7 truths about how advertising works

Learn the truth about advertising how advertising works

Advertising is an important element in every Marketing Plan. However, not many small business owners are unfamiliar with how advertising works I will share with you some insight by shedding light on seven widely held assumptions. I will address each of these statements with a rebuttal, which is founded on published research. If nothing else, these points will equip you for the next time an advertising sales rep calls you. I’ve used the analogy of bees and flowers to represent customers and advertisements in the past, most notably in the guide to buying advertising for small businesses.

7 Truths about how advertising works

1. Advertising is a strong lever used to generate sales.
My view: Advertising can be used for a range of goals, one of which might be to trigger a sale. Others are to create awareness, to stimulate curiosity, and to position a brand versus its competitors. There is no direct link that shows advertising generates sales, even for very big, well-known brands. Advertising is a weak force with little evidence of quantifiable sales effectiveness. This statement is supported by research data in this article, “Advertising Undressed“, which I first published via a local agency. I chose to reveal much of what I learned while working for TNS Superpanel, now Kantar Worldpanel, all of which has been shared in public in the advertising industry in London in the past, although advertising agencies and media owners prefer to keep it under wraps.

2. Advertising is always an expensive activity.
My view: Alerting your customers to your presence does not have to be an expensive undertaking. There are several methods which are thrifty options, such as earned media or PR, taking advantage of free listings in directories or publications which prioritise the needs of their target audience. An excellent example of this is The West Kent Family Grapevine Magazine

3. Size matters: bigger ads will deliver more sales
My view: Placement trumps size. The most important variable for the effectiveness of an advertisement is that it is positioned correctly within the publication. If your targets are likely to consult the classified listings as a source of information, that’s sufficient. You can consider a larger entry when you have big news to announce.

4. A Business has no choice; it must pay to advertise to succeed.
My view: A new business can use thrifty techniques wisely to get off the ground. I have sought to demonstrate this by never paying for any advertising for my own business venture.

5. Advertising must work, because large companies spend so much on it.
My view: In the past, there has been a viewpoint in FMCG marketing that “share of voice = share of market”. In other words, shouting louder than your competitors wins more customers. This approach has been disproved and replaced by in-bound marketing techniques which empower the customer to find their best solution, a method well-suited to digital marketing. It has given rise to a new model for buying advertising online pay per click (PPC) can be very efficient if used alongside powerful content.

6. Broadcast media is more effective than print media because it reaches more people.
My view: Each medium fulfils a distinct role in any advertising campaign. Its effectiveness will depend upon the task; print can be ideal for reaching a specific target.

7. It’s worth paying more for colour advertisements.
My view: As with size, correct placement is more significant than the use of colour. It is possible to design highly effective print ads which use a single colour called spot-colour, which might be cheaper, instead of full 4-colour artwork. There is also extensive research which has used eye-tracking to show how a reader reads an advertisement, and where it is best to locate a logo.