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Begin with the communication objective

An advertising campaign starts by identifying a communication objective. One important issue is establishing the right combination of information to properly communicate the message and satisfy the communication objective. The advertising budget should be established before the creative strategy is written.

The creative strategy is the roadmap for the campaign.

A target audience is the keystone for a creative strategy. The objectives as well as the key benefits need to be defined in the creative strategy. According to Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold (2009), the detailed creative strategy consists of the following elements:

  • The basic problem the advertising must address.
  • The objective of the advertising.
  • A definition of the target audience.
  • The key benefits to communicate.
  • Support for those benefits.
  • The brand’s personality.
  • Any special requirements.

These elements represent seven important steps for writing a creative strategy. Each step needs supporting research and business decisions distilled into a clear and concise set of instructions to guide the creative team. At a bare minimum, a creative strategy should contain an objective statement, a support statement, and a tone or brand character statement.

Choosing the correct media for an advertising campaign

Before selecting the most effective media for an advertising campaign, the media planners and buyers need to be aware of the alternatives or options available. In addition, there should be a complete understanding of how the target audience accepts, reacts, and responds to the various media.

Special consideration is given to the reach and frequency of each medium (Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold, 2009). Reach is defined as the number of unique individuals that will be exposed to the advertising using a specific medium. Frequency is defined as the number of times a single member of the target audience will be exposed to the advertisement during the lifespan of the campaign.

In many cases, a media planner leverages several communication channels simultaneously as part of an overall cross-media campaign strategy. This approach is very effective when the selected media complement one another. For example, a broadcast email campaign works very well if coupled with a campaign-specific website. The recipient is already on-line when receiving the email message, so it makes sense to make the call-to-action a simple link to the online-advertisement.

Print, radio, television and more…

Print media, as with other communication channels, has several pros and cons. One advantage that print media has over the television and radio is that it is capable of delivering more detailed information. Moreover, the target audience has the opportunity to read and re-read the advertisement as well as pass it along to others. Print media also offers very good controls over target segmentation. For example, magazine advertising offers options for delivering targeted advertising in geographic and demographic specific editions of their publication. The downside of print advertising, particularly in newspapers and magazines, is the existence of competing advertising in the same publication. Magazine advertising is expensive compared to other print media communication channels.

Television advertising is known traditionally as the medium with the longest reach. The mass coverage of television advertising is appealing to companies needing to carry consistent messages across several geographic areas. Using sight, sound, motion, and color allows advertisements to be entertaining in addition to informative. One major problem with television advertising is with ad skipping technologies. Digital video recording devices (DVRs) are a household mainstay. Consumers are recording programs and watching them at their own convenience—skipping the commercials along the way. Production costs and lead-time to produce a television advertising are a disadvantage when compared to other communication channels.

Out-of-home, direct mail and specialty advertising

Advertisers leverage various forms of out-of-home media when the need arises to expand their market coverage beyond the reach of traditional marketing channels. Depending on the specific out-of-home medium, certain factors are considered before a campaign is deployed. Outdoor advertising, which encompasses several variations of billboards and bulletins, is considered to be a low cost alternative to traditional alternative to television, radio, and newspaper advertising. Covering more than 9000 markets across America, outdoor advertising gives advertisers the ability to rapidly reach any portion of their geographic market (Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold, 2009). The anticipated return on investment (ROI) is a consideration as each medium is compared for effectiveness. Message saturation and the cost for exposure is part of the metric used in determining the viability of a particular form of advertising.

Direct mail advertising is considered to be one of the most effective communication channels. Measurable results, such as response rates, are considerably more accurate in a direct mail campaign because of the targeted method of deployment. A well-formulated direct mail campaign consists of a targeted mailing list and variable, relevant messages. Outdoor and transit advertising rely on the target audience to pass-by or be passed by a marketing message. Direct mail advertising is delivered one-to-one to the intended audience. If the advertiser needs to deploy a campaign where the message needs to be unique to each recipient, direct mail using variable data driven content is the only solution. Newspaper advertisements are not unique to each reader. Television and radio advertisements are directed to a local, regional, or national audience with a common, non-personalized message at each level.

Specialty advertising serves a purpose beyond traditional communication channels. Premiums, for example, are used to enforce the brand or continue a message from other advertising efforts. My refrigerator is covered with magnets (specialty advertising) from various local television stations, pizza delivery companies, and insurance companies. You might also find a few desk calendars from local businesses in my home office.

Planning a media advertising campaign

Media planning, if not a science, is certainly an exercise in mathematics.

While I agree that creativity is an integral part of planning an advertising campaign, decisions on the placement and timing are equally as critical. Advertising is only effective when the intended audience is exposed to the message. Not just any set of eyes and ears, but the target audience. A media planner must consider many things simultaneously while constructing a plan to deploying an advertising campaign.


Media planning framework ensures the media plan is aligned with the advertising and marketing plans. Media objectives are goals derived from the advertising strategy. Audience objectives and message-distribution objectives are two major components of a media objective (Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold, 2009). The audience objective is the underlying definition of the target audience the advertiser intends to reach. The definition includes the demographic, psychographic, and geographic information of the audience. For example, targeting a certain age group in a campaign is considered an audience objective.

The advertiser’s ethical responsibilities

It is the responsibility of an advertiser to do what is morally acceptable by society. It is possible, as proven by Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch, to act unethically without breaking any laws (Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold, 2009). The morals of our society has been challenged and changed many times over. We would never have seen a television commercial during an episode of Leave it to Beaver featuring a scantily clad female eating a cheeseburger while washing a car. The personal value system of our society has become more tolerant and less traditional.

The advertising industry has several mechanisms in-place to help regulate and control the content of an advertisement. There are still a few irresponsible marketers who believe that it is easier to apologize than ask permission.

The agency responsible for spawning ethically challenged advertising does not suffer nearly as bad as the company represented in the offensive advertising.

Consumer groups can impact advertising by complaining directly to the company whose products are being touted inappropriately. I like the idea of self-regulation. When advertising agencies scrutinize one another, everyone benefits.

Expect a few critics

Responsible advertisers create advertising copy best suited to attract a target audience to a specific product or service, and at the same time maintain certain sensitivity to societal issues. Advertising is a part of society. In many cases, advertising influences society. The many cultures that makeup a society dictate levels of acceptance. Some advertising copy sparks interest from certain groups within a society, and at the same time offends others. Is this irresponsible advertising? Perhaps. I believe this is more of a case where the advertiser uses a targeted message, but chooses a media vehicle that crosses into markets outside the intended target. I believe that satellite radio, simply because of the broad reach, could cross cultural boundaries.

Public service announcements are by nature intended to be in the best interest of a society. However, all other advertising runs the risk of sparking controversy. Many complaints are centered on claims of false advertising or puffery. In contrast, some consumers are convinced that purchasing products that are frequently advertised decreases the risk of dissatisfaction. The theory is that a company in the public spotlight is less likely to misrepresent their products and services (Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold, 2009). Other criticism includes the idea that advertising affects the value of products, therefore creating an economic impact to a society.


Arens, W., Schaefer, D., & Weigold, M. (2009). Essentials of Contemporary Advertising. McGraw-Hill Irwin, New York.