I have talked to many people who have asked this question in some form, “How does advertising work?

The people asking are not stupid.  And the question is not stupid.  It is not a question that is asked enough by people who need to know the answer.

Doctors, business owners, sales managers, teachers, health care administrators, business managers, mechanics, all have asked me this basic question.

Each person has expertise in their profession, but the concept of advertising was not on their list of priorities to “things to know about”.

So today we kick off a series that addresses the basics and as always feel free to leave a comment or drop me a note with a question or two.

Advertising is paid promotion. That is the most basic, simple definition.

A business pays an advertising venue to promote their business or event. Examples include print ads in newspapers and magazines, television ads, radio rads, billboards on the side of the road.

Other examples are digital versions of the above, like ads you see on websites or on a youtube video.  There are product placement or sponsored content forms of advertising. B6xnzfcIQAIXfnuAmerican Idol was one of the first TV shows to really feature these with Coke that the judges would have prominently placed at their table. Even though American Idol’s popularity continues to decline, the use of product placement as a form of advertising continues to grow in popularity.

Remember that advertising is paid promotion and you will see plenty of examples all around you.

Before we wrap up this introduction, let me toss out a few examples of what is not advertising:

News stories and press releases.  If there is no exchange of money or items of value than it is simply not advertising. Same thing with interviews and public service announcements.  Or the Bulletin Board at my favorite coffee shops.  If it is free, it is not advertising.

The Gray Area: There are a few things to be aware of.

  • Sometimes an advertiser will get “extra value” in the form of free ads that are placed along with their paid ads.  This should be considered part of the overall paid advertising package because the free ads wouldn’t exist if there were no paid ads.
  • Infomercials. Radio and TV will sell blocks of time as infomercials. These should have an announcement at the beginning and end staying that it is paid programming.
  • My radio station, WOWO Radio, has a few infomercials that air on the weekends. Our prime time talk show hosts also conduct interview segments with people who are also spending advertising dollars with us, but most of those interviewed are on at the invitation of the program host as a guest.
  • Endorsements and Testimonials are sometimes an effective way of enhancing an ad campaign. 90% of the time, those people who are lending their good name and credibility to a product or service are also receiving a fee for that extra endorsement.  That should not diminish the credibility, as a matter of fact, the hosts on my radio station have very high standards as to who they will endorse because their own credibility is on the line too.

When someone says that their advertising isn’t working, there are way too many reasons to accept that on face value, but we’ll talk about in the future.