An Examination of Advertising Mediums


First, understand the purpose of advertising: most advertising is to make people aware of you and step into your store, visit your website, or contact you. Product-specific advertising will try to get people to buy a certain product. Brand adverting (also known as branding) is designed to increase awareness of your products and services.

This may sound oversimplified, but the best advertising is effective advertising. Can it be funny, or serious, clever or emotional? Yes. But if it is not effective, if the advertising doesn’t brand your company or move people to action toward your business, then it is a waste of money.

Not s Singular Solution

Next, understand there is not a single ad medium that is a perfect fit for you. Each medium has strengths and weaknesses, cost and reach and targeting variables, That is why advertising can be so frustrating. Start with the strongest ads, demographics, and ad medium; and as revenues develop, expand your reach.

How do I know if it’s working?

Advertising results were a matter of faith. Before the online revolution you bought a print ad in a newspaper or magazine, you paid for a TV or radio commercials, put up a billboard or poster, or mailed a card. But even with ratings or traffic counts, there were zero provable facts to know if your ad increased your business. So at the very least you’d hope for an increase in top-of-mind awareness, but only by instinct and experience. Of course you’d know if there were more sales, but it was impossible to prove that sales increase was due to one ad or medium over another unless you only ran one ad or on one medium, or even one location or one station.

This lack of information also applies to new forms of advertising. Online display, social media, and email can also be a challenge to verify. We’ll discuss all this below.

CPM and Impressions

One expression of measuring advertising is by CPM, or Cost Per Thousand (M is Latin for 1,000). This usually (depending on the medium) refers to the cost of 1000 impressions. An impression is when your ad is seen or heard. That does not mean being seen or heard by your target audience, just that your ad was seen or heard by someone.

TOMA Growth

When created and placed with experience all advertising will, as in hopes past, increase your TOMA, your Top of Mind Awareness. Two ad mediums, pay-per-click and streaming, can back their performance with collectible data called metrics. But metrics still cannot measure true impressions obtained. To be fair, no one can, because even if your pay-per-click ad is mixed in with the search results or the only ad on the streaming page, that doesn’t mean it was seen. We can only be sure eyeballs saw the ad or online display (banner) ad when it gets clicked.

So in guiding your creative, and putting aside the metrics challenges above, time for a look at the positives and challenges of advertising mediums.

The types of advertising mediums

Outdoor (Billboards, Taxis, Buses, etc.) – The busier the location the better, and the more expensive. You can be exposed to thousands of people, but for the most part, effective Outdoor ads are up to seven words and an image. Remember either the people are driving by your billboard, or your poster is on a bus or taxi driving by them, so you have to convey your message in seconds. There is a small bit of demographic targeting available here – what routes buses travel, what parts of town the billboards are in. But it is a great challenge to target by gender and age. Recommended: Outdoor can be effective when you need to reach a broad range of people or a targeted geographical sub-group.

Pay-Per-Click – (also called Bid for Click.) This is probably the opportunity with the most metrics to back the choice. PPC is trackable, and also very targetable. But with those metrics and targetability comes the bidding for the top spot. That bidding can quickly deplete even a healthy ad budget. On the plus side, you can show up in the top results of searches, but you will be there with others who have also paid to be there. Remember, though, that just because you’re in the top of the search results doesn’t mean you made an impression or have been seen, Of course in pay-per-click you are only charged when you are clicked, but if you are looking just to increase your TOMA, this can prove a challenge. Recommended: Pay-per-click can be effective, it is highly targetable, but even when you’re paying under a dollar per click, costs can add up quickly.

Website Search Engine Optimization – SEO for short, Search Engine Optimization is a calculated guess at the algorithms Google, Bing, and other search engines use to categorize and sort the vast web content to put your website at the top of the results. The short explanation of SEO is to get you listed ahead of your competition. Recommended: You have a website, you must update your SEO.

Email – One of the easiest for the person you are trying to reach to dodge. If you can get your message past the Spam filters you have just a few chances to get that message read. Send too often you get blacklisted. There is also the issue of sending plain text versus using images and graphics. No right choice, as each will offend many you are trying to reach. Recommended: Email can be effective to start a relationship when relatable and l but email is best to maintain communication, but only when requested, and best in moderation.

Texting – Bulk texting is still in its infancy, but has the potential to reach people quickly. If you can target a phone number near your location and offer a discount to stop in. As with email, texting is preferred by most people to remain between established relationships – friends, family, and those with permission. Recommended: As noted, if you can offer a significant discount to lure a customer in the area to your business, texting can be appreciated.

Online Display – Also known as banner ads. You’ve seen these, usually with some sort of eye appeal or motion. Similar to Pay-Per-Click, Online Display is trackable, as well, though in many cases you pay to have them displayed whether anyone clicks them or not. Recommended: Online Display can be useful when targeted at specific demographics, especially as tracked retargeting after a previous exposure to your business.

Social Media – Backed with metrics and can be targeted by demographics, yet still subject to the eyeball test. (Did anyone see it?) It is very easy for your ad to get lost in the endless stream of posts and information. Landing in someone’s feed at just the right time is becoming easier with new algorithms, but (as with email and text) you don’t want to be seen as an interloper forcing unwanted information. Some SM sites allow advertisers to recruit and paysite users (sometimes referred to a “Influencers”) for “testimonial” endorsements. But research indicates this “influencer” phenomenon has another risk: user endorsements can compromise a company’s goodwill. There is a lot of competition to be seen, and the better the reach and frequency, the higher your expense. Recommended: Don’t disrupt the viewer’s stream, but as a quick reminder of the opportunities you offer, Social Media can be effective.

Radio/TV/Cable – For decades, the kings of the ad medium, especially TV. Sight, sound, motion, and the human voice, TV was the ultimate, and they charge a lot for it. But today, with more millennials opting for video streaming, with video podcasts, with commercial skipping DVRs, with next day commercial free replay, TV is no longer king. The one exception is live news and sports. Radio, too, now has its challenges from audio streaming and podcasts. People still listen to radio during commutes and during live sports, along with in-office listening. While listening is dropping, radio has not suffered the ad-skipping like TV. Cable is similar to TV, though with cable it is easier to target specific cable systems, and therefore smaller areas. Recommended: Broadcast and cable (including streaming TV services) are still a very effective means of conveying your message. But keep in mind the “broad” of “broadcast”. Like Outdoor, it is more difficult to target specific demographics or areas of town. Your ad will be seen everywhere the station is seen and heard. And you’ll pay the same for each pair of eyes and ears, whether they’d want your product or not. One additional tip, a station’s streaming service may cost less and offer more targeting by area, but fewer viewers/listeners.

Direct Mail/Fliers – For multiple impressions you need multiple deliveries. Targeting is by area or postal route, and when a card receiver is interested in your offer, they are likely to retain your mailing. But the vast majority of these cards are tossed with little thought. Note: A large mail company specifically avoids certain types of homes and households that may still be desirable for your company. Recommended: For repeated impressions you’ll need repeated mailings, but there are nice to reach a specific area and make a discount/offer.

Print – Newspapers and Magazines. Much of newspaper and magazine adverting is no longer print, as most newspaper and magazine readers now read the periodicals online. So in essence, print is now Online Display. Recommended: You can target by publication and type of readers. For actual print, it is easy for a potential customer to remove and save your ad.

Streaming/Podcasts – With podcast sponsorships and streaming it is easy to target a specific audience, like science aficionados, new parents, or apartment dwellers. With streaming and podcasts you can reach areas as small as a zip code. Recommended: For economically reaching smaller areas and a smaller demographic pool. Streaming is hyper-targetable.