Visualizing Modern Advertising Categories

It's no longer productive to simply draw the line between legacy and digital advertising. Here's a more modern take on advertising categories we use when we're building media plans for clients.


Today’s Advertising Categories are Evolving Quickly

It’s common to simply distinguish between legacy and digital categories of advertising, but we’ve found a method of organizing them that’s making it a lot easier to build media plans and allocate budgets for our clients.

A recent article by Design Shifu identified 14 types of advertising effective for many businesses.  We’ve added more to that list and created 4 distinct advertising categories.  And we’ve started using these breakdowns when we design media plans for clients.

Advertising Categories

  • Free
  • Legacy
  • First-Gen Digital
  • New-Gen Digital

Advertising Category 1:  Free

Everyone’s favorite category, right?  This is where we aggregate all outbound advertising that doesn’t necessarily have a distinct variable cost associated with it (with some exceptions like printing cost).  It includes:


Advertising Category 2:  Legacy

We consider any media that isn’t directly trackable as a digital source legacy advertising.  And, before you argue, we’re not completely fair about it.  For example, when we use legacy media we do make efforts to make it more digitally-trackable; knowing that’s a leaky bucket.

This category most commonly includes:

  • Print
    • Newspaper
    • Magazine
    • Direct Mail
  • Outdoor
  • Radio
  • Linear TV (Broadcast Television / Cable / Satellite)

This list isn’t by any means exhaustive, but you get the idea of what we consider legacy media.  Feel free to add as you see fit.


Advertising Category 3:  First-Gen Digital

Next up, we tackle some tried-and-true digital marketing options that have been around long enough to be maturing as an advertising category.  We refer to them as “First Generation” Digital methods:

Again, not necessarily an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.

Advertising Category 4:  New-Gen Digital

Our last, and latest category of advertising is “New Generation” Digital.  These are the cutting-edge techniques we’re using to generate better, more trackable results and lower overall lead costs.

Many of these can also be great ways to get started using AI marketing tools.

Here’s the evolving list as it stands today:


There are two key ways we’re helping long-time advertisers evolve to a more digital-centric approach:

Heavy Linear TV Users Who Have Seen Results Drop.  In August 2023, Nielsen reported that linear TV (broadcast and cable) represented less than half the total viewing audience for the first time ever.  And that reinforces what a lot of heavy TV advertisers have known for a while now; you’re paying a LOT more for a LOT less.

But there is a way to rein in TV spending and re-allocate it to modern techniques that follow all the cord-cutters where they went and get your results back in line with expectations.

Read More:  How To Evolve from Legacy TV with No Drop-Off in Leads

Heavy Google Search Ads Users Who are in Competitive Business Categories.  Even though it’s the largest portion of its total revenue, Google knows text-based search ads are not long for this world.  That’s why Google has gone all-in on a new campaign type called Google Performance Max.

If you’re in a competitive category like orthodontics, HVAC, or personal injury law (just a few examples, there are MANY) you may feel like it’s just turned into a bidding war for leads and cost keep going up and up.  And if you’re doing Local Service Ads it can get far worse, even faster!

There is a way to break out of this trap and lower lead costs dramatically (our clients have ranged between 12% and 90% reductions).  And your competitors won’t be able to figure out how you’re suddenly beating them!

Read More:  How To Get Out of the Search Ads Trap with No Drop-Off in Leads

Get a Free Marketing Audit

If you’re at a decision point about marketing plans, take advantage of a free initial consultation with our team of experts who live, eat, and breath small and medium business marketing.

We’ll conduct an audit of your existing digital footprint, and then spend some time with you to show you priorities for improvement.

Schedule some time with our team and we’ll make this investment in getting to know you and your business long before you ever invest in us.

Thanks for visiting today!

Read More:  3 Reasons Advertising Fails & How To Avoid Them

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Steven Ludwig
After 3 decades as a professional marketer, serial entrepreneur and business consultant Steven Ludwig shares his best practices for small business marketing for owners, managers, and marketers with limited time, money, and expertise. Steven started his professional marketing career in broadcasting in the early ‘90s in Chicago after attending Valparaiso University. After a brief stint at an advertising agency specializing in entertainment and sports marketing where he worked with radio and television stations, movie theatre companies, record labels, musicians, and professional sports teams, he moved to Nashville to form The Marketing Group with his long-time business partner, Jim Wood. Having worked with some of the largest brands in the world, in 2010 he returned to local marketing primarily out of an interest and excitement for working with small business owners to build stronger companies. That desire comes out of early days in radio, where he worked closely with everything from car dealerships to restaurants, insurance and real estate agents, banks, home services companies, and specialty retailers of all kinds. Over the past decade, he has been on the bleeding edge of digital marketing technology, constantly seeking to understand complex strategies employed by giant corporations and then translate those capabilities into tactics small businesses can execute at a local level. Today, in addition to other business ventures with his wife and other long-time business partners, he still lives outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee and currently serves as Executive Chairman of EmpowerLocal, a digital marketing company building a nationwide network of digital, hyperlocal news and lifestyle publishers to provide efficient advertising opportunities for local, regional, and national brands.


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