Is Mass Media Advertising Dead?

Is mass media advertising dead?  Are there so many targeted options that I shouldn’t use it?  Conversely, is mass media so splintered and difficult to measure that I shouldn’t use it?  (e.g. broadcast, cable and satellite television)

Associate Vice President, University Communications and Marketing


By Jennifer Manocchio

Mass media advertising is not dead.  TV still remains king of all media and should still be considered a sound advertising strategy.  Consider these facts:

  • According to a July Nielson Co. report, the average U.S. home has 2.86 televisions and more than 114 million homes in the U.S. have at least one TV.
  • Nielsen Media Research reported last November the average American watches 142 hours of TV in a month. Last season the typical home had a television on for eight hours and 18 minutes each day. That’s up an hour per day from just 10 years ago.
  • In comparison, the amount of time consumers are spending online is leveling off at an average of 12 hours/week and only 80 percent of US households have Internet access.

While mass media is difficult (costly) to measure compared to other strategies, some goals are difficult to measure no matter how targeted the strategy.  So let’s break this down:

If your goal is to create awareness and build brand, mass media fits the bill.  You can reach hundreds or thousands or hundreds of millions and make initial connections and build credibility.  And yes, Virginia, you can measure the results.  But you must be willing to invest in benchmark and follow-up research.

If your goal is to drive web site traffic or increase calls into a toll-free number or push consumers into a retail outlet, mass media also works; it’s just a different approach to messaging and creative. It’s not so much about the brand as it is the offer.

Can you use targeted strategies to do the same thing? Yes.  Can you even use them in combination? Yes.  Is there a “best” solution? Probably, but that depends on each individual situation.  There is never a single right answer; this is not a shelf service business.

On any given day, for any given situation, mass media and/or targeted media may be the best solution.  There is no easy answer.  And by the way, measurement is a requirement for both strategies.

But mass media is not dead and in fact, will likely never die.  It will continue to evolve as it has for the past century (we are including radio and film along with TV here).  Even media geniuses like Jason Kilar acknowledge that people will continue to want to sit around their living rooms or at local establishments and share “shows” and “events” and “news”, if for no other reason than to socialize and have something to talk about around the water cooler the next day.  Only mass media can provide that experience.


Have a marketing, public relations, social media or advertising question?  Post your question below or email exeqnation at gmail dot com.  We are committed to answering your marketing questions real time.  And if we don’t know the answer, we’ll contact one of our valued partners who will.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.