The Advertising Blur
by Bray J. Brockbank

Isn't it incredible the amount of advertising that takes place daily? When you really consider the amount of advertising that is taking place on a daily basis it literally boggles the mind. More incredible is the growing trend of purely ineffective advertising.

Just about everywhere you look someone has found a way to exploit it through some type of advertising media. But what is most staggering is the amount of daily advertising that is literally wasted away and is plainly lost in every day noise and motion. Ineffective advertising is a growing part of the great "big blur" we call life.

In an era of ever-tightening budgets, tremendous global competition, dwindling profit margins, chaotic economies, shortened product lifecycles, and tightened budgets, businesses cannot afford to allow wasteful activity or expenditures to occur. This is particularly true when considering today's ineffective use of advertising.

This lackadaisical and ineffective approach to advertising has greatly undermined senior management's confidence in marketing as a staple business discipline over the last decade or so. Who can really blame them? More than ever before we're seeing advertising in billboards, magazines, newspapers, television, and on the Internet that leave many asking why did the business advertise in that particular way, what was the intent and message of the ad, and what action or thought was expected to be produced or result from the ad?

There is little doubt that advertising has a proper place among marketing's arsenal. However, advertising must be done with great attention to detail in the identification and establishment of purpose, goals, and objectives in regards to targeting customers. There can be no exceptions or excuses if marketing is to remain effective in a hyper-competitive and over-advertised world.

So what is a clear, purposeful, goal, and objective oriented advertising campaign or program? To fully understand this question it's necessary to review what advertising is and the context of how and when it should be used.

Advertising is in its most fundamental form the promotion and selling of goods and services through media. However, even with this basic definition of advertising the current or popular thinking and reasoning is that much of what is done through advertising is immeasurable and should simply be written off as required marketing or as building brand awareness activities. This is all done without ever comparing actual results against expected and projected outcomes. This essentially equates to lost opportunities and revenues.

Why is Everyone Advertising?

Why do marketing departments advertise then? Is it because advertising needs to be done? The competition does it? It impresses senior management? It's always been done? It's expected from senior management? Or, simply because there is a budget for advertising it's either used or lost? If these responses represent the common logic being used, and I believe they do, then marketing is in far greater trouble than even senior management thinks. These reasons for advertising do not in any way begin to justify advertising. The only thing that justifies and legitimizes advertising as an effective mode of selling and promoting is clear purpose, goals, and objectives that lead to increased revenue.

One of the most common mistakes marketing departments make in regards to advertising is delegating its responsibility to an "artistic agency" (aka: advertising agency) for creating and executing their advertising campaign. First, marketing must ask, what have these advertising agencies done to prove that they can truly understand my product offering or customers? If they haven't answered or proven that, how can they be expected to cultivate, acquire, develop, retain, or grow a business's customer base or provide a reasonable return on investment (ROI)?

I realize that this may sound like a lot to expect from advertising agencies but it really isn't. I'm not suggesting that all advertising agencies are a waste of time and money but before they're hired or retained by a business they should be questioned as to how they are qualified to do the work based on the purpose, goals, and objectives of such advertising campaigns. There are two essential things to remember when considering advertising agencies:

  1. Typically, advertising agencies don't pass up business when it comes their way -- so businesses should not expect that advertising agencies will ever question if they can really do the job right to achieve the required ROI and results.

  2. Very few advertising agencies or businesses have ever made their living selling products or services outside of their advertising programs and services.

If these two things were understood when considering an advertising agency then millions upon millions of budgeted advertising dollars would be saved each year. More importantly, those dollars used to advertise would be better utilized to accomplish crucial marketing goals and objectives.

Incorrect Approach

The last decade has brought forward a rather different philosophy regarding advertising. This new philosophy presents advertising primarily as a business "branding" vehicle. This approach and philosophy is pure absurdity. Branding ads do very little in the way of directly selling products or services. They generally do not even make specific offers or promotions. The purpose of advertising is to increase customers and sales -- pure and simple. Branding is a secondary concern -- and is generally a natural byproduct of effectively planned and executed advertising campaigns.

Correct Approach

When looking at the basics of what effective advertising is intended to accomplish and do, advertising is supposed to produce interest, leads, and customers who will spend significantly more money on the business' products or services than the business spent in time and on media space to acquire the customer. Effective advertising incorporates several components:

1. Identify the Purpose and Offer

For advertising to produce profitable and sustainable results, it must be planned, established and executed with the following three selling principles:

  1. Offer: clearly setting forth an offer to the target audience to purchase a product or service,
  2. Ask: the target audience for the purchase and
  3. Communicate: communicating a deadline for purchasing the product or service.

Without all three of these elements present, advertising is absolutely a waste of time, effort, and money. Or, when termed in more modern philosophical marketing terms, is wasted away as "branding" efforts.

2. Build-in Measurement Components

For most businesses advertising doesn't even earn a recognizable return on investment (ROI.) Many of these businesses do not identify which ads produce the best or most measurable response levels or measure how much revenue or business the responses generated. To measure advertising success a business must track and quantify its advertising response and sales. Each campaign needs to be assessed on its own merits through a formal follow up exercise and review. Failure to track and measure ad value and response rates is borderline lunacy -- if not criminal.

3. Answer the Question

A prospective customer or buyer cares about how the product or service will improve or benefit their life in some way. So, an ad should address the following question: What is the value proposition of the product or service to the consumer or customer? If this is done effectively, only then will the advertisement have the potential to generate interest, leads, and sales.

4. Target Both Audience and Media

Businesses can only target their audience effectively by first clearly defining who their top or ideal prospects are -- then they can select the appropriate media to reach them. Both the target audience and media must be right to lead to a respectable return on investment (ROI.) The messaging of advertising needs to be clear and understood. If it is not understood, it will just end up as part of the daily noise and blur of life.

Today, everything a business or organization does should have clear purpose, goals, and objectives. With limited budgets, finite resources, and continuous fragmentation of markets, businesses do not have the luxury of wasting time or money on ineffective advertising.


Bray J. Brockbank has 13-years experience as a successful marketing management professional across several industries. He currently leads marketing activities for a world leading STM publisher and online content company. Bray has also been a business and marketing consultant, former adjunct college instructor, and public speaker. He has been recognized by several professional management and marketing organizations. He can be reached via email at: BrayJB@hotmail.com .

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Copyright 2005 by Bray J. Brockbank. All rights reserved.

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