand will give your dealership top-of-mind awareness. Radio's ability to provide frequency and targeted reach makes it unique. During the hours your dealership is open, more people will listen to radio than any other medium. 50 percent of your customers were exposed to radio before coming to your dealership.


Overall, what we are dealing with is fragmentation in the advertising industry—the increase in the number of available methods for getting your message to your audience.


All in all, traditional advertising is not dead. Traditional advertising methods are still garnering the lion’s share of advertisng budgets nationwide. At the end of the day, the digital and interactive mediums are far from overtaking traditional advertising as the medium of choice for car dealerships.


Tom Letizia is the president of Letizia Mass Media, a full-service advertising agency specializing in automotive. He can be reached at 702-777-2121 or email





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