As we noted in Managing the Advertising Campaign Tutorial, selection of the media outlet through which an ad will be presented has important implications for the success of a promotion. Each outlet possesses unique characteristics, though not all outlet are equally effective for all advertisers. Thus, choosing the right media can be a time consuming process requiring the marketer to balance the pros and cons of each option.
While just a few years ago marketers needed to be aware of only a few media outlets, today’s marketers must be well-versed in a wide range of media options. The reason for the growing number of media outlets lies with advances in communication technology, including the continued growth in importance of the internet and wireless communication. This is changing how consumers and businesses are responding to advertising messages. In this tutorial, we provide an overview of the various types of advertising media.
As we discussed in the Advertising Trends section in the Advertising Tutorial, the number of media outlets will continue to grow as new technologies emerge. Thus, marketers are well advised to continually monitor changes occurring within each media outlet.
Television advertising offers the benefit of reaching large numbers in a single exposure. Yet because it is a mass medium capable of being seen by nearly anyone, television lacks the ability to deliver an advertisement to highly targeted customers compared to other media outlets. However, television networks are attempting to improve their targeting efforts. In particular, networks operating in the pay-to-access arena, such as those with channels on cable and wireless TV streaming, are introducing more narrowly themed programming designed to appeal to selective audiences (e.g., TV shows geared to specific interest groups). Despite these efforts, television remains an option that is best for products targeted to a broad market.
The geographic scope of television advertising ranges from advertising within a localized area (e.g., small town) using fee-based services offered by cable and fiber optic services, to advertising nationally using major broadcast networks.
Television advertising, once viewed as the pillar of advertising media outlets, is facing numerous challenges from alternative media (e.g., internet, mobile networks) and from the invasion of technology devices, such as digital video recorders (DVR), that have empowered customers to be more selective when choosing advertisements to view. To combat this, many networks and local television stations now accept a broader range of advertising (e.g., 15-second ads, 30-minute infomercial).
Yet for marketers, one of the key concerns with television is that it lacks effective response tracking. This has led many marketers to investigate other media outlets offering stronger tracking options. In response, some cable and fiber optic services are experimenting with interactive advertising that enables viewers to gain more information on a product presented in an advertisement while marketers can collect data to measure customer response.
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Digital Media Advertising
The fastest growing media outlets for advertising are through those accessible on digital devices that utilize internet and mobile network technologies. Digital media advertising principally includes ads presented on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, though digital televisions accessing internet content can also fall into this category. Compared to spending in other media, the rate of spending for digital media advertising is experiencing tremendous growth. Digital media advertising’s influence continues to expand and each year more major marketers shift a larger portion of their promotional budget to this medium. Two key reasons for this shift rest with the digital media’s ability to: 1) narrowly target an advertising message, and 2) track user response to the advertiser’s message.
For advertisers, digital media offers several advertising options including.
1. Website Advertising
When visiting a content-focused website (i.e., a website that primarily delivers informative content rather than selling products), there is a good chance visitors will be exposed to advertisements. When creating website advertising campaigns, marketers have a large number of options to consider. These include:
- Multiple creative types (e.g., video, image-only, text-only, 360-degree, etc.)
- Multiple ad sizes (e.g., full-screen, ads adjusting to screen size)
- Multiple user involvement options (e.g., users see ad for 10 seconds before watching a video, users must click in order to remove the ad)
- Multiple general targeting options (e.g., demographics, geographic location)
- Multiple specific targeting options (e.g., ads appear based on words entered in a search box, ads appear based on user’s previous experience on a website)
- Selective ad placement options (e.g., ads placed on specific websites, so-called native advertising where ads appearing to be part of the regular content of a site)
2. Digital App Advertising
The growth in advertising on mobile devices is being fueled by technological advances occurring with the computing power of hand-held devices as well as significant gains in speed of data delivered over wireless networks. Not only are advertisements displayed when a mobile device user opens a web browser to view internet sites, advertisements are also embedded within specialized apps that run on these devices. Also, social media apps offer unique ways for inserting ads within users’ postings.
3. Email Advertising
Using email to deliver an advertisement affords marketers the advantage of low distribution cost and potentially high reach. In situations where the marketer possesses a highly targeted list, response rates to email advertisements may be quite high. This is especially true if those on the list have agreed to receive email, a process known as “opt-in” marketing. Email advertisement can take the form of a regular email message or be presented within the context of more detailed content, such as an electronic newsletter. However, as most people are aware, there is significant downside to email advertising due to highly publicized issues related to abuse (i.e., spam).
4. In-Text Advertising
This type of digital advertising ties ads to text found within a marketer’s digital material, such as specific words contained in articles or other content. For example, when placed on websites text is formatted to be distinct from surrounding information (e.g., underlined words) and an ad will be triggered in the form of a pop-up box when visitors moves their cursor over the text.
Promotion through radio has been a viable advertising option for nearly 100 years. Radio advertising is mostly local to the broadcast range of a radio station, however, at least three options exist that offer national and potentially international coverage. First, in many countries there are radio networks that use many geographically distinct stations to broadcast simultaneously. In the United States, some networks, such as Bloomberg (business programming) and ESPN (sports programming), broadcast nationally either through a group of company-owned stations or through a syndication arrangement (i.e., business agreement) with partner stations. Second, within the last few years the emergence of radio programming delivered via satellite (e.g., SiriusXM) has become an option for national advertising. Finally, the potential for national and international advertising has become more attractive as radio stations allow their signals to be broadcast over the internet and through smartphone applications.
In many ways radio suffers the same problems as television, namely, a mass medium that is not highly targeted and offers little opportunity to track responses. Yet unlike television, radio presents the additional disadvantage of limiting advertisers to audio-only advertising. For some products advertising without visual support is not effective. However, the restriction that radio is limited to audio-only advertising may be changing. This can primarily be seen in the form of internet access and mobile apps that not only allow radio stations to be heard but also enable audio ads to be supported by visual messages that appear on the screen of the device that is streaming the radio station.
It is important to note that commercial radio is not the only outlet for audio advertising. Advertising can also be inserted within audio podcasts as well as being embedded within audio content played on websites.
Print Publications Advertising
Print publications include magazines, newspapers, and special issue publications. The geographic scope of print publications varies from locally targeted community newspapers to internationally distributed magazines. Magazines, especially those targeting specific niches or specialized interest areas, are more narrowly focused compared to broadcast media. Additionally, magazines offer the option of allowing marketers to present their message using high quality imagery (e.g., full color), and can also offer tactile (e.g., inserted material to be touched) and scent (e.g., perfume) experiences.
Newspapers, while also presenting advertisers with color advertisements, offer the advantage of targeting national (e.g., USA Today, Wall Street Journal) or local (e.g., small town publication) markets. Special issue publications, which appear in both magazines and newspapers, can offer highly selective targeting since these often focus on extremely narrow topics (e.g., auto buying guide, vacation guides, college and university ratings, etc.).
The downside of print publications is that readership has dropped consistently over the last few decades. Again, the emergence of the internet and mobile networks is a key reason for the decline. Newspapers are particularly vulnerable and there are many who question the future viability of printed news as an important media outlet. In fact, many print publications have recognized they need to change and have slowly migrated their content to digital media outlets.
Direct Mail Advertising
This method of advertising uses postal and other delivery services to ship advertising materials (e.g., postcards, letters, brochures, catalogs, flyers) to a physical address of targeted customers. Direct mail is most effective when it is designed in a way that makes it appear to be special to the customer. For instance, a marketer using direct mail can personalize mailings by including a message recipient’s name on the address label or by inserting their name within the content of marketer’s message.
Direct mail can be a highly cost-effective method of advertising, especially if mailings contain printed material. This is due to cost advantages obtained by printing in high volume since the majority of printing costs are realized when a printing machine is initially setup to run a print job and not the because of the quantity of material printed. Consequently, the total cost of printing 50,000 postcards is only slightly higher than printing 20,000 postcards but when the total cost is divided by the number of cards printed the cost per-card drops dramatically as more pieces are printed. Obviously, there are other costs involved in direct mail, primarily postage expense.
While direct mail offers the benefit of a low-cost-production for each distributed piece, the actual cost-per-exposure can be quite high as large numbers of customers may discard the mailing before reading. This has led many to refer to direct mail as junk mail and, due to the name, some marketers view the approach as ineffective. However, direct mail, when well-targeted, can be an extremely effective promotional tool.
Signage and Billboard Advertising
The use of signs to communicate a marketer’s message places advertising in geographically identified areas in order to capture customer attention. The most obvious method of signage advertising (also called out-of-home advertising) is through billboards, which are generally located in high traffic areas. Outdoor billboards come in many sizes, though the most well-known are large structures located near transportation points intending to attract the interest of people traveling on roads or public transportation. Indoor billboards are often smaller than outdoor billboards and are designed to attract the attention of foot traffic (i.e., those moving past the sign). For example, smaller signage in airports, train terminals, and large commercial office space fit this category.
While billboards are the most obvious example of signage advertising, there are many other forms of signage advertising include:
- Skywriting, where airplanes use special chemicals to form words
- Plane banners, where large signs are pulled behind an airplane
- Mobile billboards, where signs are placed on vehicles, such as buses and cars, or even carried by people
- Sidewalk billboards, where signs are place on the ground where people walk
- Packaging, where ads appear on the product package, such as on plastic bags used to protect newspapers delivered to homes
Product Placement Advertising
Product placement is an advertising approach that intentionally inserts products into entertainment programs such as movies, television programs, and video games. Placement can take several forms including:
- visual imagery in which the product is a background element of an entertainment program
- actual product use by an actor in an entertainment program
- words spoken by an actor that include the product name
Product placement is gaining acceptance among a growing number of marketers for two main reasons. First, in most cases the placement is subtle so as not to divert significant attention from the main content of the program or media outlet. This approach may lead the audience to believe the product was selected for inclusion by program producers and not by the marketer. Consequently, this may heighten the credibility of the product in the minds of the audience since their perception, whether accurate or not, is that product was selected by an unbiased third-party.
Second, as we discuss in the Advertising Tutorial, entertainment programming, such as television, is converging with other media, particularly with digital media outlets. It is expected that viewers of a television program will soon be able to easily request information and purchase products that appear in a program by simply pointing to the product on the screen. As this technology emerges, product placement opportunities could become an attractive promotional option for many marketers.
A subtle method of advertising is an approach in which marketers pay, or offer resources and services, for the purpose of being seen as a supporter of an organization’s event, program, or product offering (e.g., section of a website). Because sponsorships are less blatantly promotional compared to other forms of advertising, these may be appealing for marketers looking to establish credibility with a particular target market.
There are numerous local, regional, national, and international sponsorship opportunities ranging from a local art center to the Olympics. Exposure opportunities include signage, printed handouts, sponsored receptions, and much more. However, many sponsorship options lack the ability to tie spending directly to customer response. Additionally, the visibility of the sponsorship may be limited to relatively small mentions especially if the marketer is sharing sponsorship with many other organizations.
Other Advertising Methods
While the nine media outlets discussed above represent the overwhelming majority of advertising methods, there are several more including:
- advertising on professional sports team uniforms (e.g., name of sponsor on front of jersey)
- advertising using telephone recordings (e.g., political candidate’s messages)
- advertising via fax machine (though in the U.S. there may be certain legal issues with this method)
- advertising through inserted material in product packaging (e.g., inside credit card bill)
- advertising imprinted on retail receipts (e.g., grocery store receipt)