Learn about the different types of advertising, along with the pros and cons, so you can determine what type of advertising will work best for your needs and budget.
Two primary types of advertising
Brand advertising aims to create, change or enhance the brand personality and positioning of the company, product, service or person being advertised. These ads are like business development people who identify, educate and nurture prospects and existing customers. These ads are “relational.” They’re designed to remind people to buy a particular brand and to want to pay more for one brand over another.
Brand ads generally are “beautiful”, uncluttered and have no call to action.
Direct response advertising
Direct response advertising is like a sales rep on quota. These ads are designed and measured by how well they convert prospects into buyers and how much revenue they generate. These ads are “transactional.” They’re designed to “ring the cash register.” Direct response ads focus heavily on an offer and a very clear call to action (call now, come in by a specific date, go to this website to buy now or get a price quote or get a free eBook to help you learn).
Know this: Many small businesses create ads that try to “do it all” (create brand awareness and drive purchases and sales leads). That type of advertising typically doesn’t work very well because there is not one single-minded purpose of the ad. All advertising – TV, print, radio, online, outdoor billboards – has just a few seconds to grab someone’s attention and convey a key message.
What works best? Creating an integrated marketing and advertising campaign with different ads and marketing tactics working together to accomplish different “jobs” (create awareness; create interest; educate a prospect; increase consideration and preference to purchase; drive to buy now, order now; remind existing customers to buy again…)
Types of advertising
Brand ads and direct response ads can be created and run in different types of advertising media.
Search Advertising. This is the most popular type of advertising for small businesses, so we’re listing it first. These are the ads that appear on Google and other search engines on the right-hand side and top of the search results. Advertisers pay only when someone clicks on the ad to go to the advertisers’ website. Search advertising is much faster and easier to implement than direct mail or other types of advertising, but you are limited to just a few lines of text which makes it hard to convey much information.
It’s so popular because it’s inexpensive, measurable, a controllable cost (you can limit exactly how much you spend) and it intersects people who are researching to buy or learn something. Most ad agencies don’t do search advertising. You’ll want to find specialists in search advertising or do it yourself with an attitude of “try-learn-adapt”. Think of search advertising like a science experiment. You make a hypothesis about what words and offers will attract people and then you learn immediately what works and what doesn’t. The challenge is not in attracting people but in converting people who click on a search ad.
Learn more about PPC (pay-per-click) Search advertising on Google
Direct Mail Coupon Mailers. Some people call this advertising so we’ve included it in this list. This is a type of direct mail where a coupon company mails an envelope or book of coupons, and companies pay to have their offer included in the mailing. It’s less expensive than mailing yourself but you must make an offer (coupon) which may attract prospects who are not the most profitable to serve long-term as customers. And your competitors may also be included in the mailing (you can ask for and pay more for an exclusive).
Newspaper Advertising. These are ads in local town, city or national newspapers. There are also business newspapers. Newspaper circulation for city papers has been steadily decreasing and most subscribers skew older. What 20-year-olds do you know who read the newspaper? Circulation rates have held steady for local town newspapers. They are often the only source for “local town news” about youth sports, the city council meeting, and what’s happening in town. And they’re filled with ads from small businesses. National papers like the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times have large circulations and loyal readers.
Most newspaper advertising is “transactional” or direct response in nature. It’s fast and easy to get ads created and published. Online advertising doesn’t seem to have replaced newspaper advertising (look at all those circulars in the Sunday paper) because newspapers still reach a larger audience than most websites and the ads can be much larger. The key with newspaper ads is to create an effective ad.
Magazine Advertising. There are thousands of magazines. People pay to receive most magazines (except for what are called controlled circulation publications that people receive because of their job title). And for the paid subscribers they generally look forward to reading the magazines they receive. They generally aren’t multi-tasking when they’re reading (or scanning) a magazine. They set it aside until they have time to read it. So you’re getting their attention when they are in a good frame of mind. The ads can be extremely relevant to the readers and not seen as annoying interruptions.
The challenge with magazine advertising is the long lead time required to create the ad and get it to the publisher months ahead so there’s enough time to print and distribute the magazines to subscribers. For that reason, most magazine ads are brand-building and don’t promote prices or sales.
Mobile Cell Phone Advertising. These ads can be very effective for reaching younger people and people out and about if ads are targeted to particular GPS coordinates. This is an emerging and growing area of advertising.
Movie Theater Advertising. They’re inexpensive compared to other types of advertising and a captive audience of people there before the show. But who gets to the movies 20 minutes early? We really question if movie theater ads work unless they’re for the theater promoting popcorn and a drink. Most direct response advertisers don’t use this type of advertising (and they are the ones who try, measure and stick with advertising media that is inexpensive and works).
Online Advertising. These are display ads, often called banner ads, that many websites accept where people can view the ad and click to “learn more” and go to the company or retailer website for more information. Online advertising is popular because it can be targeted in what the ad industry calls “narrow casting” to reach particular people. It can also be bought inexpensively and placed on “remnant space” (ad space that hasn’t sold). It’s measurable. Click-through rates are about the same as direct mail. The ads are small compared to half-page or page ads in newspapers and magazines. Online ads can also work like outdoor billboard ads on websites to remind people about a brand or product message. Most are direct response ads.
Outdoor Billboard Advertising. These used to be just along the freeway. Now there are digital boards and you can buy outdoor ad space on taxis, bus shelters, airports, train stations and on walls of buildings. Outdoor ads, often called out-of-home, are popular among large fast food chains and other businesses that want to reach people “on the go” with “reminder ads”. They’re also used effectively to reinforce an overall campaign. The challenge for small businesses with outdoor advertising is getting the best “boards” (billboard placements) since the large national advertisers lock those up with annual contracts. And outdoor advertising is expensive to produce and only allows an advertiser to have a very, very brief message.
Radio Advertising. They aren’t as memorable generally as TV or even magazine ads. It takes a consistent presence on radio with a campaign (like Motel 6 “We left the light on for you”) for radio ads to be effective based on recall. And most ad agencies (who are visual people) aren’t very experienced or good at creating radio ads. There are freelancers who specialize in creating radio ads and writing jingles (the little songs that get stuck in your head). Radio is very targeted and announcer read ads can be very inexpensive to produce and effective if you have a relevant message and offer.
TV Advertising. TV ads are the most visible, memorable and talked about type of advertising. They have the benefit of visual and audio and they can make an emotional message or demonstrate a product/service. Advertising on TV also conveys to many consumers and business people that “they’re a big company that’s a safe buy”. TV advertising can be created cost-effectively and targeted to reach particular people (like people interested in remodeling). Ads that are longer and direct response are called Infomercials.
Yellow Page Advertising used to be the phone book. Now there are lots of companies publishing “phone books” you can advertise in and lots of online directories you can choose to advertise in too. The whole landscape is changing and expanding, making it hard to figure out what’s worthwhile to buy and what isn’t.
Tips about Advertising
The most important thing you can do to advertise your local business is to set up listings with all the reputable online directories. If you are spending any money on advertising, you want to make sure that when people go online, they find you and your business. It’s not like the old days when you could just buy an ad in the Yellow Pages. You need to proactively set up listings.
Know this: You may want to consider alternatives to advertising. Many small businesses rush to advertise when another marketing approach may work better and be less expensive.