Choosing an Advertising Vehicle
by Chad Rueffert

Most business owners receive at least one phone call every day from someone trying to sell them “advertising.”  In reality, what they are selling is an advertising vehicle, or medium.  In the advertising industry, the word “media” is no longer limited to just television, radio and newspapers, it also includes a variety of publications from coupon books to magazines and everything from billboards to bus benches, etc.  That’s why I prefer the term “advertising vehicle.”  Even in a mid-sized city like Colorado Springs, there are hundreds of advertising vehicles available to spread the word about your product or service.  That’s why advertising agencies have full-time media departments to plan, negotiate, purchase and track a media schedule.

Even for small advertising budgets, it is essential to have a media strategy to ensure your limited budget is spent in the most effective way.  Below are several tips for creating a media strategy for your business.


Create a Marketing Strategy First

Without an overall marketing strategy, you’ll have no basis against which to determine the appropriateness of your vehicle choice.  For example, two pizza places may have similar locations, prices and products.  Both may want to grow, but they may go about it in different ways.  One may choose to focus on the business lunch crowd because they can serve more people in less time.  The other may choose to focus on family dinner business in order to increase the amount of each sale.  You can see that each restaurant would choose different advertising vehicles to accomplish their goal because each has a different marketing strategy.


Establish a Creative Strategy

Can you effectively communicate the benefits of your product without actually showing the product itself?  If you can’t, radio as a marketing vehicle is probably out.  If your product needs detailed explanations and is not visibly appealing, television may not top your list.  You must study your product and determine which vehicle will allow you to make a creative presentation to your audience.


Study Your Target Market

This tip is fairly obvious and most advertisers do it already.  If you sell motorized scooters for elderly persons, you will probably not advertise in Pikes Peak Parent magazine.  You’d be talking to the wrong people.  Most media sales people can provide you with demographic information  (age, gender, income levels, etc.) about who uses their vehicle.


Determine Your Geographic Target Market

If you own a small café in Rockrimmon, chances are you will not attract diners from Monument or Fountain or even Briargate.  Most media base much of their pricing on how many people they reach.  That’s why it costs more to advertise in the Gazette than in the Woodmen Edition.  You may reach more people per dollar spent in the Gazette, but are they really potential customers?  Possibly only a small fraction of them.  The same criteria hold true for almost all categories of vehicles (television, print, radio, etc.)  Don’t pick the one that reaches the most people, pick the one that reaches the right people.


Compare Apples to Apples

We’ve talked about the term cost per thousand several times, but it really only applies when comparing apples to apples.  If you have determined that radio advertising will meet your marketing and creative strategies, and that it can reach both your target market and geographic market, now you must choose between individual vehicles.  The best way to compare individual vehicles is cost per thousand (CPM).  Basically you are figuring out how many dollars it takes to reach one thousand potential customers.  If you want to advertise specifically to females aged 35 to 50 on a radio morning show, but aren’t sure which station, ask the media salesperson to figure your cost per thousand.  They’ll take the average rating of that time slot and use demographic information provided by a source like Arbitron to determine how many of your target market you’re likely to reach.  Divide the cost of the radio spot by the total target market reach and you’ll have a cost per thousand.  This will give you an apples to apples approach for comparison.


Track Your Success

Never forget to track the success of your advertising.  If your television ads aren’t generating any store traffic, but you’re getting great response from your ad in InBIZ, it will help you to make future buying decisions.  Your own experience will prove much more valuable that any other research.