We’ve all heard it. And most of us may have even uttered it: “Traditional media is dead.” Other popular sentiments include, “Smart brands are using social media”, “No one watches TV anymore”, “Who reads the paper?”. And there are stats to back this up. Between the years 2000 and 2015, print newspaper advertising revenue fell from about $60 billion to about $20 billion and TV ad sales in the U.S. fell 7.8 percent to $61.8 billion last year.

But if you’ve been watching company after company apologize, we know that’s not the whole truth; especially when it comes to the latest trend in brand course-correction and even when it comes to disruptive companies like Facebook and Uber.

In the last few months, there’s been a resurgence of the Apology Ad — the final outcome of boardrooms trying to find the right way to admit their company messed up without really admitting any wrongdoing. What’s interesting is that while many companies choose to share their ‘apologies’ through social media first, even the digital platforms ultimately turn to traditional print and TV when things get really bad.

Why is that?  Because traditional media is still more trustworthy.

Social media is seen as the biggest contributor to the growth of fake news. 74% of respondents to a YouGov poll agree that they trust the news and information in their local newspapers over online sources. Print and television ads are still seen as a news environment that reaches the type of audience that companies in crisis want to reach, like investors, politicians, and regulators. Even the tech giants realize that print and TV commercials possess gravity and authority not held by newer channels.

Uber and Facebook, two brands that deemed their situations bad enough to spend millions of dollars to launch full apology campaigns through traditional media, are good examples of this type of response.

Among other unappealing things, Uber was accused of fostering a culture of sexual harassment, which eventually led to their original CEO resigning and Dara Khosrowshahi taking over. You’ve probably seen the TV commercials that make it clear that under the new CEO they want to start over with a clean slate. Khosrowshahi says he is “listening to you, the company is moving in a new direction, the company is under new leadership, and the company has a new culture.” One of the first “disruptive” technologies, Uber went straight to television commercials when they really needed to get their message out in a broader way.

Similarly, Facebook, the biggest tech giant of them all, came out with a new minute-long commercial. It presented Facebook as a brand focused on stronger relationships with a campaign that actually paints them as a victim of the Cambridge Analytica data breach, just like their users. The message is that from now on, Facebook will do more to keep you safe and protect your privacy. The social media network additionally placed a full page ad in all of the the big national papers: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. The ad was a simple letter from Mark Zuckerberg apologizing and promising to do better. The campaign includes billboards, transit posters, cinema advertising, print, commercials, and finally some digital ads.

So, is traditional media dead? Personally, I don’t think so. All of the evidence is to the contrary. Its role has just changed.

What does this mean for brands? It means that we cannot summarily dismiss any type of media. A smart mix, depending on the brand objective, is always the way to go. At Sawtooth, we are constantly seeking the best combination of traditional and non-traditional media to help your brand reach the right people at the right time with the right message. Want to learn more? Let’s talk.

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