Compare TV, Radio, and Billboards with Front Door Marketing in 5 Key Areas

Traditional mass media advertising uses television, radio, and billboards.

In terms of marketing, these media types reach mass audiences with a passive engagement model. This means, the viewer or listener can look away or change the channel, but the advertisement is sold as part of a particular program, or on a particular road.

These forms of mass media are visual, auditory, or both, which means their advertisements must be produced and delivered in a certain manner in order to get attention and elicit a response.

But how do these forms of mass media compare to each other in terms of marketing effectiveness?

What follows is a basic comparison of these media forms, and how front door marketing offers a fourth alternative to bolster a campaign that risks spending too much on traditional media and returning too little.

This analysis will present you with snapshots of how each type of mass media performs for advertisers in five areas:

  • Trust
  • Targeting
  • Audience reach
  • Costs
  • Response rates

In addition to our own considerable library of data and industry experience, we have used the following sources to aid in this comparison:

For each form of traditional mass media and its advertising capabilities, we have assigned a Difficulty Rating. This is based on the combined estimation of difficulty for the five factors being compared. The rating goes from 1 to 10, with 1 meaning that form of media is extremely easy to utilize in a way that profits your company, and 10 meaning it is exceedingly difficult.

To be clear, a high difficulty rating does not mean that media is ‘worse’ than one with a low difficulty rating. It just means that media is more difficult to successfully or affordably utilize.

We’ll begin with television.

television advertising


TV can be divided into cable and broadcast, though with the massive fragmentation happening today as a result of streaming’s proliferation, the differences are dwindling in their significance.

In terms of marketing, television’s greatest quandary is that what is often the most desirable demographic is the one that uses it the least. This is a problem because television has the greatest overall reach of any form of media, and is arguably the most influential. But young, middle and upper income active people watch TV less than 90 minutes a day, and they comprise 40% of the viewing public.

Depending on what you’re advertising, that’s okay, because it all depends on who you want to target, and what that audience likes to watch. TV’s biggest consumers tend to be older, more sedentary, and less prone to spend profusely.

Visibility – Audience Reach vs Barriers to Being Seen

TV has the widest possible audience reach of any traditional advertising media, while also allowing for wide local visibility. However, ratings have declined and fragmented, trends that are accelerating as streaming has begun its ascension. That said, TV reaches about 81% of people every day, and it’s the most consumed form of media.

Problematically, especially on cable, there are many more commercials airing now during each break. Years ago, there were only four. Now, there are often ten or more ads in a single break. Your ad is thus harder for consumers to recall unless they act immediately.

It’s also easier to avoid ads using services like DVR, and the passive nature of TV makes it relatively easy to mute or otherwise ignore the ads, even if all you do is change the channel.

Targeting Capability

The fragmenting of audiences isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to targeting. Very specific types of people, with particular interests and demographics, are drawn to certain shows, especially on cable, but on broadcast as well. So though fragmenting has shrunk total audience sizes, it has probably helped with targeting.

Response Rates

Television’s response rates are fairly difficult to measure, in a large part because most ads do not adhere to direct response principles that would make their ads measurable. Brand awareness advertising is hard to correlate with revenue and sales.

Trust Factor

All things being equal, television is one of the more trusted forms of media, including for advertising. The reason is, unlike online media, TV is regulated, and thus has the perception of being more trustworthy. In fact, one 2018 survey found that 33% of consumers said TV influenced their purchase decisions more than any other advertising media, by far the highest out of 15 media choices. That’s a stat to consider the next time someone claims digital is all the matters.

Thus, your TV ads will in most cases be accepted as basically true, even if they don’t persuade the viewer to take action.

In addition, television’s marketing metrics are credible. People trust the Nielsen rating system far more than they do impressions and views and likes and follows in the online world. Even Hollywood still hasn’t convinced the online streamers to be very forthcoming about viewership data, even though their salaries depend on it in traditional television.

Costs of Use – Campaign Development, Creative, Distribution

TV is, in most cases, the highest-cost form of advertising media. In addition to paying for the advertising – and normally you would want to run an ad more than once for the value of repetition and greater audience reach – you also have to pay to produce the ad.

For television ads, the budgets for this are not cheap, because high production values are expected by today’s viewers. You can’t produce TV ads on the cheap. And even though viewership is declining, stations aren’t lowering their costs.

Difficulty Rating: 9

High costs for ad space and production combined with measurement challenges make TV a very difficult advertising media to use effectively, in spite of its great advantages in reach, niche targeting on cable, and persuasiveness.

microphone at a radio advertising station


Radio is mostly local, though some channels syndicate shows nationally. However, even national shows may have local advertising, as also happens with television in certain situations.

Radio’s highest listening rates happen during the morning and evening weekday commutes. This offers your greatest opportunity to reach a wide audience. However, this is also the cause of radio’s greatest challenge for advertisers, as you’ll see in a bit. Radio remains the second most consumed media in terms of hours, next to television, as of 2018.

Visibility – Audience Reach vs Barriers to Being Seen

With the onset of satellite radio, personal devices that play music in the car, and the internet, radio ratings have declined from their heyday in the 20th century. But during commuting time, ratings remain high, though switching channels is distressingly easy.

Radio’s biggest barrier to being seen is that it can’t be. This is a major barrier, because it is simply easier to tune out a purely audio form of communication. Any call to action in your radio ad must be repeated enough to be remembered, whether a phone number, a website, or a store name.

And this is the problem with the fact that radio’s highest ratings happen during commutes. People are driving while listening, which means they can’t write things down. So if they hear a radio ad and actually do want to respond, it is hard to write down key information while driving. Unless they can commit it to memory with the help of repetition or have someone else in the car to help, they will forget.

And all that necessary repetition uses up precious air time you therefore can’t use to communicate your actual message.

Targeting Capability

Because musical tastes align fairly well with particular demographics like age and other lifestyle preferences like political persuasions, radio offers strong targeting opportunities. By advertising on select talk radio shows or during certain hours of music, and repeating those ads over a period of weeks to reach a similar audience, you can do quite well at getting your message heard by the right people.

Response Rates

Like TV, response rates in radio can be tough to measure. If you include a trackable phone number or a unique landing page, you can track response data quite well. However, since many ads do not do this, consistent data on response rates from radio is tough to come by.

If you target the right audience for your product or service, and produce an ad that connects with that audience, you should be able to get a decent response rate from radio.

Trust Factor

In the survey referenced earlier, only 3.8% of people consider radio the media that most influences their purchase decisions. However, radio ranked #3, right behind newspapers and local TV news for how well people trust its content. Like TV, radio broadcasting is known to have standards, unlike the online world. Thus, your ad on the radio will be perceived as more trustworthy than the exact same ad being delivered in an online format.

Costs of Use – Campaign Development, Creative, Distribution

Radio costs significantly less than TV. And because most radio is local, even small businesses can often afford to purchase an array of spots over a select time period. Done right, many businesses can benefit from using radio advertising without breaking their budgets.

However, to be most effective, you do need to purchase advertising from multiple stations in order to get a broad enough reach to justify the cost. And though TV ads cost much more to produce, you still need to hire good voice talent and audio production specialists to create a high quality ad for radio. Sloppiness doesn’t do well here. If they can’t understand you, they can’t respond.

Difficulty Rating: 7

Easier than TV because production is simpler and less costly. But it’s still a hard form of traditional mass media to utilize effectively, especially if you never have before. And with so many ways to be distracted combined with being easy to avoid, radio is a challenging option. But, the audience reach and the local access are strong points in favor.

billboard advertising

Billboards & Out of Home Advertising

The primary and unique benefit of billboards and similar out of home advertising is their permanence. Every other form of advertising – traditional, print, or otherwise – is temporary. It appears. You might or might not see it. Then it’s gone. But billboards just stay there. Every time you drive by, it’s there. You choose whether to look at it, but you can’t click it away or change the channel or toss it in the recycling bin.

Also, billboards and out of home advertising – including digital out of home – are growing in use across the world. Billboards are bucking the trend toward online everything.

Visibility – Audience Reach vs Barriers to Being Seen

Audience reach for billboards is very high. Cars drive by continuously, and the billboard sits there for weeks, sometimes months, lapping up the attention. You can in theory reach an entire city with a single well-placed billboard that is displayed for long enough.

However, this advantageous omnipresence is also a drawback with billboards. They become background noise. Worse than being ignored, they often aren’t even seen, even though they are huge and right in front of everyone. Plus, they can be hard to read when driving and focusing on the road at 70 miles an hour.

Because of this, billboards must be heavy on graphics, and light on words. But this means your message will be very short. For this reason, it’s difficult to make a compelling, action-oriented offer with billboards, other than ‘take the next exit.’

Targeting Capability

If you want to target a region, a billboard is one way to accomplish that. In combination with other forms of traditional mass media, billboards can play an important role in getting your message out.

Likewise, a local business can purchase space on a billboard or another out of home advertisement near their store, and use it to generate more foot traffic.

Response Rates

Response rates are pretty tough to measure for many forms of out of home advertising (door hangers and other front door marketing are often the exception). It can be done though, depending on your campaign goals. For instance, offering a coupon code, hashtag, or QR code in certain settings can be tracked for response quite well.

But in general, for most companies, it’s a tough proposition, which is why billboards serve best as part of a broader campaign strategy, rather than being the sole advertising media used.

Trust Factor

Billboards are trusted by 56% of consumers, a healthy number, on par with in-house email lists. It’s hard to go wrong here with trust, especially if you already have brand familiarity. You’re either reinforcing what already exists, or using it to drive action.

Costs of Use – Campaign Development, Creative, Distribution

Billboards can be costly to produce. It’s a huge print ad. Color, font, readability, clarity – all these elements must be done to high degrees of excellence or the ad will fail. You have to be able to read it while driving. And, they aren’t cheap to purchase either. Rates will vary depending on projected audience reach, length of campaign, and perhaps other factors.

Difficulty Rating: 7

Only so many billboards exist, so timing a campaign while also reaching your desired audience size and getting the right location is a lot to coordinate. This is not the sort of media you can turn around in a week. Implementation can also be challenging if you’ve never done it before. Once you know the system though, it’s relative easy to navigate. But the difficulty in tracking effectiveness also pushes this rating up higher.

pink T Mobile door hanger on a front door

Door Hanger (Front Door) Marketing

Front door marketing is not a traditional form of mass media, but it can be highly visual and even sensory. It is like a super-charged upgrade to traditional direct mail. Front door marketing like door hangers engage prospects in a very unique way and offers a great variety of presentation options.

Its delivery experience is more akin to receiving a package than getting mail.

Visibility – Audience Reach vs Barriers to Being Seen

Your reach with front door marketing is fully within your control. You can create any size list you like, as small as selected blocks or zip codes, or as large as selected areas from groups of cities in multiple states.

Also, front door marketing has great power to influence purchasing decisions because it is standalone, distraction-free marketing.

None of the traditional forms of mass media can make that claim. Your advertisement will get seen. Being received on the front door like a package, every prospect will look at your front door ad and will likely spend considerable time with it. They may also show it to someone else in the home, because it is so different.

There is no channel to change or device to turn off. You can’t just drive by it. It’s on your front porch.

Learn more about our door hanger distribution.

Targeting Capability

Front door marketing offers some of the highest precision targeting possible. It can combine census data, psychographics, and previous purchase behavior with neighborhood data and your customer data.

With that data, you can create customized maps showing block groups, zip codes, even specific addresses, who fit your ideal customer profile. You can find out more about targeting through front door marketing here.

Response Rates

Front door marketing will likely earn you some of the highest response rates you’ve seen. In addition to being easily trackable and measurable, front door marketing offers three huge advantages over traditional mass media:

1) It’s physical. Front door media is visually unique, weighty, and memorable. You touch it, pick it up, and carry it inside. You interact with it.

2) No distractions. On the front porch, your advertising has zero competition. It’s the only thing there.

3) More space for messaging. Like a billboard, front door marketing can be viewed immediately and has a lot of space for copy, visuals, and offers. It doesn’t have to be opened. But unlike a billboard, it is very hard to ignore. This is one reason we refer to front door marketing as ‘mini-billboards,’ or ‘billboards at your door.’

Trust Factor

Front door marketing is trusted as well or more than direct mail, for similar reasons. Anything this unique simply looks more trustworthy. And with brand familiarity behind it, you’ll have little to worry about here.

Costs of Use – Campaign Development, Creative, Distribution

Being a print media that is delivered to the front door, front door marketing is much simpler to produce than any form of traditional mass media.

Difficulty Rating: 4

With high response rates, simple tracking and measurement, and relatively easy production, the greater chances of getting a healthy ROI make front door marketing a strong alternative or addition to a campaign using traditional mass media advertising.

Traditional Mass Media Advertising & Front Door Marketing

What to do next? Select the forms of mass media advertising that make sense for your particular campaign. Develop your core messaging first, and then begin working on your various campaigns for the media you choose.

If you need help with front door marketing, Power Direct is the industry leader with the most advanced targeting capabilities and greatest variety of presentation options. You can see our nine best deliverables here

We have been doing this for a long time and serve some of the biggest companies in the world. For front door marketing, we are your only choice if you want to super-charge a traditional mass media advertising campaign.

Ask Power Direct about Your Campaign Idea