Ok – the threat of a punch to the face was a cheap shot. But, ever since I crossed over from journalism into marketing communications, it’s been an uphill battle trying to convince clients to invest more in earned media and less in advertising.
And, despite my urge not to acknowledge The Donald nor praise his approach (and let me be clear, this should not be seen as any type of political endorsement), there is one point that his controversy-laden campaign has proven – earned media is more effective than advertising.
Take a look at this campaign analysis featured in the New York Times. It compared the candidates’ spending on advertising to the amount of earned media generated by their campaign. The two candidates who spent the most on advertising (Bush, Rubio) are no longer in the race. In contrast, the two candidates who have generated the most earned coverage (Trump, Clinton) are widely accepted as the front-runners.
Not to toot my own horn but this illustration proves what I’ve been saying for years. The third-party credibility that comes with earned media coverage really can impact decision making and drive behavior change.
Yet, marketers don’t invest enough time and resources to create this type of impact through earned channels. Instead, the majority of the money still goes toward advertising. Look at the list of leading national advertisers published by Advertising Age. The Top 10 spenders include Proctor & Gamble, AT&T, General Motors, Comcast, Verizon, Ford, American Express, Fiat Chrysler, L’Oreal and Walt Disney; together, spending $27.9 billion on advertising. What’s the CPM for those advertising dollars? And – really – did it drive $27.9 billion worth of behavior change?
Now, I’m not advocating for eliminating paid media from the mix. What I am advocating for is investing more of your marketing budget in earned. It’s effective, it has a great CPM and it’s influential. It helps shape and shift perception. And, it can change behavior. A little bit of earned can go a long way. Look at how far it’s taken Donald Trump.