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What is Advertising?

Advertising is a marketing tactic involving paying for space to promote a product, service, or cause. The actual promotional messages are called advertisements, or ads for short. The goal of advertising is to reach people most likely to be willing to pay for a company’s products or services and entice them to buy.

Finding Your Ideal Customer

When trying to zero in on the types of people who are more likely to need or want your goods or services, and be willing to shell out hard-earned cash for it, you might look at demographic characteristics, such as:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Education level
  • Income level
  • Zip code

By more precisely defining who your target customer is, you can better choose advertising vehicles that will reach more of your target customers for less money. Sure, you can buy an expensive ad in the Wall Street Journal, for example, but if your best customers live in the western Boston suburbs, you can buy ads in local papers there for far less.

Where to Advertise

Traditional advertising outlets include newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations. Today, however, advertisements are placed nearly everywhere and anywhere, including:

  • Roadside billboards
  • Sides of buildings
  • Websites
  • Electronic newsletters
  • Print newsletters
  • Inside bills
  • Product packaging
  • Restaurant placemats
  • Event bulletins
  • Store windows
  • The sides of cars and trucks
  • Subway car walls
  • Airport kiosks
  • Sporting arenas
  • YouTube videos

Creating Effective Ads

Advertising messages themselves are designed to persuade an individual to buy a company’s goods or services. Even in business-to-business transactions, individuals have to first be convinced to choose one product over another. To accomplish this, ads have five main components:

  1. Headline - This is the key attention-getting message. “Got milk?” is a perfect headline. Or Wendy’s old, “Where’s the beef?”
  2. Subhead - Some ad headlines need clarification, much like a book’s subtitle.
  3. Body copy - The meat of the advertising message occurs in the main section where the product or service’s features and benefits are highlighted.
  4. Image - Unless you’re advertising on the radio, including a product photo, or image illustrating a key benefit is critical.
  5. Call-to-action - At the end of the ad you want to invite the consumer to take a step towards doing business with you, such as calling a toll-free number, visiting a website, texting a certain number, or pulling into the drive-thru window.

While advertising is the only way to guarantee that your message will be seen or heard, it is expensive by comparison to other marketing methods. For that reason, it is more popular with large corporations and brands than small businesses.

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