Advertising media selection

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Advertising media selection is the process of choosing the most cost-effective media for advertising, to achieve the required coverage and number of exposures in a target audience.


This is typically measured on two dimensions: frequency and spread.


To maximize overall awareness, the advertising must reach the maximum number of the target audience. There is a limit for the last few percent of the general population who don't see the main media advertisers use. These are more expensive to reach. The 'cumulative' coverage cost typically follows an exponential curve. Reaching 90 percent can cost double what it costs to reach 70 percent, and reaching 95 percent can double the cost yet again. In practice, the coverage decision rests on a balance between desired coverage and cost. A large budget achieves high coverage—a smaller budget limits the ambitions of the advertiser.

  1. Frequency—Even with high coverage, it is insufficient for a target audience member to have just one 'Opportunity To See' (OTS) the advertisement. In traditional media, around five OTS are believed required for a reasonable impact. To build attitudes that lead to brand switching may require more. To achieve five OTS, even in only 70 percent of the overall audience, may require 20 or 30 peak-time transmissions of a commercial, or a significant number of insertions of press advertisements in the national media. As these figures suggest, most consumers simply don't see the commercials that often (whereas the brand manager, say, sees every one and has already seen them many times before their first transmission, and so is justifiably bored).

The life of advertising campaigns can often extend beyond the relatively short life usually expected. Indeed, as indicated above, some research shows that advertisements require significant exposure to consumers before they even register. As David Ogilvy long ago recommended, "If you are lucky enough to write a good advertisement, repeat it until it stops selling. Scores of good advertisements have been discarded before they lost their potency."


More sophisticated media planners also look at the 'spread' of frequencies. Ideally all of the audience should receive the average number of OTS. Those who receive fewer are insufficiently motivated, and extra advertising is wasted on those who receive more. It is, of course, impossible to achieve this ideal. As with coverage, the pattern is weighted towards a smaller number—of heavy viewers, for example—who receive significantly more OTS, and away from the difficult last few percent. However, a good media buyer manages the resulting spread of frequencies to weigh it close to the average, with as few audience members as possible below the average.

Frequency is also complicated by the fact that this is a function of time. A pattern of 12 OTS across a year may be scarcely noticed, whereas 12 OTS in a week is evident to most viewers. This is often the rationale for advertising in `bursts' or `waves' (sometimes described as `pulsing'). This concentrates expenditure into a number of intense periods of advertising, spread throughout the year, so brands do not remain uncovered for long periods.

Media Buyers[edit]

In the end, it is the media buyers who deliver the goods; by negotiating special deals with the media owners, and buying the best parcels of `slots' to achieve the best cost (normally measured in terms of the cost per thousand viewers, or per thousand household `impressions', or per thousand impressions on the target audience. The "best cost" can also be measured by the cost per lead, in the case of direct response marketing). The growth of the very large, international, agencies has been partly justified by their increased buying power over the media owners.

Types of Advertising[edit]

Television Advertising[edit]

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. 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 satellite television, are introducing more narrowly themed programming (i.e., TV shows geared to specific interest groups) designed to appeal to selective audiences. However, television remains an option that is best for products that targeted to a broad market.

The geographic scope of television advertising ranges from advertising within a localized geographic area using fee-based services, such as cable and fiber optic services, to national coverage using broadcast programming.

Television advertising, once viewed as the pillar of advertising media outlets, is facing numerous challenges from alternative media (e.g., Internet) and the invasion of technology devices, such as digital video recorders (see more in the Advertising Trends section in the Advertising) tutorial, that have empowered customers to be more selective on the advertisements they view. Additionally, television lacks effective response tracking which has led many marketers to investigate other media that offer stronger tracking options.

Radio Advertising[edit]

Promotion through radio has been a viable advertising option for over 80 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 such networks as Disney (children’s 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 has become an option for national advertising. Finally, the potential for national and international advertising may become more attractive as radio stations allow their signals to be broadcast over the Internet.

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. But unlike television, radio presents the additional disadvantage of limiting advertisers to audio-only advertising. For some products advertising without visual support is not effective.

Print Publications Advertising[edit]

Print publications such as magazines, books, newspapers and Special Issue publications offer advertising opportunities at all geographic levels.

Magazines, especially those that target specific niche or specialized interest areas, are more narrowly targeted 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 touch and scent experiences (e.g., perfume).

Newspapers have also incorporated color advertisements, though their main advantage rests with their ability to target local markets.

Special Issue publications can offer very selective targeting since these often focus on an extremely narrow topics (e.g., auto buying guide, tour guides, college and university ratings, etc.).

Internet Advertising[edit]

The fastest growing media outlet for advertising is the Internet. Compared to spending in other media, the rate of spending for Internet advertising is experiencing tremendous growth and in the U.S. trails only newspaper and television advertising in terms of total spending. Internet 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 Internet’s ability to: 1) narrowly target an advertising message and, 2) track user response to the advertiser’s message.

The Internet offers many advertising options with messages delivered through websites or by email.

Website Advertising- Advertising tied to a user’s visit to a website accounts for the largest spending on Internet advertising. For marketers, website advertising offers many options in terms of:

Creative Types




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. Delivery to a user’s email address can be viewed as either plain text or can look more like a website using web coding (i.e., HTML). However, as most people are aware, there is significant downside to email advertising due to highly publicized issues related to abuse (i.e., spam).

Direct Mail Advertising[edit]

This method of advertising uses postal and other delivery services to ship advertising materials, including postcards, letters, brochures, catalogs and 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 very 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 can be seen as offering the benefit of a low cost-per-contact, the actual cost-per-impression 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[edit]

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 using signs 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:

Sky writing 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 Plastic bags used to protect newspapers delivered to homes Advertisements attached to grocery carts

Product Placement Advertising[edit]

Product placement is an advertising approach that intentionally inserts products into entertainment programs such as movies, TV programs and video games.

Placement can take several forms including:

visual imagery in which the product appears within the entertainment program actual product use by an actor in the 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. 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, entertainment programming, such as television, is converging with other media, particularly the Internet. In the future a viewer of a television program may be able to easily request information for products that appear in a program by simply pointing to the product on the screen. With the information they may get the option to purchase the product. As this technology emerges it is expected that product placement opportunities will become a powerful promotional option for many marketers.

Mobile Device Advertising[edit]

Handheld devices, such as cellphones, smartphones, portable computers and other wireless devices, make up the growing mobile device market. Such devices allow customers to stay informed, gather information and communicate with others without being tied to a physical location. While the mobile device market is only beginning to become a viable advertising medium, it may soon offer significant opportunity for marketers to reach customers at anytime and anyplace.

Also, with geographic positioning features included in newer mobile devices, the medium has the potential to provide marketers with the ability to target customers based on their geographic location. Currently, the most popular advertising delivery method to mobile devices is through plain text messaging, however, over the next few years multimedia advertisements are expected to become the dominant message format.

Sponsorship Advertising[edit]

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). Sponsorships are intended not to be viewed a blatant advertisement and in this way may be appealing for marketers looking to establish credibility with a particular target market. 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.

While the nine media outlets discussed above represent the overwhelming majority of advertising methods, there are several more including:

advertising using telephone recordings (e.g., political candidate’s messages) advertising via fax machine (though 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, cash machine)

Audience Research[edit]

Identifying the audience for a magazine or newspaper, or determining who watches television at a given time, is a specialized form of market research, often conducted on behalf of media owners.

Press figures are slightly complicated by the fact that there are two measures: readership (total number of readers of a publication, no matter where they read it), and circulation (the number of copies actually sold, which is mostly independently validated).

Advertising-free media[edit]

Advertising-free media refers to media outlets whose output is not funded or subsidized by the sale of advertising space. It includes in its scope mass media entities such as websites, television and radio networks, and magazines.

The public broadcasters of a number of countries air without commercials. Perhaps the best known example of this is the United Kingdom's public broadcaster, the BBC, whose domestic networks do not carry commercials. Instead, the BBC, in common with most other public broadcasters in Europe, is funded by a television licence fee levied on the owners of all television sets.

A 2006 report by the Senate of Canada suggested that the country's public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, be funded sufficiently by the federal government so that it could air without any advertising.[1]

Advertising media scheduling[edit]

Scheduling refers to the pattern of advertising timing, represented as plots on a yearly flowchart. These plots indicate the pattern of scheduled times advertising must appear to coincide with favorable selling periods. The classic scheduling models are Continuity, Flighting and Pulsing.


This model is primarily for non-seasonal products, yet sometimes for seasonal products. Advertising runs steadily with little variation over the campaign period.

There may be short gaps at regular intervals and also long gaps—for instance, one ad every week for 52 weeks, and then a pause. This pattern of advertising is prevalent in service and packaged goods that require continuous reinforcement on the audience for top of mind recollection at point of purchase.


  • Works as a reminder
  • Covers the entire purchase cycle
  • Cost efficiencies in the form of large media discounts
  • Positioning advantages within media

Program or plan that identifies the media channels used in an advertising campaign, and specifies insertion or broadcast dates, positions, and duration of the messages.

Flighting (or "bursting")[edit]

In media scheduling for seasonal product categories, flighting involves intermittent and irregular periods of advertising, alternating with shorter periods of no advertising at all. For instance, all of 2000 Target Rating Poinered in a single month, "going dark" for the rest of the year.[clarification needed] Halloween costumes are rarely purchased all year except during the months of September and October.


  • Advertisers buy heavier weight than competitors for a relatively shorter period of time
  • Little waste, since advertising concentrates on the best purchasing cycle period
  • Series of commercials appear as a unified campaign on different media vehicles


Pulsing combines flighting and continuous scheduling by using a low advertising level all year round and heavy advertising during peak selling periods. Product categories that are sold year round but experience a surge in sales at intermittent periods are good candidates for pulsing. For instance, under-arm deodorants, sell all year, but more in summer months.


  • Covers different market situations
  • Advantages of both continuity and flighting possible