Need a safe bet for a small talk topic at your next digital marketing conference? Talk about how bad TV advertising is. 

Rant about interruption marketing in traditional media. Point out how much more digital marketers appreciate content marketing. 

I guarantee you will get a lot of nods.

But is the digital marketing industry really that much better at permission marketing compared to traditional media? Have we really mastered content marketing?

Take a Tip From the Pros

Commercials flood traditional media just as they fill YouTube, just as some companies still use banners (why???) and just as SEM isn’t going anywhere. But in many ways broadcasting media is far ahead of the digital marketing industry in the way it executes on content marketing, permission marketing and native advertising.

One of my favorite examples of that are late night talk shows — those one hour long commercials for movies, records, books, sports teams and politicians that millions of people opt-in to watch every day. 

David Letterman, one of the greatest late night TV stars of all time hosted a total of 6,028 episodes by the time he retired, averaging 15 episodes per month over a 33 year period. I think it’s safe to assume that Letterman can take credit for billions-worth of revenue he generated for his guests and the companies behind them (not counting the revenue from the commercial breaks).

And that’s just one guy (and a few hundreds of staff members helping him out) among many other successful talk show hosts — Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.

How many digital marketers have a record this impressive?

You could say that it’s not a fair comparison, because broadcasting media has been around for so long — but that’s exactly my point. They’ve been around long enough to figure out some of the things we’re still struggling with in the digital world.

Make Them Laugh

Sure, we have the Seth Godins or Gary Vaynerchuks, but the average corporate social media feed could definitely use some advice from David Letterman.

If I had to guess what his advice would be, I’d say:

  1. Entertain your audience.
  2. Be subtle — don’t sell too hard.
  3. Be native to your medium.

Yes, consumer attention is shifting to the digital media making digital marketers more powerful than ever. But let’s not forget that good content is good content, regardless of where it’s consumed. 

We can learn a lot from the people who have done our jobs for decades before the days when putting on a Chewbacca mask made you world famous.