The key to unified and successful advertising campaigns is solid management. Each advertising campaign contains visible as well as unseen aspects. To the average consumer, a campaign is a series of advertising messages that look or sound alike. To the practitioner, a campaign embodies a wide range of activities that may include brainstorming, consumer surveys, or media analysis. What distinguishes one campaign from another is the degree to which each aspect is connected and whether or not the effort achieves measurable objectives. A campaign may start out as cohesive but at the end the messages may lose focus due to lack of careful planning and strategic execution.
In many situations the advertiser relies heavily on advertising to promote her product. However, in some cases, she will broaden her campaign to include other types of marketing communication such as direct marketing, publicity, and sales promotion. This article focuses exclusively on advertising.
As a communication tool, advertising must consider the type of product and internal as well as external factors affecting the sponsor’s relationships with its publics. Managing the advertising campaign involves several processes, although various firms and agencies may call them by different names. These processes are: (1) conducting a situation analysis, (2) identifying problems and opportunities, (3) establishing short-term and long term-objectives, (4) determining the advertising appropriation and budgeting, (5) developing a creative strategy, (6) selecting appropriate media to convey messages to the intended audience(s), and (7) outlining a plan to measure the campaign outcome.
Conducting a Situation Analysis
The first step in managing an advertising campaign is gathering data about the company, consumer, market, product, and competition. This background information is usually referred to as “situation analysis.” The main purpose of the analysis is to provide a research foundation that can be used to establish objectives and specify strategies and tactics. The analysis should be organized, structured, and detailed. Information on the company’s mission, finances, resources, products/services, sales trends, market share, etc. usually comes from primary sources such as company staff and secondary sources such as trade journals and syndicated data.
The consumer analysis involves five major areas: (1) consumers’ demographics and psychographics, (2) their wants and needs, (3) their use of the product/service, (4) their attitudes toward the product/service, and (5) their motivations to buy the product/ service. Various techniques can be used to collect data on the consumer. Among these techniques are focus groups, depth interviews, projective tests, surveys, and the VALS system.
The McCann-Erickson agency calls the consumer analysis “pulse” – a deep immersion in the consumers’ lifestyle to gain insight into and understand how a brand or new product can operate within their lives and to meticulously analyze issues that affect how brands are interpreted and categorized.
The market analysis is an extension of the consumer analysis. However, many advertisers treat this section separately to organize additional sources of information that focus mainly on geographic data, and help media planners identify areas to allocate their media investment. Various resources can be used to analyze the market, for example, in the US the widely used resources are: Simmons Market Research Bureau, for information on product usage; Buying-Power Index, for predictions of sales potential; and Standard Rate and Data Service, for information about spot radio, spot television, and newspapers.
Product analysis assesses how the physical and psychological attributes of the product match up with consumers’ needs and wants. Since a major purpose in managing the campaign is to build or protect a brand’s personality, some advertisers focus their analysis more on the brand than on the product, especially when they look for new growth. They attempt to explore the existing associations of the brand, identify competitive perceptual territory, define the brand meanings that best capture what the brand gets credit for, articulate the corresponding personality traits, and reshape and reorder the work to come up with an integrated and coherent vision for the brand.
Competitive analysis identifies options that consumers consider in their purchasing decisions. The competition is both direct and indirect. One of the most important techniques used here is perceptual mapping. It examines where a company or brand fits into the consumer’s perception of the product category or brand (positioning). The map also helps define the brand’s image, which is influenced by functional aspects of the brand and psychological attributes associated with the brand’s heritage.
Identifying Problems and Opportunities and Establishing Advertising Objectives
Getting useful baseline information is only half the task. Therefore, in step two, advertisers must also process the findings to offer direction to the people working on the campaign. One of the most common ways to process the information is through SWOT analysis (an acronym derived from strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). The procedure involves a close look at: (1) the firm’s prior and current marketing, (2) financial and organizational competencies, (3) actual or potential areas of profitability, and (4) forces that threaten the firm’s growth.
After identifying opportunities, the next step is to establish clear, specific, singular, realistic, measurable and time-bound advertising objectives. These objectives can either capitalize on opportunities or overcome problems facing the business firm. In specifying the campaign outcome, the manager confronts perhaps the most intriguing characteristic of advertising: its link to sales. In general, business firms invest money in advertising on the assumption that stimulating demand for their brand will increase sales. However, consumers do not automatically purchase a product or service as a result of their exposure to advertising messages.
In fact, advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to sales. A sale objective may be appropriately assigned to advertising in direct-response situations. Consumers develop thoughts or attitudes about a product or service before they decide whether or not to purchase it. If advertising can establish awareness or create a favorable attitude in target audiences, then these effects may trigger a purchase response. There is a lack of agreement on the intent of advertising objectives. Some practitioners claim that objectives should be stated in terms of sales while others want objectives set in terms of communication effects. Until measurement problems connected to sales are overcome, campaigners should consider establishing advertising objectives in terms of communication criteria.
Regardless of the nature of advertising objectives, four components should be clearly covered in a statement of objective: the target audience(s), the message to be delivered, the desired effects, and the outcome measurement. The definition of a target audience begins with a concise statement of demographics and psychographics, For example, female household heads living in the northeastern region of the US, aged 35 – 44, employed outside the home, with two or more children, who enjoy outdoor activities, and read business and self-help publications. The message content is a clear description of the competitive benefits of the product or service. The desired effects specifies what advertising intends to accomplish: establish awareness, develop interest, build a positive attitude toward the product, etc. The intended effect must be clearly measured (outcome measurement), for example, to increase the percentage of the target audience who believe that the new car is environmentally safe from 10 to 25 percent in six months.
Determining the Advertising Appropriation and Budgeting
Advertising budgeting is an essential management function. Advertisers should weigh the relative importance of price, product, or brand before deciding how and where to allocate advertising expenditures. Several methods are available to business firms. One is all you can afford. The main advantage of this method is its simplicity. It is also a good option for companies of limited resources.
Another method is competitive parity. Here the competition’s expenditures serve as a benchmark against which the firm determines its strategy. A third method is percentage of sales. This approach involves multiplying past or anticipated sales by a certain percentage to determine the amount of money to be appropriated for the advertising budget. Still another method is called objective and task. Here the planner defines specific objectives and then determines the various tasks to achieve these objectives.
Developing a Creative Strategy
The creative strategy is not just a lofty term. Its main purpose is to give copywriters and art directors a concise and clear document outlining exactly what these creative people need to know to turn out great advertising. Some advertisers label it their work plan. Advertising agencies and departments do not use a standard format for the creative strategy. However, major components of the strategy should include: definition of the key problem that the creative person attempts to solve; description of the product or service in reality and perceptually; identification of the persons who are most likely to purchase the product/service; clarification of the direct and indirect competition; specification of the competitive consumer benefits; articulation of the reasons that support the benefit claim; determination of the tone or personality that advertising will give the product or service; formulation of a call for action.
Along with the above components, there should be a big idea that offers a common bond to unify the campaign messages. Some of the famous big unifying ideas have been:
- Big Red Gum Makes your breath so fresh you’ll want to kiss a little longer
- Energizer Toy bunny keeps going and going because Energizer batteries last long
- Serta The counting sheep are out of work because Serta mattresses make you sleepy
- Toasted Mini-Wheats Has good taste and nutrition for the adult and the kid in you
In a very competitive information marketplace, the big idea helps the advertiser’s message break through the clutter. The strategy should also specify the creative approach that best meets the advertising objectives. Advertisers have at least seven alternatives: affective, brand image, generic, positioning, pre-emptive, resonance, and unique selling proposition.
Selecting Appropriate Media
The main purpose of media is to deliver messages effectively and efficiently. In general, media decisions evolve out of the creative strategy. The media plan starts with the development of media objectives. However, sometimes these objectives are stated in terms of reach and frequency (e.g., the percentage of the potential audience to be reached and the frequency with which that audience should be exposed to the advertiser’s message).
Several decisions have to be made before setting media objectives. Among these decisions are: (1) identifying the target audience(s) to be reached, (2) selecting the geographic market to strengthen exposure to advertising, (3) determining the desirable level of reach within a time period, (4) specifying the frequency (repetition) of an advertising message, (5) deciding the timing and continuity of the campaign to reach potential consumers, and (6) selecting the media tools that offer the best match with the intended market.
Some media planners call the first four decisions “strategies” because they constitute rules to deliver advertising messages and attempt to give the advertiser a competitive edge. They also label the last two decisions “tactics” because they help implement strategies.
Outlining a Plan to Measure the Campaign Outcome
Insightful evaluation is vital to all aspects of the campaign. In a fiercely competitive market, metrics can offer the business firm an edge over its rivals. Most importantly, evaluation helps the company avoid costly blunders and increase the effectiveness of advertising. The question for the management is not whether or not to measure but what to measure.
Measuring the campaign effectiveness is a dynamic process that should involve four stages of the campaign: at the beginning of the creative process, at the end of the creative process, during the campaign when advertising appears in the media, and after the campaign. Each stage may require different techniques. For instance, in the first stage (concept testing), one may conduct focus group sessions or experiments to test creative concepts, themes, or claims. In the second stage (copy testing), consumer feedback to rough advertising messages may be obtained through informal interviews to either better develop the message or predict its effectiveness. In the third stage (concurrent testing), tracking studies can be conducted to monitor the campaign pulse and keep in close contact with consumers’ thinking and feelings. Thus, personal or telephone interviews, or mall intercepts, can be used to determine consumers’ awareness and attitudes toward the product/service. In the last stage (post-testing), various kinds of survey can be used to measure the communication and behavioral effects. Among the most commonly used are recognition, recall, awareness, attitudes, sales, and inquiries.
Managing the advertising campaign is a challenge that involves many interrelated decisions and requires strategic thinking. A manager who wishes to produce and implement an effective campaign must have a radar system that continuously monitors forces affecting the market and carefully forecasts the consumers’ wants and needs. He or she must also have vision that sees beyond the ordinary. Some advertisers call it a communication campaign instead of an advertising campaign because their efforts may include new technology, public relations, sales promotion, etc.
Major agencies, such McCann-Erickson, prefer to label the campaign a “road map” to get great communication. They emphasize the significance of connecting with consumers and developing insights into their minds. Regardless of the campaign label, the advertising discipline faces a great challenge – an unpredictable consumer in an increasingly changing world. Solid management is always needed to proactively consider the consumer and environment.
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