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Choosing Advertising Mediums

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Choosing Advertising Mediums

If money were no object, it would be easy to decide which advertising medium to go with. All of them! Unfortunately, the reality is that even with a hefty advertising budget, it is a challenge to create memorable advertising.

So unless you have truckloads of money to spend, you should try one medium at a time. What works for one product or service may not work for the next. There are so many different variables that can affect the results of an advertising campaign—from ad copy to the weather. You will simply have to test the effectiveness of your message in each medium to find the best vehicle for promoting your product. Advertising is an art, not a science!

Relative impact of different advertising media

  • Direct mail has the highest impact of any medium. Your message reaches each recipient in a personalized way and at a moment they have chosen to consider your message. The cost of reaching an individual through direct mail can be even greater than television, making it the most expensive advertising medium per person reached.
  • Television also offers the advertiser an opportunity to speak to a captive audience. In fact, television viewers are even more apt to fully “tune into” an advertisement. The cost, though, of purchasing a television spot is even greater than that of radio.
  • Radio offers a dramatic improvement over “print” advertisements. The “listener” is captive to the message unless they switch stations or turn the radio off. The cost to reach the same amount of people that a print ad would reach, however, is significantly higher.
  • Outdoor and transit advertisements are hard to avoid viewing. But, despite the high visibility factor, no one spends any great amount of time reading them. They are appropriate for very simple messages.
  • Magazines offer a slightly better opportunity to catch the reader’s attention. Readers tend to peruse magazines more carefully than they do newspapers, and because magazine ads are placed fewer per page, the competition for the reader’s eye is reduced. But magazine ads cost more than newspaper ads.
  • Newspapers are generally the cheapest way to reach a mass audience. However, newspapers carry many ads. It is easy for all but the largest display ads to get lost in the visual clutter. In any case, remember that newspapers are typically scanned by the reader. If an ad is seen at all, the headline will be glimpsed and the copy largely ignored.
Price advertising
Price advertising is used when a benefit is being offered to potential customers that is based on price points such as special sales or everyday discount rates.
  • Newspapers are the best bet if you are trying to inform a mass audience about a short-term sale or special price offer for a product or service. Newspaper readers are used to looking through the paper for specials. In some papers certain days are dedicated to certain categories. Wednesday is typically “food” day, for instance. Saturday is “automobile” day, and Sunday is “furniture” day. Advertising a category item on a category day will optimize the number of readers you reach even though your competition from other manufacturers or suppliers in your industry will be increased. Just make sure you have a great headline and a super-great special to offer.
  • Radio is a reasonable second best bet for price advertising. The effectiveness will be increased if your product or service has consumer recognition in your market. Radio advertising costs more than newspaper advertising, however, and it is more difficult to convey price information in this format without overwhelming the listener.
  • Television is too expensive for price advertising. Unless you are mixing a price advertising message with an image-building ad, don’t consider this medium.
  • Direct mail is a real wild card. In order to make this advertising medium cost effective for a “price” announcement, you will need to narrow your target audience. If you have access to a highly responsive small mailing list—of your own customers perhaps—this may be a very viable advertising option.
  • Magazines don’t offer immediate access to an audience. This may undermine the legitimacy of a special pricing offer, especially if the sale is for a very limited period of time. Consumers don’t expect price advertising in magazines and are less likely to respond to such ads than if they saw them in a newspaper.
  • Outdoor and transit displays aren’t good for price advertising. Many of the objections that can be raised for using magazines as announcement vehicles for product or service sales can be applied here as well.
Image advertising
Image advertising is used when the primary advertising goal is to create company, brand, or product awareness among a group of consumers so that they may be predisposed to making a purchase from you when they are in the market for the type of products or services you sell.
  • Television is a terrific medium for image advertising. The visual action and audio allow viewers to feel involved with television. The per person cost to reach viewers through television, which is typically national in its reach, is very expensive. The emergence of local cable stations, however, is opening up this advertising avenue to many businesses who otherwise would not have been able to afford it. If you are targeting a small, local marketplace, check out the advertising programs offered by your local cable station.
  • Magazines are not as effective as television as a medium through which to wage an image advertising campaign. They are a strong contender, though. The quality of magazine printing offers a nice venue for conveying exciting imagery. The use of color photography is especially effective in magazine print advertising.
  • Outdoor and transit displays also rely on powerful photographs for message conveyance. They can be effective for simple image advertising messages, and especially to reinforce messages already being presented in other media.
  • Radio is significantly less effective than magazines and television when used for image advertising. Radio can’t effect the strong photographic impact of print advertising or the drama of television, and is, as such, a much more challenging medium through which to place a strong and lasting image in the listener’s mind.
  • Newspapers are not always an effective medium for carrying an effective image ad. The graphic reproduction is poor and the consumer has been conditioned to look at newspaper ads for price announcements, not image messages. If you do use newspapers as vehicles for running image advertising, make sure your ad space is large, perhaps as much as an entire page.
  • Direct mail is a very tricky medium to use for image advertising. A “junk mail” label is the trap you risk here. But it can be effective. The most successful examples are the lavish four-color catalogs that many companies send out. If your budget is tight, be creative. For example, send an announcement piece that looks like an invitation to a society party.
Local service advertising
Local service advertising is used when a service is being offered to consumers within a specific locale or small regional area.
  • Yellow Pages or phone book advertising is the most cost-effective local service advertising medium for many area-specific service businesses. Advertising in the Yellow Pages requires a firm commitment for one year. If you are just starting out in business, don’t go hog wild when you purchase ad space. Wait until you see what kind of results you net over the year. In this medium, your ad can be smaller than your competitors’ because you are appealing to consumers who are already seeking your type of service.
  • Newspapers can offer a highly effective format for advertising locally available services. Localized papers often run a directory of area tradespeople that readers automatically turn to in search of services. Metropolitan newspapers may group related services, such as educational or computer related services, together on an editorially related page on a specific day each week.

    Like Yellow Pages advertising, the fact that your ad will be placed alongside a competitor’s isn’t necessarily a negative. Also, the size of the ad can be relatively small and still have impact. Interested readers are already looking for you!

  • Direct mail can be a highly effective medium for developing local service trade. The expense involved in implementing a direct mail campaign, however, may render this medium cost ineffective.
  • Television certainly has impact, but this will be far outweighed by its expense. Unless your company has an image that must be communicated in order to attract clientele, such as a dating service might, this isn’t a great option. However, local cable stations may be an avenue worth exploring if you are trying to zero in on a particular town where you expect response to your advertising will be high.
  • Radio spots are a poor bet for local service business advertising. Use it as a last resort if other mediums haven’t panned out for you. Try to find a station that covers the town or region you serve and is cost effective.
  • Outdoor and transit ads are best left to image ads.
Business-to-business advertising
While business-to-business marketing efforts should be centered on sales or telemarketing programs, advertising can play an important role in a successful sales effort. It can help you develop leads that you can follow up on with a phone call, and it can increase the chances that your sales-people will have their phone calls accepted or returned.
  • Direct mail allows you to target an audience comprised of those businesses most likely to respond favorably to your products or services. Your product or service may have a practical application in many industries, but try to limit your mailings to those with the most probable buying potential. Consider placing geographical and industry size qualifications on your list, too.

    Always track your responses. Keep refining your lists as you gain more experience in direct mail results.

  • Magazine advertising in trade-specific publications that cater to your industry can be effective. But don’t rush out and buy full-page ad space in a general business national publication! There are hundreds of trade publications that will allow you to target your customer base more narrowly and at a much lower cost.
  • Radio is a distant third choice for business-to-business advertising. It can be effective, however, if you find a business-only station or, as a second bet, a station, such as an all-news station, with a heavy concentration of listeners who are business people.

    This medium will work best if your product or service is unique but has an appeal to a broad business audience.

  • Yellow Pages can be a wonderful venue, and even the best choice, for a few business-to-business companies in the service sector, but is totally inappropriate for most others especially product-based businesses.
  • Newspapers aren't generally considered high-impact vehicles for business-to-business advertising. One obvious place to advertise in newspapers is in the business sections of both local and national general and business newspapers. However, most small business won’t have much luck attracting responses through these fairly general mediums.
  • Television may work fine for huge national business-to-business advertisers like airlines, but is unlikely to work for smaller businesses.
  • Outdoor and transit displays have scant applicability in business-to-business advertising.
Direct response advertising
Direct response advertising is used when you want to prompt an immediate response from potential customers. In other words, you want them to make an on-the-spot decision to purchase your product or service directly from you and not through a retailer or dealer.
  • Direct mail is a good first choice if you are trying to sell a product directly to consumers that is not available through retail outlets. It is expensive, but by limiting your target audience to those most likely to place an order, it can be much more effective than using another medium that may create interest but not an overwhelming desire to buy.
  • Television is a very remote second choice. Television is, of course, a high-impact medium, but it is very expensive. It is no coincidence that most direct response ads you view on television run on weaker networks or local access channels during nonpeak viewing hours. This occurs because most direct response television advertisers negotiate below-rate-card deals in order to afford the exposure, sometimes even paying for their advertising with a percentage of the revenue from sales generated.
  • Magazines work well if your industry has a specialty publication that allows you to target a specific audience, such as dollhouse collectors or sailboat racing enthusiasts. It would be very tough to make a direct response ad work in a general magazine.
  • Newspapers aren’t particularly effective venues for direct response advertisers. You do find these types of ads in national magazine supplements to Sunday papers. But don’t be fooled into thinking this tack can work for you. Very few of these ads would gross enough to cover the advertising costs if rate card prices were paid. Some direct response advertisers who chose the newspaper medium purchase ad space at remnant prices, when the publication has odd ad spaces to fill in at the last moment. Still others negotiate deals to buy ads at further reduced rates when the publication can’t even find advertisers to place at remnant rates. Who knows when you might get an appropriate space in either of these instances!
  • Radio can be used, but isn’t recommended. Very few listeners are likely to copy down product or ordering information.

* Source Streetwise Small Business Start-Up

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