Advertising is a typically paid type of promotion, distributed through a publisher, that aims to persuade people to act or respond in a particular way.
There are three basic types of ads:
- Informative advertising, often used to launch a new product or to reach a new group of customers, gives people basic information, like what a product does, how someone might use it, where they can find it, and what the price point is. The objective is to capture interest, raise awareness, leave a positive impression, and motivate people to take the next step, like making a purchase or requesting more information.
- Persuasive advertising generally aims to increase demand, influence people to change brands, or motivate people to make a purchase. It might show the benefits a product offers or compare key features against a leading competitor.
- Reminder advertising reassures people who already know—and potentially like—a brand, with a goal of keeping the product or service top-of-mind for future purchases. It reinforces messages from other ads, and may include customer testimonials.
Advertising is a form of outbound media, which means an ad interrupts what someone is doing in an effort to capture their attention.
It’s an approach that has pros and cons. Advertising’s reach can be either broad or very targeted, and advertisers have a lot of control over how, when, and where a message is distributed. However, finding the right message, format, and channel to get and keep someone’s attention—and entice them to convert—is one of advertising’s biggest challenges.
Preparing for an Advertising Campaign
Before you dive into an advertising campaign, you need to have a strong understanding of the audience you’re trying to reach: your customers and prospects. If you don’t already have solid data about your audience, use market research to gather information and expand on what you already know.
Knowing who you want to reach and the type of message that will resonate with them is critical for a successful advertising campaign; the channels we use to communicate are constantly shifting, and up-to-date information about your core audience will keep your decisions rooted in good data.
The 5 Ms of advertising
Once you’ve defined your target audience, you’ll need to structure your advertising campaign—what’s known as the “five Ms of advertising.”
- Mission defines the purpose for your advertising campaign and its objectives.
- Money is a critical factor in any campaign; your budget will have an impact on the format and ad placement. As you figure out the right media for your message, account for the resources and skills you’ll need to produce a complete campaign.
- Message is the information you want your audience to get, including your call to action (the action you want them to take).
- Media refers to the wide variety of advertising channels you have to choose from—outlined below—when it comes to placing an ad.
- Measurement defines the data you’ll track to measure your results and determine how well your efforts have succeeded.
Getting to Know Your Advertising Options
Traditional advertising methods like print, radio, and television are in flux, but they’re still powerful—complemented now by arguably more cost-effective digital channels that either build on the same media or take a whole different skill set.
The media you use for your advertising will depend on a number of different factors:
- Your target audience, and the action you want them to take, will help you decide which channel to use: you want your audience to pay attention, and you want it to be easy for them to take the next step.
- Budget is another critical factor. For any type of advertising, you have to account for at least two costs: the cost to create it, and the cost to distribute it. Some types of advertising also take ongoing care and maintenance, which could have budget implications. While there are an increasing number of do-it-yourself options available, quality is important—especially with broadcast ads for radio and television. Your ad is a reflection of your brand; quality needs to be a priority for any promotional campaign.
- Resources, beyond finances, are also a critical consideration. Some campaigns are heavy on the front end, like broadcast and print advertising, where the creative wraps up before distribution. Many online campaigns, however, are most effective when optimized along the way, so you need people with the skills to carry a campaign from start to finish.
It isn’t always easy to choose the most effective way to reach out, and it will likely take some trial and error before you find out what works for your business.
Here’s an overview of your options:
- Print advertising
- Radio (audio) advertising
- Television (video) advertising
- Digital advertising
- Mobile advertising
One of the oldest ways to promote things, print advertising includes a number of different formats, from flyers to other printed promotional materials.
Most often when people refer to print advertising, they’re referring to one of three types of ads: newspaper, magazine, or directory. This kind of advertising can be cost-effective and, while circulation numbers may be on the decline, can still be a very effective way to promote a brand.
Print publications are often very niche, targeted to specific industries or geographic locations, or tailored to people with a particular interest. Some organizations even produce their own publications, showcasing their brand through a more multi-dimensional presentation.
Directories like the phone book are often very focused, limited to a particular industry, location, or activity (i.e., tourism).
Of course, the online/offline divide of print advertising is pretty muddy. A majority of publishers produce online content in parallel or in addition to their offline efforts. This means that packages for print advertising are frequently blended with digital options.
One newer product for print media, called native advertising, can be part of a content marketing strategy. The Guardian describes it as “the practice of using content to build trust and engagement with would-be customers.”
This has created a blend between editorial and sponsored content that can, at times, be hard to distinguish. Native advertising can describe anything from paid social media posts to digital ads, but there is a strong tie to editorial-style content: in 2014, traditional media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have joined new media outlets like Mashable to include it as an option.
Planning a print advertising budget
The budget for a print advertising campaign will be guided by several factors, which may include:
- Distribution, with the option to include your ad in one or more editions
- The size of your ad
- Frequency, or how many times your ad will be included
- Placement in the publication, like having your ad on the front page
- Whether you choose to print your ad in color or black-and-white
Advertising rate sheets are often available online, so you can get a general sense of what your budget should be before you contact a publication.
The skills you need
Once you’ve determined where to place your print ad, you’ll need someone with the skills to create it. One person may be able to take your project from start to finish, but these are the main roles you’ll need to fill:
- A graphic designer, the person who will structure your ad and prepare it to go to print, is essential.
- A copywriter, who knows how to make the most of a brief headline with a bit of copy, will make sure your message gets across.
- A photographer can take custom photos for your ad, if you prefer not to use stock images (photos and illustrations that are created by professionals and available for purchase).
Radio (audio) advertising
Like print media, radio has a reputation for being past its prime—and there’s no doubt it’s an industry that has had to adapt. But radio, in many ways, is still thriving: a study by Edison Research into listening habits found that Americans, on average, tune in for four hours and five minutes of audio a day, and more than half that time is spent listening to broadcast radio.
Broadcast radio includes long-standing AM/FM stations, Internet radio (i.e., Pandora, Spotify), satellite radio (i.e., SiriusXM), and even TV music channels.
Radio advertising often offers rates that are competitive with other types of advertising, and it can be a great way to literally get inside your audience’s head and add personality to your brand. Local radio can be a particularly effective way to reach an audience within a specific geographic region.
It isn’t just radio that still catches our attention; podcasts have become a notable part of the media landscape. In fact, a follow-up report from Edison Research revealed that people who like listening to podcasts actually listen to more podcasts than any other type of audio. This dedication is inspiring not just new shows but also emerging opportunities for advertisers to tap into this captivated audience.
Planning a radio advertising budget
The price of a radio ad campaign is dictated, in part, by the size of a radio station’s market (i.e., the size of the population they can reach) as well as their ratings (i.e., how popular they are).
The factors you’ll negotiate over include:
- Frequency, or how often your ad will be aired
- The timing of when your ad will air—for example, morning or afternoon “rush hour” is often considered peak airtime
- The length of your ad, which can range from a brief mention to a 60-second ad
The skills you’ll need for your radio campaign
Many radio stations will include ad creation as part of an advertising contract. However, if you want to create your own ad, you’ll need to source a couple of professionals.
Audio production goes through the following steps:
- Plan and prepare what you want to achieve. An audio or sound producer can help guide the creative process and manage the project for you.
- Write a script for the ad. While you know your business inside and out, an experienced copywriter can help you refine your script—and make sure it’s the right length.
- Record your ad. You may want to hire voice talent to read your advertising copy—what’s called a voiceover. A sound engineer (also known as an audio engineer) can ensure you get the high-quality you need.
- Once you’ve recorded the audio, edit the ad and prepare it for distribution. A sound engineer can do any manipulation of the audio—like adding music or sound effects—and reproduce physical or digital copies.
Television (video) advertising
Television advertising is generally the most costly to produce and place. For those with the budget, however, it packs a punch. Television ads are engaging, with the benefit of audio and video to grab someone’s attention and get your message across in seconds.
Television ads also work well as part of multi-channel campaigns, building momentum and reinforcing a brand’s message through tie-ins to social and digital activities.
If you don’t have the budget for a big network ad, digital advertising offers arguably more cost-effective opportunities.
Planning a television advertising budget
Like radio advertising, the cost of television advertising is shaped, in part, by both the size of a station’s market and its ratings.
It’s also influenced by the programming your ad is connected to. Television ads are most commonly sold in 30-second spots, and the cost is driven by the number of people expected to be watching.
Super Bowl ads, for example, cost a premium—a reflection of the huge audience captivated by a live TV event, the favorable demographics of that audience, and even the cache that comes from running a Super Bowl ad. Placing an ad during a weeknight show on your local TV station will be much more budget friendly.
Producing a video takes a team
Producing a television ad calls for a number of core skills. The process from start to finish will change to meet your requirements—for example, an animation will progress differently than live action, or something recorded during an event.
You may find a team of two who can expertly manage the whole process, or you may find you need a few more professionals to round-out your team. Here are a few of the steps your video production will go through, and roles you may need to fill along the way:
- Plan and prepare your production, including goals and objectives, as well as the format and style you want. A video producer can help guide your idea through the whole process. As required, you may need to find a location to film, check out an event site, or get permissions and permits ahead of time.
- Once you know what the concept is, you’ll need to write a script and create a storyboard—a document that outlines the images—for the video. A script writer can help you get your message across effectively. You don’t need an artist to help with storyboarding, but you should get your videographer, the person who will record your video, involved in the discussion.
- You’ll also need to cast your actors or characters. If you’re creating an animation, you may need a voiceover artist to read your script.
- There are many ways to create a video. Whatever your format, you’ll need a production crew staffed by people with the know-how—and equipment—to properly design and animate, capture sound, arrange lighting, direct actors, or film the action.
- Once you have the raw footage, visuals, and sound, you’ll need a post-production team. This group is responsible for:
- color correction (i.e. color grading) to alter or enhance how the video looks,
- sound recording and reproduction (i.e. audio mixing)
- any visual effects (VFX)
- editing, to package all the pieces to the length and format you need.
Digital advertising is the newest and fastest-growing advertising category. In 2014, more than one-quarter of ad spending went to digital advertising, according to a report from eMarketer.
There are different types of digital ads, including:
- Display advertising, often referred to as “banner ads,” which can use text or images, be interactive, or include video.
- Video advertising, which can include videos used in display advertising. However, it generally refers to ads that are placed on video channels to run before, during, or after the main video.
- Social advertising refers to paid advertising options on social networks like Facebook.
- Search advertising refers to the paid text-based ads that are shown beside “organic” search results on Google, for example.
Display advertising encompasses most text, image, and rich media advertising that you see on the Internet.
Display ads include:
- Text-only ads
- Traditional banner ads
- Pop-up ads, which open in an image or new window that appears in front of the content
- Pop-under ads, which open in a new window below the active window
- Expanding ads, which increase in size after a period of time, on mouseover, etc.
- Rich-media ads, including videos, animations, and interactive ads
- Interstitial ads, which load first, then progress to the requested content
- In-game ads in computer, video, or online games
Running a display advertising campaign
There are many options for display advertising. Some offer free options. Larger brands often negotiate advertising on their own sites. There are also large networks like Google’s Display Network—which includes more than two million websites—and Bing’s advertising network.
Some types of display ads can be very DIY friendly, but for a professional campaign, the skills you’ll need depend on the type of ad you want to run. An expanding multimedia ad may require a full production team (which may include positions like project manager, artist, designer, programmer, copywriter, or other professionals to add audio or video elements), while a banner ad—similar to print advertising—needs a web designer and some copywriting expertise.
Remarketing to your web visitors
Digital advertising also gives companies the opportunity to remarket, or retarget, potential customers by re-engaging people who’ve visited their website in the past. KISSmetrics compares it to sending salespeople to follow customers around after they leave a store, to “[remind] them of your business wherever they go.”
How does it work?
- When someone visits a website, the site can leave a cookie on their computer—a small data packet that can collect information about Internet habits like pages visited or topics of interest.
- That same company purchases ad space on a remarketing platform, which provides dynamic advertising space on a network of websites.
- When the shopper visits a site within the advertising network, the dynamic ad space recognizes the information in the cookie and delivers a customized ad that features a product they looked at earlier.
It gives you the ability to precisely target “warm leads”—people who were just looking at your site and maybe got distracted or wanted to “think about it.” Adobe’s CMO publication reported that the ability to retarget ads can boost response to an ad by up to 400 percent.
Digital advertising gives video a lot of flexibility that television just can’t offer. Television ads need to appeal to a broad audience; video advertising can be targeted to a much smaller group of people. (As brands like Old Spice have shown, promotional videos can even be tailored down to an audience of one.)
Videos can be incorporated into display ads and shown on display networks, or they can be distributed through streaming video. YouTube, for example, offers skippable and non-skippable ads that run before, during, or after the main video. Some brands, particularly those belonging to established media companies, include video advertising in their apps.
From a production point of view, creating a professional video digital ad isn’t particularly different than a television ad; you’ll need a team of professionals to move an ad from concept to broadcast.
Social media platforms are generally free to use, and the focus of social media marketing is to maximize the benefit of social networks for business.
Most social networks also offer paid options to messages, ads, or a brand’s presence. That’s what social media advertising covers—although how it works varies from one network to the next.
- Pinterest offers “promoted pins,” using a pay-per-click (PPC) model, that allows you to promote your pinned content to a targeted group of people.
- LinkedIn uses display ads, with text and a small image, that you can promote to a customized group of people within LinkedIn.
- Twitter provides a mix of options, each one designed to get a different outcome. Your business can promote:
- Tweets to help increase engagement
- Your account to help attract more followers
- Trends to raise awareness of a product, topic, or campaign
- Facebook enables you to promote your Facebook Page and posts, or use another ad format to drive people to your website, promote an app, or offer a special deal.
- Tumblr offers sponsored posts and videos, ads, and even a tie-in with Yahoo (which owns the blogging site).
Whichever type of promotion you choose to use, it’s beneficial to work with someone who’s run campaigns on the network in the past and who understands both the culture of the site and typical user behavior.
Also known as search engine marketing (SEM), search advertising uses paid search ads to attract more traffic to a website. It generally uses an auction model to determine which ads will appear and in what order. Learn more about SEM…
Mobile phones are ubiquitous; 9 in 10 Americans are walking around with a cell phone in their pocket and many use their phones for “showrooming”—checking competing prices and features while in a store.
Mobile advertising is still a work in progress, but it’s growing fast.
“There is a significant learning curve for mobile ad development, and a smartphone infrastructure for consumers doesn’t immediately translate to a functional advertising infrastructure,” eMarketer noted in a 2014 report.
The research company found that mobile advertising currently takes up just a quarter of the typical digital marketing budget despite the high mobile use.
In many ways, mobile advertising mirrors digital advertising: advertisers can use display ads, video, social, and search advertising to promote a brand, product, or service.
Over the past few years, digital advertising has been splitting into two sub-categories: desktop (including laptops), which is also referred to as “fixed Internet,” and mobile. Facebook ads actually prompt advertisers to target either desktop or mobile devices when creating an ad.
The promise of mobile advertising is in the things desktop can’t do:
- Location-based targeting, which uses services to deliver ads when someone is within a defined geographic range. About half of mobile searches are done to find local information.
- Mobile rich media ads, like “click to call” and linking into a smartphone’s mapping capabilities
- In-app advertising, which can include everything from static banner ads, to interactive ads, to becoming an integrated part of the app experience (i.e., product placement)
- App extensions, which encourage people to download an app through search or display network advertising
- Push notifications, technically possible for promotions, aren’t allowed to be used for advertising on either iOS or Android.
There are also some very successful types of promotions that just don’t work on mobile devices. Pop-up ads, for example, can be a very effective way to convert web visitors. On mobile devices, however, they just get in the way. Some multimedia ad formats (i.e., Flash) just don’t work on mobile.
There’s also the fact that people use the Internet differently when they’re on the move than when they’re at home. In a recap of mobile marketing statistics, Forbes reported that “9 out of 10 mobile searches lead to action.” Another report, cited in the same article, found that 70 percent of searches lead to action within one hour—the sort of action it takes desktop users one month to match.
These differences between mobile and fixed Internet, which shift all the time, mean any digital campaign you organize will need to be considered and monitored from both viewpoints.