Advertising can be a scary proposition for a travel consultant. In a service industry like ours, advertising can represent as much as 80% or more of an entire marketing budget. Purchasing the right media can be a daunting gamble and generating appropriate creative is as much art as science. Results can be difficult to measure – it can sometimes be tough to determine whether an advertisement created any results at all. Yet, advertising is often the most visible marketing done by an agency. Getting it right is important. Thus, the next few articles will deal with advertising: what it is, how to plan, execute and measure. Hopefully, at the end of our series, advertising will not seem quite as dark an art as it may right now.
A good working definition is that advertising is paid, non-personal communication through media about a company meant to persuade a target audience to act in a desired manner. Advertising is one part of the marketing mix, but it is sometimes mistaken for the whole. Advertising works in concert with the other aspects of a marketing plan to both generate short-term sales opportunities and to position the company for more long-term objectives. Travel is a good example of a product where advertising serves both short term (“buy now”) and long term (“remember us and buy when you want to travel”) objectives.
Because of its high degree of visibility, advertising is an important part of brand awareness. For that reason, the message in the ad must be clear and should never conflict with the company’s core brand message. Typically, advertising is “non-personal” – it is directed in a “one to many” fashion, though good advertising is targeted and focused on the demographic of the media chosen. The media can be visual, like banner ads, print advertising, imprinted merchandise, television or auditory like radio or pod-cast sponsorships. But in each case, the advertising must work in concert with the other segments of the overall marketing strategy, and the hard-dollar cost that is typically involved suggests that much careful attention needs to be given its planning, execution and management.
If we back up to a 30,000 foot overview, we will see the appropriate context in which marketing takes place in an ideal setting. Other elements of the marketing plan are at work conditioning the market along with advertising. Public relations efforts are exposing the public to the company brand and press releases are finding their way into local newspapers, blogs and newsletters. Company representatives are speaking at various events in the community. The company is fostering and amplifying a strong word of mouth campaign. The company CEO is blogging and the company newsletter is being sent out the door on a regular basis. In the midst of this planned and synchronized activity, the consumer sees or hears a paid advertisement. Already conditioned by exposure to the brand by the company’s other marketing efforts, the consumer acts in a certain way – they call the company, they fill in a form, they click on an ad – and in the process arrive as a sales lead for the company. Now the more intimate, one-on-one sales process takes over to convert the lead into a sale.
You can get there from here. A well-managed advertising campaign will always share certain key characteristics that can be planned and executed with some reliability. Let’s begin, as always, with the message you want to convey.
Each advertising effort should have a defined objective. The objective for most advertising falls into one of two categories – branding or tactical. Branding is the more long-term positioning of the company. It is common when purchases of a product are made infrequently – like travel. A branding ad says “When you travel, remember this ad, remember our company, think of us.” A tactical ad has as its goal a short sales cycle. A tactical ad says “Buy now. This opportunity is immediate.” Typically, these two objectives are mixed in any one ad, but one will predominate. For example, when you advertise a Carnival cruise that is sailing in a very short time frame with spectacular pricing, you are emphasizing the short-term tactical message. However, the ad still carries your company logo and tag line. It should convey the message that even if this cruise is not a possibility for any given consumer, your company is the place to seek out the best possible value when they are ready to travel.
For another example of branding versus tactical, look at the advertising you see daily from TRO. Banner ads represent a branding opportunity for our suppliers. Their sponsorship of articles and components of TRO will make them more “visible” to you over the long term, so that when you think of a particular destination, you will think of them. The email broadcasts we send, however, are typically more tactically oriented – they want to make you aware of an immediate opportunity. Even when the advertising does not meet a particular need for you, however, you file away and remember the company that sponsored the email broadcast – when you do need their services, you will associate their company with that need.
Your own advertising needs to be synchronized, then, with two aspects of your marketing plan. First, what is your objective? Which predominates – long term positioning or short term sales? Secondly, is the message of your ad fully in sync with your overall company brand message? Is it compatible with the image you want to project?
Advertising may indeed be a black art – but we intend to shine some light on it and teach you a bit of the craft over the next week or so.
Tomorrow – Media selection and creative