Digital and Traditional Advertising

What Is Advertising?

Advertising is the process of making your product and service known to the marketplace. It is essentially spreading the word about what your company has to offer. While marketing is the way in which you convince potential buyers that you have the right product for them, advertising is how you communicate to them the existence of that product.

Once your product image is developed and your marketing strategy is in place, present your product or service to your audience through advertising. Print, television, radio and the Internet are all venues that can communicate your brand to potential buyers. Social media is an inexpensive but powerful option; tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ can help spread the word about what it is you have to offer. Because your marketing strategy has identified your target audience, you can now focus your advertising dollar on the specific types of media used by that audience to increase your likelihood of successfully acquiring new customers.

Advertising is the action of calling public attention to something, especially by paid announcements. Note that the definition uses the term ‘action of’ and doesn’t specify that advertising is limited to print media, television, Internet, or any other specific medium. While it does place an emphasis on ‘paid announcements,’ it isn’t a requirement. Finally, it only says that attention is called to something, not specifically good attention. Anyone that has turned on the TV during election season knows advertising can be negative.

Many business-specific definitions of advertising add that advertising is non-personal. This distinction is sometimes important because of the role face-to-face sales play in many businesses. A sales force is often considered a marketing strategy, not an advertising strategy

Advertising is a non-personal form of promotion that is delivered through selected media outlets that, under most circumstances, require the marketer to pay for message placement. Advertising has long been viewed as a method of mass promotion in that a single message can reach a large number of people. But, this mass promotion approach presents problems since many exposed to an advertising message may not be within the marketer’s target market, and thus, may be an inefficient use of promotional funds. However, this is changing as new advertising technologies and the emergence of new media outlets offer more options for targeted advertising.

Advertising also has a history of being considered a one-way form of marketing communication where the message receiver (i.e., target market) is not in position to immediately respond to the message (e.g., seek more information). This too is changing. For example, in the next few years technologies will be readily available to enable a television viewer to click a button to request more details on a product seen on their favorite TV program. In fact, it is expected that over the next 10-20 years advertising will move away from a one-way communication model and become one that is highly interactive.

Another characteristic that may change as advertising evolves is the view that advertising does not stimulate immediate demand for the product advertised. That is, customers cannot quickly purchase a product they see advertised. But as more media outlets allow customers to interact with the messages being delivered the ability of advertising to quickly stimulate demand will improve.

Importance of Advertising

Spending on advertising is huge. One often quoted statistic by market research firm ZenithOptimedia estimates that worldwide spending on advertising exceeds (US) $400 billion. This level of spending supports thousands of companies and millions of jobs. In fact, in many countries most media outlets, such as television, radio and newspapers, would not be in business without revenue generated through the sale of advertising.

While worldwide advertising is an important contributor to economic growth, individual marketing organizations differ on the role advertising plays. For some organizations little advertising may be done, instead promotional money is spent on other promotion options such a personal selling through a sales team. For some smaller companies advertising may consist of occasional advertisement and on a very small scale, such as placing small ads in the classified section of a local newspaper.

But most organizations, large and small, that rely on marketing to create customer interest are engaged in consistent use of advertising to help meet marketing objectives. This includes regularly developing advertising campaigns, which involve a series of decisions for planning, creating, delivering and evaluating an advertising effort. We will cover advertising campaigns in greater detail in our next tutorial.

Managing Advertising Decisions

Delivering an effective marketing message through advertising requires many different decisions as the marketer develops their advertising campaign. For small campaigns, that involve little creative effort, one or a few people may handle the bulk of the work. In fact, the Internet has made do-it-yourself advertising an easy to manage process and has especially empowered small businesses to manage their advertising decisions. As we will see, not only can small firms handle the creation and placement of advertisements that appear on the Internet, advances in technology have even made it possible for a single person to create their own television advertisements.

For larger campaigns the skills needed to make sound advertising decisions can be quite varied and may not be easily handled by a single person. While larger companies manage some advertising activities within the company, they are more likely to rely on the assistance of advertising professionals, such as those found at advertising agencies, to help bring their advertising campaign to market.

Types of Advertising

If you ask most people what is meant by “type” of advertising, invariably they will respond by defining it in terms of how it is delivered (e.g., television ad, radio ad, etc.). But in marketing, type of advertising refers to the primary “focus” of the message being sent and falls into one of the following four categories:

  1. Product-Oriented Advertising
  2. Image Advertising
  3. Advocacy Advertising
  4. Public Service Advertising

Most advertising spending is directed toward the promotion of a specific good, service or idea, what we have collectively labeled as an organization’s product. In most cases the goal of product advertising is to clearly promote a specific product to a targeted audience. Marketers can accomplish this in several ways from a low-key approach that simply provides basic information about a product (informative advertising) to blatant appeals that try to convince customers to purchase a product (persuasive advertising) that may include direct comparisons between the marketer’s product and its competitor’s offerings (comparative advertising).

However, sometimes marketers intentionally produce product advertising where the target audience cannot readily see a connection to a specific product. Marketers of new products may follow this “teaser” approach in advance of a new product introduction to prepare the market for the product. For instance, one week before the launch of a new product a marketer may air a television advertisement proclaiming “After next week the world will never be the same” but do so without any mention of a product or even the company behind the ad. The goal is to create curiosity in the market and interest when the product is launched.

Image advertising is undertaken primarily to enhance an organization’s perceived importance to a target market. Image advertising does not focus on specific products as much as it presents what an organization has to offer. In these types of ads, if products are mentioned it is within the context of “what we do” rather than a message touting the benefits of a specific product. Image advertising is often used in situations where an organization needs to educate the targeted audience on some issue. For instance, image advertising may be used in situations where a merger has occurred between two companies and the newly formed company has taken on a new name, or if a company has received recent negative publicity and the company wants to let the market know that they are about much more than this one issue.

Image advertising is undertaken primarily to enhance an organization’s perceived importance to a target market. Image advertising does not focus on specific products as much as it presents what an organization has to offer. In these types of ads, if products are mentioned it is within the context of “what we do” rather than a message touting the benefits of a specific product. Image advertising is often used in situations where an organization needs to educate the targeted audience on some issue. For instance, image advertising may be used in situations where a merger has occurred between two companies and the newly formed company has taken on a new name, or if a company has received recent negative publicity and the company wants to let the market know that they are about much more than this one issue.

In some countries, not-for-profit organizations are permitted to run advertisements through certain media outlets free-of-charge if the message contained in the ad concerns an issue viewed as for the “greater good” of society. For instance, ads directed at social causes, such as teen-age smoking, illegal drug use and mental illness, may run on television, radio and other media without cost to organizations sponsoring the advertisement.

Digital Convergence

Like most areas of marketing, advertising is changing rapidly. Some argue that change has affected advertising more than any other marketing function. For instance, while many different media outlets are available for communicating with customers, the ability to distinguish between outlets is becoming more difficult due to the convergence of different media types. In advertising convergence, and more appropriately digital convergence, refers to a growing trend for using computer technology to deliver media programming and information. Convergence allows one media outlet to take advantage of features and benefits offered through other media outlets. For instance, in many areas around the world television programming is now delivered digitally via cable, telephone or satellite hookup. This delivery method uses the same principles of information delivery that is used to allow someone to connect the Internet.

The convergence of television and Internet opens many potential opportunities for marketers to target customers in ways not available with traditional television advertising. For example, technology may allow ads delivered to one household to be different than ads delivered to a neighbor’s television even though both households are watching the same program. But convergence is not limited to just television. Many media outlets are experiencing convergence as can be seen with print publications that now have a strong web presence. The future holds even more convergence opportunities. These include outdoor billboards that alter displays as cars containing geographic positioning systems (GPS) and other recognizable factors (e.g., GPS tied to satellite radio) pass by or direct mail postcards that carry a different message based on data that matches a household’s address with television viewing habits.

There is a major cultural shift occurring in how people use media for entertainment, news and information. Many traditional media outlets, such as newspapers and major commercial television networks, are seeing their customer base eroded by the emergence of new media outlets. The Internet has become the major driver of this change. In particular, a number of important applications tied to the Internet are creating new media outlets and drawing the attention of many, mostly younger, consumers. Examples include:

  • Social Media – Possibly the most significant example of how media usage is changing can be seen with the rapid expansion of social media.  Social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, not only offer a venue for social exchange but these are also developing into locations where news and information is obtained.
  • User Generated Video Sites – In large part due to the popularity of YouTube, what now qualifies as video media has changed.  Now anyone can produce videos and post for the world to see.  The result is that advertising choices for video production is no longer limited to television programs as marketers can present their ads as part of online video.
  • Small Screen Video – While accessing video content over the Internet through computers linked to high-speed data networks is common, the streaming of video over wireless networks to small, handheld devices, including smartphones, is still in its infancy.  Many television networks are now experimenting with making its programming available in formats suitable for small screen viewing.  This includes offering marketers advertising opportunities.  With the number of small screen devices continuing to grow rapidly, it is likely this format for advertising is poised for tremendous growth over a short time frame.
  • Mobile Device Apps – Smartphone and tablet computer applications or “apps” are proving to offer rich new ground for advertisers.  While most marketers are limiting their ads on apps to text and static image advertising, improvements in video performance and data speeds are opening the door for “in app” video ads.
  • RSS Feeds – This is an Internet information distribution technology that is popular with news websites.  With RSS feeds, new information posted on a website can be delivered instantly to anyone who has signed up for delivery.  The information sent to feed subscribers can include inserted ads.
  • Podcasting – In addition to offering RSS feeds, many news websites offer free downloadable audio and video files that can be experienced on computers, smartphones and iPod devices.  While, at one time, this form of content delivery was widely used, many users are now accessing the information directly from the website rather than downloading files (e.g., watch news programming on mobile device).  As this trend continues, the effectiveness of inserting ads in podcasts is likely to decline.
  • Online Gaming – While gaming systems have been around for some time, gaming accessible over information networks is still evolving.  As Internet and mobile network connections increase in speed, gamers are expected to shift away from games loaded on their local computer and, instead, access games online.  This shift is opening new territory for advertisers by enabling marketers to insert special content, including product advertising, within game play.

For marketers these new technologies should be monitored closely as they become accepted alternatives to traditional media outlets. While these technologies are currently not major outlets for advertising, they may soon offer such opportunity. As these technologies gain momentum and move into mainstream acceptance marketers may need to consider shifting advertising spending.

Marketers should also be aware that new media outlets will continue to emerge as new applications are developed. The bottom line for marketers is they must stay informed of new developments and understand how their customers are using these in ways that may offer advertising opportunities.

About The Author

Travis Yates


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