Does your advertising work?


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Advertising can take many forms, from media space, posters, film, video and social media. Its purpose is to inform about products and services, and introducing a brand and image to potential customers. Thus giving the business provider, an advantage of familiarity with the potential customer.

Advertising is usually the first communication that an organisation has with its potential customers, setting the tone for the image and the message. Getting the advertising right, especially in the initial message, is of crucial importance for commercial managers, responsible for producing the necessary profitable income.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”, is a famous statement, credited to the American John Wanamaker considered a “pioneer in marketing”. While true in the recent past, the digital revolution has enabled the ability to personalise and customise advertising and messaging to each specific customer, and to accurately analyse the results. Even with digital analysis techniques, the evaluation of any advertising campaign is still largely subjective rather than qualitative.

With modern techniques, measuring advertising performance and return on investment should be easy, but is it? As part of the marketing mix, advertising should be planned and budgeted as part of the overall business or marketing plan. Successful advertising requires creativeness of image, but it also needs to be carefully targeted, using suitable media to reach it with a simple clear message.

Although some large businesses have their own internal advertising department, there is much to be said for using an independent professional advertising agency. In particular, using an advertising agency can bring an extensive bank of skills, resources and experience in creating promotional campaigns for a specific product type, specific target group or media, which the client business does not possess.

For the commercial manager, responsible for producing profitable income for the organisation, advertising is a necessary investment, and as such should show a measurable return. An advertising agency should assist with preparing a detailed advertising plan which should incorporate methods for measuring effectiveness.

Regardless of whether advertising is dealt with internally or through an external independent advertising agent, the commercial manager will need to ensure that a detailed advertising plan is prepared together with a necessary budget, which will require the following consideration:

  • What is the advertising campaign objective?
  • What is the target audience
  • What media is to be used
  • What are the costs involved
  • What is the budget available

Evaluating the creative graphic of an advertisement whether a still image, audio message, film, or video is largely subjective, yet still needs to fulfil certain criteria.

Does the advertisement:

  • Grab viewers’ attention?
  • Is it distinguishable?
  • Is it memorable?
  • Is the copy line clear and easily understood?
  • Make a clear what action is required of the customer?
  • Target the right audience?

Before launching an advertisement, always test with potential customers of the target audience, to establish how it is received. – The clever graphics and copy that convey the message of the advertisement, may be perceived differently by the viewer from that which was intended.

The packaging museum in London holds a unique collection of examples of over a century of advertising. What is interesting is that many visitors to the museum readily recall advertisements, the brand names, and the slogans from campaigns of 30, 40 and 50 years ago. Why, because the way that the advertisements were targeted, and presented with creative copy lines made them unique, memorable and easy to recall.

Potential customers need to know about product and services, and organisations need to find effective ways of informing them.
When seeking to measure advertising effectiveness, the commercial manager should consider the following;

  • Were the advertisements placed on the right channels?
  • Did the adverts air for the right amount of time?
  • Was the messaging and creative compelling enough to engage the target audience?
  • Did the campaign reach the target audience – how do you know?

Believing analytics can answer these questions is only partly true because they can be very ambiguous. It’s not as accurate to make assumptions about audiences based on data that reflects devices and cookies, as opposed to real people.

Advertising is a big business, however, judging from many of the advertisements on screen, television and social media, one is often left with the impression that many are more suited to winning awards from industry peers, rather than conveying a memorable message to potential customers. Regardless of potential of various analytics, the ultimate measure of advertising success is the support it provides in producing necessary sales income. It always pays to advertise.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 17 APR 24

Nicholas Watkis, AE MA DipM CMC FCIM
Nicholas Watkis set up Contract Marketing Service in 1981, providing professional interim marketing management for a wide variety of businesses. Over 30 years practical experience in organizations, large and small, national and international, led to the development of Business Performance Maximized specialist in marketing performance measurement.


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