Wise Advertising

For many companies large and small, advertising can be the biggest expenditure after salaries and benefits — as much as 5 to 10 percent of the budget. Perhaps more importantly, advertising can determine a very large part of your company's image and brand message.

For any company, 5 percent of the budget is a lot to waste on a wrongheaded ad campaign, but in the worst-case scenario, an ineffective ad may damage your message and your image. With the stakes this high, it pays to watch out for these 10 common advertising gaffes to make sure you get the most marketing bang for your buck.

MISTAKE NO. 1: Not understanding your target audience.

When determining an advertising plan, consider everyone who might purchase the product. A plan for a kids' product might focus on parents as well as children; they both have an in.uence on the purchase decision.

When you've decided who you're targeting, consider how . What will best motivate a consumer to respond to your ads. Research services like Nielsen for television and Arbitron for radio can help you unearth this type of information. Competitive media reports can also allow you to see where your competitors are advertising.

MISTAKE NO. 2: Delivering the wrong message.

You can usually best appeal to your target market by clearly stating the benefits of the product and making sure those benefits are relevant to that target audience's needs or hot buttons. For example, certain types of ads, such as for weight loss, hair restoration and skin care products, demand "before" and "after" shots to give the product credibility, show results, and deliver a positive message about the company's belief in its product and what it can do for the consumer.

MISTAKE NO. 3: Not running ads often enough.

You'll generally need three exposures to build awareness and motivate someone to respond to an ad. By spreading your advertising over too many different types of media, your intended audience might not get those three exposures.

Based on your budget, focus on the highest-performing media for your type of product. This will allow your target audience to see the ad enough times to build awareness. Media research firms can help you with this. They survey thousands of consumers every year. You give them information, and they give you research tailored to your needs, such as the television networks and programs your target audience watches with the highest frequency.

MISTAKE NO. 4: Using the wrong media to reach your target prospects.

Seniors still don't use the Internet as much as younger people do. So if you have a product for seniors, focusing your marketing efforts on the Internet might not be a good idea. If you're trying to reach a niche audience, TV or radio might not be the best fit, since they reach a mass audience. Consider a specialty print publication or a local-interest publication to more effectively reach potential customers.

MISTAKE NO. 5: Choosing awardwinning over results-getting.

People in some ad agencies can be more concerned about an ad's concept or look than they are with whether it will actually sell. Be careful of an advertising rep who tries to sell you on advertising that doesn't feel right to you. An ad can be cool or hip, look beautiful or be hilarious, but if it doesn't generate results, it's of no benefit to you.

MISTAKE NO. 6: Not focusing on the consumer's needs.

It should go without saying that an ad must convince consumers that the product or service will meet their needs. Some companies still try to dictate what they feel their ads need to communicate, despite what objective audience research reveals, often because they are too close to the product or service.

If you feel too involved in the production of the ad for your product or service, you can take the ad to a focus group. Even when you know who might buy your product, you may not know how to get them to buy it. Outsiders' opinions can be invaluable, especially those of experts who understand how to communicate more effectively with that consumer.

MISTAKE NO. 7: Not developing a complete advertising campaign.

One ad probably won't thoroughly inform your prospects. A single ad may work for a while but stops being effective as the consumer stops paying attention. You may need to develop a campaign to communicate a complete message. Also, another ad or a series can help you capture people's attention you weren't able to get with a single ad. Usually a campaign consists of several ads over the course of the year to appeal to people through different strategies.

MISTAKE NO. 8: Not understanding the seasonality of various products and services.

Consider the peak times of year for your product or services when you're developing an advertising campaign. Products or services that change consumers' lives or images will benefit from advertising the first of the year, as people make (and try to keep) resolutions.

TV viewing itself is seasonal. When the weather is bad, people watch more TV and response to advertisements tends to be better, whereas when the weather is better, people watch less TV. In April, we all have to pay taxes, so people generally spend less money on consumer goods. Even products that sell well all year long may do better at some times than others, so you should cut back a little when it's slower and beef up advertising during peak times.

MISTAKE NO. 9: Not incorporating your Web site into your advertising program.

An increasingly large percentage of consumers are going to Web sites to make or research their purchases, so you must have a strong Web site and include its address in all your advertising. One advertiser who had a Web site for a high-end product hesitated to promote the site for a year, thinking their telemarketing program was superior. When they finally advertised the site, sales increased 15 percent virtually overnight!

MISTAKE NO. 10: Copying a competitor's advertising approach.

Strive to be original, and it will pay off. By copying a competitor's ad, you may just be building further awareness for your competitor. You need to be innovative in your advertising approach to differentiate your business from theirs if you want to gain the advantage. The AFLAC duck and the Geico gecko are examples of ways companies were able to gain top of mind awareness with the effective use of humor. If another company were to use a goose or lizard in their ads, consumers would still likely think of the originals.


Lots of careful research, planning, and hard work go into developing successful advertising. Your ads must be smart, creative and well-placed to reach your desired market and make them want what you sell. By avoiding these 10 common advertising errors, you can use your ad dollars more effectively, get more response to your ads and rake in greater revenue.

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