In today’s digital world, where programmatic advertising and various other forms of paid media allow us to target, track and analyse people’s browsing habits to a granular level that many of us can barely fathom, paid media channels are certainly the current poster boy of the marketing mix.

But are we in danger of letting all this automation blind us through endless numbers, figures and charts, to the real, human reasons that have been compelling people to make decisions and purchases for generations?

Yeah tech’s cool, but we’re still human

Sure, my cookies can tell you about the websites I’ve been on, and then a computer program can decide that based on my search history, I might be interested in X. But let’s not forget one important fact – humans aren’t robots. Our decision making and purchasing habits are influenced by a huge number of factors, many of which can’t be predicted by a fancy algorithm. Therefore entrusting your whole marketing strategy to automated methods is a risk and brands are in danger of losing their USP and what makes them great.

Gen X know the drill

Consumers, particularly generation-X, are already reaching saturation point with this micro advertising, they’re becoming savvy to this type of marketing and are rebelling against it through adblocks and the like. In contrast, Public Relations and word-of-mouth marketing are playing a growing role amongst consumers. Peer-to-peer recommendation is proven to drive double the amount of sales as paid advertising, 77% of consumers consult online review sites such as Trustpilot before making a purchasing decision and earned media typically returns seven to 10 times the ROI versus paid media thanks to the added credibility of third-party endorsements. This validation is programmed into us and can’t be delivered by paid channels alone.

Don’t underestimate traditional PR

Yet, despite all the change and the growing respect for influence, the ability to carefully measure its business impact has lagged and, as a result, many marketers have both underutilised and undervalued its influence in their marketing mix.

Don’t get me wrong, PPC, SEO and paid channels are an effective way of proving ROI and driving sales, but they also need the support of more traditional methods, like Public Relations to make them truly effective.

So, what do you think? I’d welcome your thoughts.

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