Advertising is the act of making your new and repeat buyers aware of your offerings, typically through one-way communication such as print, radio, TV and online ads. An ad is usually a paid, public, persuasive message.
Advertising differs from marketing in that the latter is the systematic planning of the broad range of activities needed to maintain the position of the business. Advertising is a subset of marketing that focuses on individual product or services and has its own standards.
In Canada, advertising standards are set by the Competition Bureau of Canada. Below are highlights from the Competition Act. As business owner, you are obligated to adhere to these standards.
When advertising, do:
- Fully and clearly disclose all important information in the advertisement.
- Ensure that your sales staff is familiar with all products and offerings.
- Print disclaimers clearly. Ensure the receiver notices the message.
- Ensure you have inventory to fulfill demand of a recently advertised offering.
- Be clear about restrictions on promotional offerings.
- Ask for permission when sending electronic and paper mail for promotional purposes.
When advertising, don’t:
- Use vague words or phrases that are not meaningful to an average person.
- Retract a sale offering or change a price, after the consumer is made aware.
- Use “sale price” unless you can prove a significant price reduction after a significant period of time.
- Sell a product above your advertised price.
- Inflate prices temporarily to cover in-kind, 2 for 1, or contest expenses.
- Make claims or promises you cannot meet.
Copywriting and Design
Once you understand your advertising obligations, you need to write and design your advertisement. Copywriting is the written content of your ad. If you feel you are not qualified to create quality ads, consult and contract a marketing or graphic -designing firm to help ensure you convey the right message.
When creating advertisements, do:
- Make each word count. Keep sentences short and necessary. Make clear images and references.
- Make your ads easy to recognize. Give your copy and layout a consistent personality and style.
- Use a simple layout that is easy to read and navigate through the message from the art and headline to the details and price.
- Show the featured merchandise in dominant illustrations. Whenever possible, show the product in use.
- Show the benefit to the reader. Prospective customers want to know “what’s in it for me”.
- Feature an item that is wanted, timely, stocked in depth, and typical of your store. A highly desirable item featured in your ad will bring in traffic, multiply sales and provide word of mouth referrals.
When creating advertisements, don’t:
- Pack the ad with messages that confuse the consumer. Stick to one clear message per offering.
- Overwhelm the consumer with too many colours or design elements.
- Use too many buzzwords or phrases or replicate your competitors’ advertising.
- Advertise something you are “stuck with” and waste advertising dollars on a product customers did not want previously.
- Advertise a new product before creating awareness around it first.
Advertising is a completely controllable expense. The function of the budget is to manage advertising expenditures. This can be done through a monthly tabulation, as shown in the following chart. With this record, the danger signals flash when the budget is over-extended.
|Advertising||Month||Year to Date|
These figures will vary according to industry conditions, competition, and the nature of your offerings. The accounts listed in the chart serve only as examples. For instance, some companies include publicity, website and social media in the advertising budget, others treat it separately.
When planning your advertising budget, do:
- Decide on a percentage or number of your marketing budget that will be allocated to advertising. For example, if March contributes 8% of the year’s sales, plan to spend 8% of the budget for that month. Another example is by units sold. If the total advertising efforts cost $2000 for a product and you plan to sell 100 units, each unit costs $20 to advertise.
- Consider seasonality and build flexibility into your budget. For example, the Christmas season contributes as high as 25% of yearly sales for some businesses, so prepare for the season by spending part of your budget in October and November. Other examples are the camping and outdoor season, and the back to school season.
- Allocate a portion of your budget for specific events such as the announcement of the “grand opening”, introducing a new product, or conducting a special promotion or event.
The only definite “don’t” when planning your advertising budget is to not have one. Make sure you keep track of your expenses and ensure your efforts are adding value to your business.
Once you’ve planned your efforts, you need to follow through by finding what distribution channels your target market will notice. This usually means forming relationships with advertisers such as media companies, newspapers, television and radio brands, printers, publishers and partners. These participants will bring your efforts to life and assist with distribution.
When implementing advertisements, do:
- Participate in a focused mix of distribution channels. It may take time to figure out what the best mix or methods are.
- Use repetition. Promoting a product or service once will not provide a return on investment.
- Proof all ads at least 3 times by different people. Ask for copies and times of publication for your ads from distributors.
When implementing advertisements, don’t:
- Rush through your implementation. Ensure you are strategic about placement.
- Choose efforts that are out of your scope. Stick to your budget and weigh your options with a variety of distributors and partners.
Tracking is the last step and the most important. Businesses need to measure the return on investment to understand if the advertisements are not only reaching the target audience, but if the audience is acting on the ad.
When tracking advertisements, do:
- Use tools such as coupons used, traffic counts, online click throughs, inventory counts and revenues, client served and sales counts to tie your efforts to results.
- Consider variables such as timing, duration, tone and look, distribution and feedback when comparing what efforts worked best.
- Keep records so you can recall and compare what you did over time.
The only definite “don’t” when tracking your advertising efforts is to not track at all. Tracking is not an exact science, so think of your advertising efforts as individual building blocks that build momentum. The efforts, if focused and strategic, will show the return over time.
For more information, tools, guides, visit the Government of Canada’s page on Advertising and Competition Rules for your business.