11.5. Managing Advertising
Advertising is defined as ‘a paid message inserted in a medium’. This definition can be broken down as follows:
- Paid: news about a company or its products is not necessarily advertising; sometimes a medium (television, radio, newspaper or magazine) will carry a message about a company in the form of a news item, but this is not advertising unless the space is paid for.
- Message: there must be some kind of communication intention in an advertisement, however obscure.
- In a medium: the message must appear in a newspaper, magazine, billboard or broadcast medium. Leaflets through doors, company names printed on T-shirts, and telephone selling are not necessarily advertising (but they are promotion).
Most advertising works below the conscious level. People are often familiar with a brand name, and even know a lot about the product, without being able to remember where they saw the product advertised. Advertising is a non-personal communication, in that it has to speak to a large number of people, so the message has to be clear for all the target audience to understand. Research by Farris and Buzzell7 indicates that the proportion of promotional spending devoted to advertising is higher under the following conditions:
- The product is standardized, rather than produced to order.
- There are many end users (for example most households).
- The typical purchase amount is small.
- Sales are made through channel intermediaries (such as retail shops) rather than direct to users.
The consumer's attention is hard to get. It is not usually possible to cover all of AIDA in one ad, so marketers usually spread the load over several types of promotion.
For this reason, there are many different categories of ad campaign. Here are some examples:
- Teaser campaigns. Here the advertiser runs an initial advertisement that is meaningless in itself. Once the advertisement has run for a few weeks, the advertiser runs a second ad which explains the first one. The first ad is intended to get the consumer's attention by being mysterious. An example is the series of advertisements for the Internet service provider Totalserve. The adverts mimicked ads for fast-moving consumer goods such as smoking cures and disinfectants, without actually saying what Totalserve does; after four weeks or so, the company revealed its true identity.
- Lifestyle campaigns. These associate the product with a desirable lifestyle. Many perfume ads have taken this approach, showing women leading interesting or exciting lives. Lifestyle campaigns are mainly about positioning the product in the consumer's mind, and linking it to a desirable lifestyle.
- Rational campaigns appeal to the consumer's cognition. These advertisements are heavy on facts, and seek to persuade by rational argument. Often an authoritative figure (a doctor, dentist or scientist) appears in the ad in order to lend greater weight to the arguments. Typically this style is used for medicated shampoos, acne creams, and over-the-counter medicines.
Advertising is mainly about getting the consumer's attention and arousing interest (the A and I of AIDA). To stimulate desire and action, marketers often link a special offer (sales promotion) to the ad. Advertising is always culturally based. This means that an advertisement shown in one country, or aimed at a particular audience, is unlikely to work for consumers in other countries, or for a different audience. In practice, very few companies use completely standardised advertisements across national borders.
Advertising can often be over-used because firms place greater faith in it than is perhaps justified. There is an underlying assumption that a bigger advertising spend will inevitably lead to a greater sales volume.
Of course, there should be a monitoring and review procedure to ensure that the advertising has achieved its objectives. Advertising can be used for the following purposes:
- To help the salesforce to open sales.
- To stimulate demand for the product category.
- To promote specific brands.
- To counteract competitors’ promotional activities. Often used to counteract a possible loss in market share due to a new competitor entering the market.
- To suggest new ways to use the product.
- To remind consumers about the product
- To reinforce consumers’ good feelings about the product.
Advertising can also be used to improve awareness of the company itself. This type of advertising is called institutional advertising and is commonly carried out by very large firms such as BP or Ford. It is almost a public relations activity, but the media space is paid for. Most advertising is product advertising, which means the products are the main part of the ad.
Since advertising is a paid-for medium, there will be a budgetary constraint on the management as well as a creative constraint. The advertising manager must therefore carry out the following planning functions –
- Setting the budget – This can be done in four ways. Firstly, the objective and task approach involves setting objectives, and setting aside an appropriate amount of money to achieve the objectives. This method is difficult to apply because it is difficult to assess how much will be needed to achieve the objective. Secondly, the percentage of sales approach sets the budget as a percentage of sales. This is based on the false idea that sales create advertising, and usually results in less being spent on advertising when sales fall, thus reducing sales further. Thirdly, the competition matching approach means that the company spends the same as the competition: this means that the firm is allowing its budgets to be set by its enemies. Fourthly, there is the arbitrary approach whereby a senior executive (usually a finance director) simply says how much can be allowed within the firm’s overall budgets. This does not take account of how the firm is to achieve the objectives.
- Identifying the target – Deciding to who the ad is to be directed. It is better to approach a small segment of the market than try to use a ‘scattergun’ approach on everybody.
- Media planning – This is about deciding where the ads are going to appear. There are two main decision areas: the reach (number of potential consumers the ad reaches) and the frequency (number of times each consumer sees the ad) of coverage. The decision is frequently made on the basis of cost per thousand readers/viewers, but this does not take into account the impact of the ad or the degree to which people are able to skip past it.
- Defining the objectives – Deciding what the ads are supposed to achieve. It is essential here to give the advertising agency a clear brief: ‘We want to raise awareness of the product to 50% of the adult population’ is a measurable objective. ‘We want to increase sales as much as possible’ is not measurable, so there is no way of knowing whether it has been achieved.
- Creating the advertising platform – Deciding the basic issues and selling points that the advertising must convey. This clarifies the advertising agency briefing, or at least clarifies the thinking on producing the advertising materials.
Advertisements contain three key elements: the brand itself, the pictorial element, and the text. The pictorial element is superior for capturing attention, regardless of the size of the ad or the picture. The text element captures attention proportional to its size, and the brand element transfers attention to the other elements.
When writing advertising copy the primary rule is to keep it short and simple. This is because people will not read a lengthy advertisement. Equally, the headline of the ad is important because people frequently read only the headline, quickly skipping on as they realise it is an advert. Also, declining literacy skills mean that many people are actually unable to read and understand a long and complicated message.
Artwork should be eye-catching and relevant to the purpose. It is usually a good idea to include a picture of the product where this is possible, since it aids recognition when the consumer sees the product on the supermarket shelf. Much artwork is available off-the-shelf for smaller businesses, either from computer clipart folders or from books of non-copyright artwork.
Four elements appear to be important in the effectiveness of advertising:
- interest, and
There is a high correlation between brand loyalty and brand awareness; likeability appears to be the single best predictor of sales effectiveness, interest clearly relates to likeability, and enjoyment appears to be a good indicator in advertising pre-tests. It is worthwhile making some efforts to find out whether the advertising has been effective in achieving the objectives laid down. This is much easier if clear objectives were set in the first place, of course, and if the advertising agency was given a clear brief.
Advertising effectiveness can be assessed by market research, by returned coupons, and (sometimes) by increased sales. The last method is somewhat risky, however, since there may be many other factors that could have increased the sales of the product. Following are some common techniques for evaluating advertising effectiveness -
- Pre-tests – These are evaluations of the advertising before it is released. Pre-tests are sometimes carried out using focus groups.
- Coupon returns, or enquiries –The advertiser counts up the number of enquiries received during each phase of an advertising campaign. This allows the marketing management to judge which adverts are working best, provided the coupons have an identifying code on them.
- Post-campaign tests – The particular testing method used will depend largely on the objectives of the (post-tests) campaign. Communications objectives (product awareness, attitude change, brand awareness) might be determined through surveys; sales objectives might be measured according to changes in sales that can be attributed to the campaign. This is difficult to do because of other factors (changes in economic conditions, for example) that might distort the findings.
- Recognition tests and recall tests – In recognition tests, consumers are shown the advertisement and asked if they recognise it. They are then asked how much of it they actually recall. In an unaided recall test the consumer is asked which adverts he or she remembers seeing recently; in an aided recall test the consumer is shown a group of ads (without being told which is the one the researcher is interested in) and is asked which ones he or she has seen recently.
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