Canadian literature professor Marshall McLuhan is famous for opining: "the medium is the message." While we wouldn't go so far as to declare that the media format you choose for your advertisement determines whether it promotes cloth diaper covers or the new iPad, we would agree that different media formats reach different types of people and are suitable for different types of messages. Here are some of the most popular media formats of today and who they are primarily reaching.
A few years ago, the answer to the question: "who does a message sent over the Internet reach?" would have been: young people. Today, however, the answer is increasingly skewing toward "everybody". Whether they're looking for real estate, a new car, or the name of that guy who starred in the movie they saw last night, more and more people immediately turn to the Internet first. Since it's one of the cheapest media in which to advertise, it is widely used. Internet content can take the form of text, videos, audio, photos, or any combination of these.
Television is one of the most expensive forms of media, which means if you can manage to get your yoga studio on TV, people will perceive you as a big shot. Network programming and ads are beyond most businesses, but there are always cheaper slots on the local cable access channels, the what's on channel, and the shopping network. You might even try to interest local talk or news shows in your message to gain exposure without cost to you.
Some would argue that newspapers are dying, at least in print form, but in the transition to e-books and online editions, they're also blending with the Internet medium. People who read newspapers tend to be older, so if you've got an article on healthcare costs it will probably go over better than a review of the latest video game. With opportunity shrinking, many people turn to online blogs to get their message across rather than shelling out for newspaper space.
Plenty of people still listen to the radio, either while driving in their cars or while at work, so messages sent over the radio can reach a surprising number of people - especially since most radio stations now stream live over the Internet as well as broadcasting normally. Radio ads tend to be for local businesses - it is an excellent way to reach a regional audience, and may be just the right mix of professional image and local feel for a service business like a home inspector. Local HouseMaster franchisee Richard Golumbia has used radio ads with good success in his service area of Calgary.
All of that being said, sometimes the most successful campaigns are the ones that buck the trend, break out of the box or to be more specific, use a traditional medium in a new way that takes the best attributes of that format and turns them to the advantage of the specific advertiser. So even though each medium has its pros and cons, and has a way of impacting your message, that doesn't mean you can't bend the rules once in a while.