Why we threw our print ad budget under the bus and spent it all on social media

Many marketers are afraid to invest their hard-earned cash in unfamiliar tactics like social media advertising. They find comfort in their annual routine and repeat campaigns that have “worked" in the past.

This thinking leads marketers to spend billions every month on TV commercials, bus ads and other traditional tactics to generate awareness, leads and sales for their business while spending next to nothing on social media. However, it’s nearly impossible to quantify the value print ads provide towards core business goals. This is where social media strategies can seriously amplify offline efforts.

For optimal awareness, combine print ads for awareness and online ads for conversions. But for the sake of our showdown, here's how traditional ads and social ads measure up in terms of quantifiable gain for your business:

Marketing Showdown: One Bus Ad vs. Paid Social Media Strategy

Let’s pretend you’re an events management company who wants to promote awareness and sell tickets to a music festival you’re organizing. Let’s compare the quantifiable results we can get from one bus ad, versus a social media strategy with the same budget.

Quantifiable Gains from One $10,000 Bus Ad

Why we threw our print ad budget under the bus and spent it all on social media

Duration: 1 month
Target Region: Vancouver, BC
Budget: $10,000 =
$8,165 (full articulated wrap on one bus in Vancouver) + $1,835 (modest estimate for freelance design of bus ad)


  • Pay a freelance designer to work with your marketing team to design a bus ad for your campaign
  • Run that bus ad in downtown Vancouver for the standard 4-week period
  • Track your results by estimated viewership (population of downtown Vancouver); percentage increase in website visits and ticket sales (although there’s no way of knowing they came from your bus ad specifically)


Potential number of people reached632,157 people
Lamar advertising states that bus ads have the potential to reach 1,071,453 Vancouver residents, but that only 59% of people notice bus ads.

People who visit your website because of your ad: ?

People who purchased tickets because of your ad: ?

Estimated cost per conversion: 10,000/? = ???

Quantifiable Gains from a $10,000 Social Media Strategy

Why we threw our print ad budget under the bus and spent it all on social media

Duration: 12 months
Target Region: Facebook users (living in BC)
Budget: $10,000 =
$6,000 (branded engagement & CRM platform) + $3,000 (Facebook ads budget) + $1,000 (large screen display rental for main stage of festival)



Potential number of people reached by your engagement campaigns:  >200 new leads per entry
Every fan that engages with your campaigns gives you access to a minimum of 200 similar leads. So you would only need a minimum of 3,160 people to engage with you all year to beat your bus ad's potential reach.

People who visit your website because of your ad2% of your overall potential reach will click ads
Targeting specific fans and their friends who have participated your engagement campaigns results in an average of 2% conversion rate of your entire reach. So you would receive a minimum of 12,600 new website visitors if you had a comparable potential reach to your bus ad campaign

People who purchased tickets because of your ad: 40-50% of clicks will convert
When you only target people who are already interested in your cause, product or service 40-50% of clicks actually convert. This means a minimum of 6,300 predicted purchases from a paid social media strategy comparable to your bus ad campaign.

Estimated cost per conversion: $10,000/6300 = $1.59

Bonus: Gain a better understanding of your audience with the masses of demographic, psychographic and contact information you collected during your engagement campaigns means you can target your subsequent campaigns even more accurately.

Who won? You decide!

Our point is not to say that bus ads (and other offline awareness methods) are ineffective. We're demonstrating that well targeted and executed social media strategies are worth your time and budget because they’re quantifiable, sustainable and are proven to succeed. Even a little spend goes a long way when you use it towards optimizing your targeting.

Contact us to learn more about paid social media strategies. Let us know how your business is experimenting with social ads in the comments:

Why we threw our print ad budget under the bus and spent it all on social media