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DO’S & DON’TS FOR ADVERTISING THAT WORKS
JOSHUA G GIORDIMAINA, DipM MCIM Chartered Marketer

SUMMARY
There is no denying that advertising is an indispensable component of any successful marketing and sales strategy. But if you manage a small setup, advertising can seem a daunting and expensive task. If you add the difficulties encountered in developing advertising campaigns that generate a satisfactory return-on-investment on a tight budget, it’s no wonder why so many small companies shy away from this important marketing tool. So here are some don’s and don’ts to follow if you want to get the most out of your advertising budget, no matter how small! Follow these simple rules and you will be on the right tracks towards an effective and successful advertising campaign that delivers business results.

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Ever since the Egyptians created sales messages and posters out of papyrus, advertising has been synonymous with commerce and mass communication. No matter the industry you are in, the product you sell or the prevailing economic cycle, advertising is an indispensable component of any successful marketing and sales strategy. But if you’re a small business, or just starting out, advertising can seem a daunting and expensive task. To make matters worse, creating advertising campaigns that generate a satisfactory returnon-investment is becoming more complex. Apart from competing for the limited attention and finite spending power of an audience already bombarded by similar offers, we also have to deal with modern trends such as audience and media fragmentation and increasingly sophisticated customers who can see through our marketingspeak. So here are some do’s and don’ts to follow if you want to get the most out of your advertising budget, no matter how big or small! Follow these simple rules and you will be on the right track towards an effective and successful advertising campaign that delivers business results.

2. DO consider the most appropriate media
No, not everyone watches TV and just because a magazine is distributed in every household, it doesn’t follow that the household member you want to communicate with will bother to open it. So make sure that the choice of media is based on a very good understanding of your target audience. Clive Falzon, Director at Informa Consultants, a full-service research agency, warns against “spreading your budget across all media, hoping that some of it will strike current or potential customers!” A good place to start is by getting into the habit of asking your customers what type of media they consume. For more in depth media consumption behaviour, however, you need to consider investing in research reports and services. Clive recommends to “have a good look at any local research available which can help you identify which media can be the most effective for different categories of people. Such research will give you better insight into media trends among potential and existing customers, and enable you to target them more effectively.” This way you will be making your budget work harder with much less wastage.

“advertising objectives do not replace marketing objectives ... they assist their achievement”

3. DO validate your message

DO’S
1. DO know what you want to achieve
Before even thinking about whether you are going to use daily newspapers or lifestyle magazines, leaflets or posters, make sure you set clear and measurable objectives. A good advertising plan cannot exist in isolation – irrespective of the budget. A good advertising plan should form part, and follow, a more holistic marketing plan. Advertising objectives cannot replace marketing objectives, but rather assist their achievement. For example, a marketing objective which calls for an increase in market share of 5% would be followed by an advertising objective of increasing level of prompted recall by 10%. Whether the latter objective is being achieved or not can be gauged through proper market research.

Validating your message through facts, figures and testimonials is a sure-fire way of helping customers get over the inertia associated with trying a new product or brand. No matter how appealing your message is and how professional the layout looks and feel, using real-life tangible information will add credibility to your ad and brand. Alison Bezzina, a copywriter with over 10 years of experience and with heavyweight brands such as Carlsberg and Vodafone under her belt warns that “rounding up can work against you. When it comes to numbers being specific is more credible. ‘Make €9,684 in 8 days’ is by far more credible than ‘Make €10,000 in 10 days’. The latter is just too clean to be true.”

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4. DO make the best use of headlines
Headlines represent the most important and critical part of any advertising real-estate. Countless research has shown that the headline is the first thing your audience will look at and from there decide whether to read the rest of the message. The headline should not only be eye-catchy, appealing and interesting but also contain the most important keywords of your core message. What are the benefits of your product? What problems does it solve? Above all; keep it short. According to Alison Bezzina “you have no more than 3.2 seconds to get their attention … the rest will be lost in translation.”

buying. It’s terribly easy to misspend precious resources very quickly so get the best advice you can afford, not the cheapest.” The increased effectiveness of your campaign, will more than compensate for the additional financial investment required.

7. DO make your ads compelling
It never stops to amaze me! Open any Sunday paper and you will see an astounding number of ads selling the same thing in the same way through adverts that might as well have been photocopied! Unless you have money to waste make sure that each and every advert, with no distinction, has a compelling offer to make. Corporate and institutional advertising is fine if you’re a large brand with a sizeable marketing budget, but as a small business you need to make every ad pay back in spades. Whether it’s the product’s value for money or its exclusivity, ensure that your message stands out from the clutter by offering something irresistible. Each ad has to excite, generate interest and clearly state your unique selling proposition. This is again confirmed by David Brockdorff, “In competitive markets, differentiation and emphasising points of difference remain the over-riding priorities for all branded products and services.”

5. DO pay attention to your environment
Check out what your competitors are doing on a regular basis. What media are they using? What is their core message? How much are they spending? What is their media schedule? What creative concepts are they using to get customers’ attention? Stop, think and take notes. Use these as opportunities to learn more about your competitors. But why limit yourself to your competitive environment and industry? Go beyond into other product-market areas and the socio-economic environment. What are the major concerns of customers at the moment? Does your product or brand address any of these concerns? Are there any noticeable trends? Use this newly acquired insight as part of your advertising message. Remember that, just like any other marketing tool, advertising needs to be fluid and inline with the trends of the moment. After all, you’re not simply selling a product, you’re selling its benefits!

“ If you can’t measure it,
don’t do it
8. DO measure your advertising money
As a small business, if there is one rule you should follow it should be “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it”. You simply don’t have the resources to waste. And nowhere is this more true than in advertising. So do measure the return-on-investment of your advertising by including ‘tracking elements’ within the ads themselves or within your customer touchpoints. These could include measuring the number of phonecalls and matching them with your media schedule, including cut-out coupons or simply asking customers. Franco Aloisio, Senior Manager Communications at GO, firmly believes that “obtaining feedback on campaigns

6. DO hire a good agency
If it’s important, it’s worth spending money on. A good agency will help you identify the most suitable media channels, develop the best creative concept and assist in negotiating advantageous rates with the media thanks to their purchasing power. You can also exploit the experience they have gained over the years with your own target audience and product-market area. David Brockdorff, Managing Director of BPC International Limited, counsels to “seek professional advice on media planning and

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via recalls, customer touchpoints, market research etc helps to optimise campaigns and understand what works and what does not.” The often-quoted marketing expression “I know that half my advertising works … I just don’t know which half” might sound humorous, but it is also, many times, scarily true. Measuring your advertising effectiveness will help you determine which half isn’t working and needs your attention.

DON’TS
1. DON’T do nothing
Especially in these challenging times, if you’re a small business, finding the cash to invest in advertising can be difficult. When times are tough, the marketing budget tends to be the first victim of any merciless cost-cutting exercise. But doing nothing can be worse. Experience and research have both shown us that companies with the discipline and stamina to continue investing in their brands, come out stronger (in terms of market share and profitability) from a recession than brands that don’t.

9. DO consider partnering with other brands
Especially if you’re competing with big-budget brands, pooling your resources with a noncompeting complimentary brand can yield tremendous results. This can be done in various ways, such as by investing in joint advertising campaigns, distributing each other’s flyers or samples in shopping bags, or sharing costs of direct mailings or door drops. The possibilities are endless. The critical factor is that the partnership is not only beneficial for both but also delivers added value to your respective customers. It’s not simply about saving money, it’s about creating synergies.

2. DON’T be too impatient
In the words of Joe Scerri, who has over 35 years of experience in the advertising industry and is currently Art Director for BPC International Limited “Yes, sometimes the greatest ideas come in the shower, but unless you’re a real hotshot genius you have to burn the midnight oil like the rest of us.” Coming up with the right creative concept and message is tough work. It requires long hours of planning, research, trying out different executions, meetings with designers and your own staff, etc. Furthermore, advertising takes time to work and start showing the desired results. A frequently asked question is “How long do I have to wait for my advertising to work?” The answer depends on various factors including, (i) your share of voice in the market (your advertising spend vis-à-vis that of your competition); (ii) the product purchase cycle, for example, in the case of white goods advertising will take longer to produce results since people don’t buy refrigerators everyday, whilst advertising for fast moving consumer goods tends to show results quicker; (iii) the current economic situation and perceived cost, etc. What is important to understand is that advertising is a long-term investment in your brands, not an unavoidable short-term expense that has to be burdened. Treat advertising as an investment rather than a cost.

10. DO be honest and transparent
The pressure to deliver business results in the immediate future can tempt many a business into being economical with the full picture about its product or terms and conditions. This should be avoided at all costs. Any potential benefits that could be derived in the short-term will more than outweigh the negative long-term impact on your brand. With each ad you’re putting on the line your credibility as a trusted and professional business. Don’t ruin in one day what took years to build! Once you loose your customers’ respect and trust, you might not be able to gain it back.

11. DO make it easy for your audience to take action
Each ad should contain a clear and easy to follow call-to-action. What is it that you want your audience to do once they have listened to or seen your advert? Include multiple contact points such as telephone numbers and email addresses, business hours, time limits for special promotions and sales.

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3. DON’T make promises you can’t keep
Test, verify, check and cross-check each and every single claim you are making in your advertising. Especially in industries with a high level of advertising competitiveness it can be tempting to somewhat exaggerate certain product benefits or claims. Resist such temptations. Instead make sure that all those that will be impacted by the campaign (whether it’s sales, delivery, production, customer representatives, suppliers, etc) are not only fully aware of the marketing communications in progress but are also fully prepared and able to handle the fulfilment requirements that will be generated through advertising. Making promises you can’t keep will only generate negative word-of-mouth. The impact on your brand will eclipse whatever short-term sales results you would have generated.

consumers, we are being exposed to literally hundreds of commercial messages every single day. To protect ourselves from this overload our brains have developed inbuilt mechanisns that allow us to filter most of these messages with the result that we literally become numb to them. If you want your message to work, don’t copy your competitors - use a completely different and innovative medium, develop creative concepts that allow you to fly over the clutter in the media. And change your execution on a regular basis so you expose your audiences to fresh messages. Most importantly, make sure that you truly understand your audience’s expectations, and deliver messages based on such knowledge.

6. DON’T imitate the big boys
Sure, TV ads are sexy and can be particularly creative, but can also be prohibitively expensive for a small business. There are still many things you can do however the get the word out. Consider organising community-based and charity events that generate media and public interest, send out educational and informative material about your products to the right TV and radio shows, or sponsor small-scale local events with gifts and prizes. If you’re working on a shoestring budget, consider partnering with another brand as described in the previous edition.

4. DON’T over complicate your message
The amount of detail and information that goes into an advert will depend on the type of product, the level of involvement and the type of media being used amongst others. For example, an ad in a specialised magazine for a car will carry more technical specs than if the same product is being advertised on a radio station. However, do keep in mind that we are living in a society that is being ever more populated by cash-rich time-poor consumers. People have neither the time nor the inclination to go through long-winding copywriting. So go for a simple yet effective message, based on your unique selling proposition, for a high recall and response rates. Franco Aloisio, Senior Manager Communications for GO, recommends to avoid “technical jargon and words that are not easily understood – unless of course the message is targeted to a specific audience that requires such level of detail.” In other words make sure that the core message is tailor-made for your audience.

7. DON’T ignore the power of communities
Whatever our lifestyle, we base our lives around communities. We want, and seek, to form part of communities and groups. These can range from professional associations (lawyers, doctors, architects, retail, etc) to social not-for-profit entities (based on hobbies, religious beliefs, etc). As a small business you should consider exploiting the benefits that such communities provide; not only you are reaching large groups with one execution but you also stand the chance of generating even more positive wordof-mouth about your brand and product, well beyond the confines of the group. Participate in their newsletters or meetings, offer them your services for their activities or annual meetings. Just make sure that whatever you are providing not only fits in well with the community’s beliefs and scope but also provides added-value; finding the best-fitting community can be a

5. DON’T be a copy cat
Do something different, creative, original. Just because you can’t afford the budgets of your competitors, it does not necessarily follow that your campaigns can’t be just as effective. As

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challenge, but the rewards will make it worthwhile.

8. DON’T put the onus of sales solely on advertising
Advertising and marketing communications in general can contribute significantly towards achieving your sales targets. After all, advertising will remind your customers about your specific offer, the benefits of your brands and why they should buy from you rather than from the competition. However, depending on the product, the decision to buy depends on various factors such as readiness and willingness to purchase, disposable income, product purchase cycle, perceived benefits, etc. This means that achieving the desired level of sales depends on much more than your advertising spend.

According to David Brockdorff, Managing Director for BPC International Limited, “Your brand is one of your most precious assets, whatever business you are in. Whatever the future throws at you, you’ll certainly be in better shape to handle it with a strong brand at your disposal.” Furthermore, when making a purchase decision or scanning an advert, prospective customers will also make certain associations between the advert and the brand. This makes presentation even more important. According to Rene Rossignaud, a veteran photographer who has worked on hundreds of advertising shoots for some of the most prominent local brands, “When a company spends time and money on photoshoots it does not go unnoticed by prospective customers, who tend to be very quick in concluding that a quality ad means a quality brand”.

9. DON’T expect advertising to cure all ills
If you are loosing customers because of bad service, an advertising blitz might help you regain sales levels for a short period. But the new customers will soon be lost to your bad service. Advertising does not solve management problems. You need to get to the root of what is keeping your organisation from reaching its potential, rather than use advertising to mask more chronic and serious illnesses.

Creative and effective advertising has always been and remains synonymous with any successful marketing and sales plan. The level of competition and the increasing sophistication of our customers just make it somewhat harder to achieve. I certainly hope that you will find these tips useful and easy to follow.

10. DON’T ignore your own advertising real-estate
Whether it’s tent cards on restaurant tables promoting a particular high-margin wine, delivery vans highlighting a freephone, banner stands in retail shops reminding customers of special promotions, newsletters inviting recipients to visit the new web site, every company possesses a considerable amount of space that can be used to reinforce its message – and the best part is that it’s free of media costs.
AUTHOR BIO: Mr Joshua G Giordimaina is a graduate and member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK), a Chartered Marketer and lectures for the Institute on a regular basis. He has contributed to and authored a number of thought leadership articles and papers, and regularly provides strategic and tactical marketing insights to various industries and market segments. EMAIL: JoshuaGiordimaina@hotmaill.com FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/joshua.g.giordimaina MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR: http://www.scribd.com/JoshuaGiordimaina ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: The Malta Business Weekly, August & September 2009 http://www.maltabusinessweekly.com.mt/

11. DON’T loose brand focus
Irrelevant of the product or how good the offer is, don’t ever, ever, loose brand focus. With each communication you are promoting your brand and building its reputation one ad at a time.

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