Yes, Advertising Does Still Work
An Advertising Primer
by Mechele Shoneman, Repaz Marketing
Advertising is a powerful, yet often misunderstood marketing tool that is most effective when implemented as one component of a complete marketing strategy. An advertising program can drive market awareness, increase overall product or brand visibility, define positioning, and even provide lead generation.
Advertising is particularly valuable when seeking to rapidly build brand identity and is flexible enough to target large audiences or niche markets depending on available media. And, while it may lack the one-to-one impact of online or traditional direct marketing, it can make the prospective customer more receptive to other more targeted marketing tactics, and open doors for your sales force.
While it is sometimes difficult to quantify the ultimate effectiveness and return on investment of advertising, it can reinforce marketing messages, maintain customer/client loyalty and provide ongoing brand support to help keep your product(s) in the customer’s/client’s consideration mind-set.
Effective advertising requires:
- Clear business, marketing and communications objectives
- Realistic and measurable goals
- Strong, well-branded creative
- Engaging messaging
- Targeted and efficient media placement
- Flexibility to reach large audiences or niche markets
- Brand development/maintenance
- Targeted placement
- Enhanced visibility
- Can be costly to implement
- Requires time to prove effective
- Messaging must be powerful and relevant to audience
- Difficult to gauge overall effectiveness
When to use:
- Generate awareness (e.g. product launch, capture share, address competitive claims)
- Need to reach an audience at the right time to influence a purchase decision
- Support/reinforce overall marketing campaign
- Build brand
- Lead generation using a phone number and/or web address
Developing an Advertisement
The first step in developing an advertisement is to prepare a creative brief. A creative brief is an executive summary of the marketing plan that is being applied, and, as such, it should include the following:
- Definition of marketing/business objectives and specific note of which of these objectives can be addressed by advertising versus other elements of the marketing plan
- Definition of advertising objectives (awareness, lead generation, etc.)
- Indication of the type(s) of ad required and likely media approach (print, TV, billboards, online, etc.)
- Specification of target markets
- Description of the target audience (industry type, job function, etc.)
- Focus of the ad (technology, applications, product description, etc.)
- Competitive overview and key differentiators for product/brand to be advertised Single overriding impression the ad should make (key message)
- Key features that support key messaging
- Fulfillment requirements
- Budget requirements
It takes time to develop strong advertising with eye-catching creative and engaging messaging that supports brand development. Assume an average of 1-2 weeks for the agency to develop initial concepts after receiving the final strategy and another 1-2 weeks for revisions based on feedback and then 1-4 weeks for production of the ad(s) depending on the complexity of the final product. A television commercial for example will take much more time to plan, shoot and edit than a print ad. That said, production timeframes should be developed based on specific business needs and considered as early in the creative process as possible.
From print-based designs to radio and television broadcast, traditional advertising runs the gamut in terms of color, size, shape, duration and cost; but, in the end, most varieties of advertising ultimately seek to deliver a similar message and achieve a like objective: Advertising is designed to blanket a market, establish a brand and then lay a foundation for subsequent marketing attacks. Regardless of the service or product that is being showcased, advertising attempts to best position a service/product and then adjust the audience’s perspective to alter buyer behavior and potentially augment sales.
A few types of traditional advertisements include:
- Newspaper print -- can be black-and-white, full-color or spot-color
- Magazine print – can also be black-and-white, full-color or spot-color
- Radio commercial
- TV commercial
In general, strong advertising stems from a real understanding of the marketplace. To improve effectiveness, it’s important to know everything there is to know about your market and target audience.
Lifecycles and Measuring Success
As is the case with most forms of marketing, the lifecycle of an individual ad or overall campaign is ultimately determined by end goal and type of initiative conducted— effectiveness is best determined over time. In fact, advertising, while often considered the most intrusive of the marketing tools, relies more on subtlety than anything else. Sure, a big glitzy ad attracts loads of attention, but, then again, how often do buyers make decisions based strictly on ads? Or more accurately, how often do buyers admit making decisions based strictly on ads? In other words, it is the task of advertising to first scream its message from the rooftops and to then whisper in the audience’s ear for the remainder of the brand’s relationship with the customer. In truth, advertising does more to make customers feel better about your brand post-purchase than just about any other form of marketing.
To measure success in terms of advertising it is vital that adequate pre- and post awareness research be conducted to paint an accurate picture as to perceptions in the marketplace. While it is possible to loosely gauge sales conversions that may or may not have resulted directly from an advertising campaign, advertising drives trends—trends that form the basis of marketing success.
Online/New Media Advertising
Advertisements on the Web include banners, videos, contextual ads and a host of other types. Online media advertisements differ in implementation and targeting from traditional forms of advertising, but they rely on the same fundamental strategy. Online advertisements reinforce branding and overall messaging, provide even more flexibility to target various audiences and can also stimulate direct response much like direct marketing methodologies.
A few types of online/new media advertisements include:
- Static banner
- Banner animation
- Social ads
- Text-based (e.g. email/newsletter sponsorships)
- Vanity website
- Landing pages
- Contextual ads
- Follow-me ads
- And many more…
Just like with traditional advertising, the more you know about your market/target audience/competition, the better you can develop a campaign that will deliver positive results. Please note, however, online advertising offers marketers a significant advantage over traditional forms: Online media can provide specific response numbers, and ongoing flexibility that supports testing and real-time changes.
Lifecycles/Measuring Online Success
The proliferation of reporting tools has enabled marketers to deliver specific and focused ads in a relevant environment to a more receptive audience. The medium also provides the target audience with the choice of learning more about the product/brand immediately by linking to further information on the company’s website and potentially, an online sale. This means, that unlike traditional forms of advertising, the effectiveness of online/new media advertisements can be better measured based on click-throughs, interaction and actual conversions—behavior that results in a closed sale—directly attributable to a specific advertisement.
Top Ten Advertising Do’s and Don’ts
- Do study the competition’s use of advertising
- Do develop advertisements that are consistent with branding/overall image
- Do keep the message simple
- Do tell the reader what they need to know
- Do make sure to disclose all necessary information
- Do pay careful attention to creative design and use of color
- Do research publications to leverage buying power when placing ads
- Do test advertisement(s) for effectiveness and ability to meet agreed-upon objectives
- Do keep a close eye on online/new media ads
- Do update message and design as necessary
- Don’t waste words
- Don’t use terms or phrases that are not meaningful to your audience
- Don’t make a message longer than it needs to be
- Don’t rely on gimmicks to shock your audience
- Don’t overdo the creative
- Don’t undermine branding
- Don’t graphically misrepresent product
- Don’t make false performance claims
- Don’t pay for more than you need
- Don’t be disappointed by initial ad performance—time will tell the full story