What Do Advertisers Want?
In my years working with different media in different countries there has been no question more common or inevitable than, “What do advertisers want?” It’s a difficult question to answer and sometimes the process can seem totally irrational. However, through understanding how advertisers develop their strategy, you can drastically improve your grasp of what they will be willing to pay you to do for them.
Advertisers often don’t know themselves what they want and even when they do, sometimes the planners don’t let the buyers know about it. (Of course, the client has to know and tell the planner first!). Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that often people who have chosen “communication” as a profession become deaf-mutes when it comes to talking to suppliers. Deciphering what they want isn’t always straightforward.
Nevertheless, there are three factors that go into how a campaign is done (or undone!)
– Business Objectives: What the business wants to achieve will drive advertising strategy.
– Campaign Objectives: Goals for the campaign need to be established
– Procurement: Somebody has to make the buy!
Business Driven Factors that Affect Advertising Strategy
In theory, business reality determines campaign objectives. Here are some important points:
Budget: The amount of money a marketer has to spend, will affect strategy more than anything else. If the budget is big, they will cast a wide net, but if it is limited, they will try to concentrate their efforts. Nobody’s budget is unlimited.
Product Cycle: Some products are bought every day; some have years of lag between purchases. There is probably no determinant of strategy that is more overlooked by media suppliers. This is a long subject, but I’ll give a quick summary:
– Short product cycle (i.e. soft drinks): These are products that consumers buy every day and don’t put much thought or research into. Everything else being equal, the most recent ad will be the most effective. High coverage, “call to action” media are preferred.
– Long product cycle (i.e. cars): Usually there will be two objectives. The first, to build a brand image in order to get on consumers’ “consideration lists” (usually only 3-5 brands in a category will be considered by a consumer). The second objective will be to close the sale and it will be similar to a short cycle product strategy (fast, cheap coverage). Also, the execution is usually highly promotional (come down this weekend and save!).
Sales Force: Products that have a strong sales force (i.e. business services) will mainly be concerned with brand image.
Consumer and Product: Who advertisers want to reach will help determine how they want to reach them. Different consumers vary widely in their media consumption. In much the same way, some products have high differentiation while some are more price sensitive and that will also affect both strategy and implementation.
Market share: Another factor that can be extremely important for ad strategy is relative market share. For instance, a dominant brand might want to advertise heavily in order to drown out their competition (Marlboro does this in emerging markets). Many advertisers employ an “Aggresivity Index” (Ad spend/market share) to help determine budget and strategy.
There is also an interesting Game Theory perspective involving voting models, which predict power relationships. A dominant player might want to promote the industry, as he would benefit disproportionately. A market with a 40-40-20 market share structure could actually leave the smallest player setting the tone and running the show. This type of analysis is capable of incorporating thousands or even millions of competitors (using an absolutely miserable mathematical technique called Combinatorics. Ugh!)
Campaign Objectives Help Determine Implementation
Good advertising strategy matches business objectives with campaign objectives. The following are some examples of what an advertiser will want a supplier to help them achieve:
Coverage: Everything else being equal, reaching more people is better. Moreover, the more people you reach generally – the more niche audiences you will cover as well.
Environment: How does the medium position the product? Marshall McLuhan said that media is like a light bulb: Unlike content, it isn’t as important for the information it contains as for its ability to create an environment. Some people would argue this point (and most of them work in TV), but I have a policy not to argue with the ghost of Marshal McLuhan.
Direct response: Some advertisers want a “call to action” to drive sales: generally radio and newspapers are considered “call to action” media. However, TV and outdoor can be quite effective and digital is showing real promise. When terms like CPA, and PPC, are used, direct response is what they want.
Location: Where people are when they are exposed to a message will affect how they consume. Radio and Digital have big advantages by being consumed heavily at work and also close to the point of purchase Proximity advertising looks like it is gathering steam. Watch out for Loopt.com!
Brand image: A strong brand makes everything easier. TV can do the job, but Glossy magazines are the world champions in this arena. Other media can be quite effective with non-standard promotions. Some Radio stations are amazingly good at this and there is a lot of potential in Digital as well (but Digital players really need to get their act together here). Most likely, this is where social media will find its money.
Awareness of Brand attributes: Sometimes marketers might want to emphasize brand attributes because they are new, or they have noticed from research that the attribute is important to consumers. This might make them want to veer from their normal strategy. For instance, McDonalds might want to advertise in a gourmet magazine to change the perception that their food is crap. A change in the attribute promoted can result in a complete change of strategy (and often this is what confuses suppliers the most).
You can decipher the code
As frustrating and opaque as the process can be fore media suppliers, there are some ways that you can figure out what is going on.
MMI, TGI, Scarborough, GfK, etc.: Every market has some kind of target group index research that measures both media and consumer brands on the same survey. Using this data you can come up with some pretty good assumptions about consumer target, market share, etc.
Expenditure databases: One resource that no media company should be without is an expenditure database. There is no better way to gain insight into an ad brief than to see what the client is actually buying. If a client is growing and buys products similar to yours, then they will probably be quite receptive. Conversely, if a client is cutting budgets, and buys products that are completely different than yours, don’t even bother. Also, by comparing the consumer data to the expenditure data you can come to some conclusions about the competency and honesty of the buyer.
Be prepared when you talk to clients and ask good questions: As mentioned above, marketing communication experts tend to lose their communication skills when it comes to talking to suppliers. However, if you come prepared and ask insightful questions, you can often get them to tell you what you need to know. Finally, there is nothing more important than building personal relationships with advertisers. The better your relationship, the more they will tell you.