The Costly Mistake Brand Marketers are Hard-wired to Make

Is there a collective human blind spot when it comes to legacy media? What publishers need to know about the people buying ads.


As humans, we seek out the new, the unknown, the bright and shiny. This basic human trait, according to Magentic’s CEO Sue Todd in MediaTel, applies as easily to politics as marketing and has serious consequences for “legacy” media.

“Our bias for the new and unfamiliar of course varies by individual, but I won’t be the first to say that the media and advertising community (and I include myself in here) also thrive on the new,” Todd continues.

“After all, who wants to be thought of as old? Certainly not ‘old or legacy media’ as all non-digital pure plays have been rather ungraciously labeled,” she adds.

The problem, Todd points out, is that our collective bias toward “new” could be having a harsh impact on the bottom line.

“What if our collective bias blind spot is having a profound effect on our decisions when it comes to media planning and buying?” she asks.

“Well for one thing it means we are potentially doing a great disservice to the brands and marketing folk of today who are looking for advice about how to get the best results for their businesses,” she answers.

It’s no surprise to learn that since 2012 “we have seen a reduction in the number of very large business effects, driven by how budgets have been allocated between established and emerging channels,” as Todd points out.

Study after study shows that print magazines ads are among the top channels at building long-term relationships and driving meaningful connections. Yet our bias toward “new” means that brands are hard-wired to choose less effective channels just because they are untried, unproven and risky.

If we hold this to be true (or at least think it might be part of the problem), then what role can publishers take in restoring effectiveness and sanity in the ad budgeting process? Todd calls for a return to critical thinking as publishing continues to evolve, so we can be better partners to brand marketers, helping them move the bar on the metrics that really matter.

“We are in the midst of great and incredibly exciting change for sure, and no media business around today is the same as it was even three years ago,” she notes.  “Yes, some of the ways we need to evolve collectively regarding metrics, measurement and how we value media need to be more agile, but they also need to be right and they need to be robust. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”