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Media planning is critical to advertising success. The best advertising message ever created is completely wasted if it is not presented to the right audience through the correct media.
There are several other reasons why the media are an essential part of advertising campaigns. For one thing, media compose most of the advertising budget, far more than the research, message, or production facets (Wilson, 2007). At the same time, the media are often the least understood part of the campaign; most business executives understand marketing, and all media consumers understand the messages, but the media portion is more esoteric and thus less comprehended by most people. Also, the advertisers see their advertising campaign in the media that are selected, so an easy way to make sure that the advertiser client sees and hears the advertising is through proper media selection. That same proper media planning uses the advertising budget most fully and can free up money for additional advertising or for new promotions. So the media portion of advertising is critical to campaign success (Kelley & Jugenheimer, 2004).
Keep in mind that the media themselves are general types of channels, such as television, newspapers, or the Internet. Then come the media vehicles, which are the individual outlets of the media, such as ESPN, The New York Times, or Google. Finally, come the media units, the specifications of the advertisements, such as a full-page four-color advertisement in a magazine.
Advertising Media Process
To understand how advertising media work, it is first necessary to understand the process of analyzing and selecting the media for an advertising campaign. First, one analyzes the product, service, or idea to be promoted, along with a competitive analysis and a survey of the marketing situation. Next come the objectives and goals, what is to be achieved with the campaign: marketing objectives, more specific advertising objectives, and even more specific media objectives. Then come the strategies, which are plans to achieve the objectives. The strategies include the campaign targets, including geographic targets (target markets), customer targets (target groups), and media targets (target audiences).
From all these analyses, it is possible to evaluate the characteristics of all the available mass media in terms of the campaign objectives and to begin to select the best media types for the campaign. Media tactics are the implementation of the plans and involve the specific media vehicles and units to be used, along with the schedules. The advertising media plan must also consider any media promotions, continuity or “fallback” plans, the media calendar, the budget and the integration of the marketing, advertising, and media strategies and tactics.
The Role of Media in the Advertising Media Process
Four basic factors are most important in selecting mass media for use in advertising: reach, frequency, impact, and continuity.
Reach involves the audience with which communication is being made. Numerical reach is the number of persons, households, female heads of households, or other target groups, whatever categories of individuals are being sought. Percentage of reach is the portion of the target group with which communication may be made.
Frequency is the number of times an advertisement is used in a campaign. Frequency of insertion is how often the advertisement is run in the media, but because no audience member will see or hear every advertisement every time it appears, more important is the frequency of exposure (often called effective frequency), the average number of times an audience member sees or hears an advertisement. Effective reach refers to an advertisement being seen or heard a minimum number of times, such as audience members who read an advertisement at least three or more times.
Impact has many meanings in advertising. In the media, impact refers to the characteristics and specifications of the particular advertisement, such as size, length, use of color, use of bleed, and the like. A larger print advertisement has more impact than a smaller advertisement; a longer television commercial has more impact than a shorter commercial.
Reach, frequency, and impact all cost money, but continuity does not. Continuity involves the pattern of advertising, so that, say, a television viewer sees another advertisement for the same item before forgetting a previous commercial.
Consumers Avoid Advertisements
No matter how often an advertisement is run or where it appears, many consumers still try to avoid them. While watching television, viewers often switch channels when commercials appear (called “zapping”), and those who record television programs often fast-forward through the commercials (called “zipping”).
Advertising and Marketing
Advertising is usually considered a promotional facet of the marketing mix. The marketing mix includes what have become known as The Four Ps:
Product (an item or service or idea to be sold)
Place (distribution to the buyer)
Promotion (including advertising)
The mix of marketing becomes more complex, not because of more elements but because of a faster time limit on advertising campaigns, on consumer attention spans, and on media transfer capacities. Many mass media are now carried in digital electronic formats, which speed up the processes while offering more choices to consumers, and with more selection search assistance available to customers.
Changes and Trends
The advertising media business has always been one of rapid change, but today’s progress and change are coming at ever-faster rates. Some of these changes have been under way for a few years, while others are new on the scene.
Ongoing Changes and Trends
The changes that have been under way are important, may be more important than those changes that have begun to occur most recently. The ongoing changes involve changes in the use of media in advertising, in the media themselves, in the media environment, and in the way the media are delivered.
Changes in Advertising Use of Media
For decades, advertisers have shifted their advertising dollars from one medium to another. Years ago, advertising investment was heavy in radio time, but when television appeared on the scene, much of it was shifted to television. Some former newspaper advertising monies were shifted to a selection of broadcast media. Advertising schedules in general-audience magazines have largely gone to television. Interestingly enough, as new media came onto the scene, the older media did not disappear: Radio did not disappear when television took on the primary advertising role, and magazines did not die when monies were shifted to television, although general-audience magazines have just about disappeared.
More recently, shifts from one advertising medium to another have been more pronounced. Money that once went to newspapers has been shifting to the Internet (Saba, 2007), and especially in the case of classified advertising, monies have shifted from help-wanted classified newspaper advertisements into Internet sites such as Monster.com. Network and other broadcast television advertising has shifted, at least in part, to wired systems such as cable and satellite television. Some radio advertising has gone to music Internet sites as well as to music television programming, such as MTV and VH1, and to wireless systems, such as iPhone and iPod downloads.
Another change involves broadcast ratings. The ratings project the portion of households or of individuals who are tuned to a particular broadcast station, program, or network as a percentage of all the households (or people) that have television sets, whether those sets are on or not. Until recently, broadcast ratings were available only by 15-minute segments, but now ratings are available for minute-byminute segments of programs, allowing advertisers to know more precisely what percentage of the potential audience was tuned to their actual broadcast commercials. This minute-by-minute ratings service gives advertisers much more detailed information about the success of their commercials media buys.
The concept of ratings is a valuable one because, in essence, the ratings percentage is the percent reach. Because of this usefulness, other types of media, including print media, have adopted the ratings approach for measuring audiences. This widespread use of ratings data allows for easier comparison of audience levels from one medium to another.
Shifts in Advertising Media Environments
As computer usage has grown and electronic transfer of information has become more prevalent, more mass media content has become digitalized rather than analog content. Digital storage of advertising content permits the rapid and easy transfer of the information from one format to another, say, from a broadcast script to a newspaper story or to an Internet posting. As the media become more similar through digitalization, it has become possible for media consumers, the audience, to select through which format they wish to receive their information and entertainment, including advertising. At the same time, digital storage allows advertisers to trace through what channel the audience members are gaining access to their advertising messages.
Convergence is affecting all aspects and uses of the mass media. Convergence is the term used to define and explain how media message content, message effect, and simultaneous message delivery change, interact, and alter one another through multiple media. As digitalization and other shifts occur, making the mass media more similar to one another, convergence results, so the media delivery systems are more like one another and audience selection of media message delivery systems becomes more prevalent.
In advertising, convergence makes a broadcast television commercial more versatile because it can also be used in cable and satellite television, radio, cinema, and Internet formats. This permits broader choice for audiences but at the same time may make reaching those audiences through advertising media selections either more facile or more difficult, depending on whether audiences select from a wide variety of media sources or stay with only a single or a few choices.
Advertising has benefited greatly from media interactivity, which permits audience members to interact with the media. Such interactivity most commonly occurs with e-mail and Internet advertising, which permit easy responses and exchanges of messages. Some interactivity can also occur with television or radio advertising, although the response may be through another medium such as telephone or the Internet rather than directly back through the same medium by which the advertisement was received.
Actually, media interactivity has been a part of the advertising business for a long time. Magazine subscriptions renewal notices sent through the mail sometimes included a small pencil so that respondents could write their responses easily and quickly, resulting in higher response rates. Many direct-mail offerings also used tearoff coupons or stick-on stamps to increase interactivity. Any coupon that is cut out and redeemed is a form of interactivity. Direct mail, other forms of direct marketing, and telemarketing have all provided interactive opportunities for decades.
Interactivity is important to advertisers because such audience involvement increases response and purchase rates and may result in higher recall rates for advertising messages and brand names. Thus, advertising media have had increasing interest in interactivity, and many media planners are instructed to consider interactive media more favorably than media that only deliver a message but do not provide for an immediate, interactive response.
New mass media developments, as noted earlier, do not necessarily obviate the older, existing media (Kokernak, 2007). Sometimes, the older media can add the newer elements to their offerings and can replicate some of the new-media benefits in some way. Some studies indicate that television is still a more powerful presenter of an advertising message than is the Internet (Berkowitz, 2007). More often, audiences do not shift to using the new media immediately and certainly not all at once, so both old and new media can provide news, information, entertainment, and advertising. Online media are widely used, but consumers are still influenced by the traditional media (Kee, 2007; O’Malley, 2007). It is only logical, however, that as more media types are developed, the existing advertising budgets are spread across more types of media, old and new, so the advertising revenues for the older media may decline somewhat as advertising investments are shifted, at least in part, to new media types and outlets.
The rapid rise of the Internet as an advertising medium is one example of this kind of shift. Some uses of new media will grow even faster; mobile marketing, video games, advanced television, and digital out-of-home networks are predicted to grow at double the rate of online media in general (Mandese, 2007a), and these fast-growing formats offer new advertising opportunities (Kee, 2007). The new advertising opportunities on the Internet have been at the cost of some of the older media, such as newspapers, which once had a very large share of advertising dollars (Sass, 2007). The development of cable and satellite television has also resulted in advertising investments, partly at the expense of the older broadcast television medium. Yet advertising in the traditional media often encourages increases in the use of new media, such as television advertising resulting in more searches on the Internet (Berkowitz, 2007).
One irony is that older media types that were once wired, such as telephone, have become mobile through the use of broadcasting, and older media types that were once broadcast, such as television, are now available as wired media.
New Advertising Formats
Newspaper advertising no longer needs to be placed in rectangular forms; free-form advertisements allow shaping the advertisements like the product or some symbol, with regular newspaper information and editorial material around the advertisement. For years, magazines have included tear-out inserts and free-standing (not bound in) inserts; now, magazines can offer CDs, DVDs, product samples, and other original advertising formats. Television advertising commercial announcements once were a standard 60-seconds long, but now the standard is 30 seconds, and stand-alone (i.e., not combined with other commercials to make the slot longer) commercials are available in 15- and even 10-second lengths. Commercials are also available as full programs of 30 to 60 minutes, known as infomercials.
Some advertisers are posting their television commercials online, alone without other materials, and audiences are going to some of these Web sites and viewing the commercials in large numbers, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. These Internet postings of commercials are not usually part of the original advertising media plan but offer an inexpensive and impactful way for advertisers to get their messages to interested customers.
All these options add to the complexity and information needs of the advertising media buyers, who now must weigh many new options against one another, each with its own costs, benefits, and drawbacks. Some format changes bring greater audience attention, helping the older media compete with the new (Elliott, 2007).
New Changes and Trends
In addition to ongoing changes and trends, there are newer changes in the mass media and in advertising’s use of media that are coming into play. These may eventually turn out to be ongoing or long-term changes, or they could be experiments that do not last very long.
Combinations of Media Types
More media offer their content in a variety of formats. Newspapers place their stories and advertising online on the Internet, so advertisers can gain from advertising exposure in both media; there is a big overlap between the use of newspapers and of online information sources (Sass, 2007). Some newspapers, such as USA TODAY and The Wall Street Journal, are providing magazine formats of their news and advertising content, hoping that because magazines are kept in the home longer than are daily newspapers, such magazines will also remain longer and perhaps have more advertising impact (Ives, 2007). Radio stations make their programming available online in “blogs” (Web logs) or regular Web sites, and the advertising is carried both ways: broadcast and online. Television networks and stations are doing the same with Internet program repeats and even offering follow-up programs and outtakes via cell phones; some television commercials are widely viewed on Internet sites (Garner, 2007). Many magazines provide additional details about printed stories at their online Web sites.
It is not known what impact these kinds of new changes will have for advertising’s uses of the mass media. These new developments are making the task of buying advertising media more complex and at the same time less predictable. Advertising media buyers are faced with the question of whether these additional avenues of message distribution are equal to or perhaps better than the more traditional channels. The media buyers must also quickly judge whether these additional outlets make the advertising buys worth more money.
Soon after motion pictures were invented, advertisers worked at ways to get exposure for their products in these movies. Sometimes, the movies were about companies and products and thus provided free publicity without inducements being sought or paid for by the advertisers.
Some advertisers simply made their products or services available for free, in return for the publicity. Other companies provided free products as prizes on television quiz shows, provided services in return for a listing in the program or movie credits, or offered facilities for filming or taping in return for a bit of background exposure.
More often now, advertisers pay for the placement of their products in programs, whether it be Coca-Cola on the judges’ tables for American Idol or a brand of beer on the counter for a television episode. Product placement has become an important part of advertising media usage, with weekly surveys of the most visible and effective placements of brand names and items.
For the media planner and buyer, this form of promotion presents additional problems. There is no standard price or fee for such placements, and there is no standard source that one can consult to find the value of such placements. Then, too, the effect or impact on the audience is not well researched, and thus the value of such placements is not well established.
At one time, control of the media was in the hands of the programmers, advertisers, and media owners. Now, control is shifting to consumers. Digitalization of the media is one reason for this switch; consumers can now select through which outlets they wish to receive their news and entertainment. Consumers can also record broadcast programs to view when they wish, deleting advertisements. Esoteric information that was once hard to find can now be searched and located on the Internet from millions of sources throughout the world.
Consumers can also provide content for the media, something that was always in the control of the programmers, advertisers, and owners of the media. As a result, media content can come from anyone and anywhere.
When advertisers had more control of the media, the advertising uses of the media were more predictable and somewhat standardized. Now, with consumers gaining more control and input, advertising can appear in all sorts of places never deemed possible before, and with widereaching effects. Advertising media can use these new channels but with some trepidation because the outcomes are not clearly predictable and the economic return is, for the most part, only a guessing game. With consumer control gaining in importance, advertisers have less control over the environments in which their messages appear, and possible negative side effects are not only possible but an everyday occurrence.
With all these new developments and changes, measuring the impact of the media becomes more difficult. Advertisers have less of an idea about what effects their advertising messages will have, on whom these messages will fall, and what the eventual outcomes might be.
Certainly, the long-standing media measurement techniques and institutions still exist and still contribute. Television ratings are still measured and used by programmers and by advertisers. The ratings services now have added newer types of media to their research parameters, so Internet and other new electronic advertisements can be measured. Because of the interactive capability of these new media, sometimes the research data can be even more accurate than in the past, narrowing down audience information to individual media users. Yet with so many changes, so much fragmentation of the media, so many avenues for placing content in the media, what to measure and how to measure it have become much more complex questions.
Faster feedback may be one important change in media measurement (Friedman, 2007). New broadcast commercial ratings services can track audience attention in minuteby-minute, and in some instances second-by-second, attention spans. Some major consumer product companies are trying to relate to consumers’ real lives, using immersion techniques during which marketers spend hours at a time visiting and shopping and talking with customers.
Whether an advertisement is effective has always been a question that is difficult to answer, but now, with all these changes and developments that have come in recent years and are evolving at an ever-increasing rate, the measurement of advertising effectiveness is of even greater interest, while conducting the necessary research has become more circuitous and more convoluted.
Involving Advertisers in Media Plans
As consumers have gained more control over the media, advertisers also want more control, too, and not just of media content. Advertisers want more control of when, where, and how their advertising messages will appear.
Previously, the media plan was left in the hands of the advertising agency’s media department and its media planners, estimators, and buyers. The media portion of the advertising campaign was understood only by a few of the corporate executives, and most of the advertising emphasis was on the message content, format, and presentation rather than on the media plan.
Modern advertisers want to know more definitively what the environment will be for their advertising messages, exactly who will be exposed to that message, how many times, in what kinds of progressive campaigns, and to what eventual ends.
Involving Audiences With Advertisement Usage
Almost a million customers downloaded a Budweiser commercial from the Internet. Imagine the impact on consumers who are so interested in a product that they go out of their way to view a commercial message. The same kinds of results occur for Frito-Lay’s Doritos, GEICO’s cavemen, and Apple’s iPhone. Even the Conan O’Brien parody of the iPhone advertising drew millions of online viewers, more than for the original commercials themselves (Garner, 2007).
This kind of opportunity provides new avenues for advertising media, and at the same time, new complications. Does the advertising message become so important that customers will find it on their own, or does the media placement expose the message to the correct audiences so accurately that they are drawn into the message and then follow through without further incentive or assistance?
Problems for Advertising Media
Not all developments offer a new opportunity. Sometimes, they offer new problems and mixed results. All businesses have problems, and the advertising media business is no different.
A long-standing problem in advertising media is clutter, and it is getting worse. Clutter involves the number of advertisements and the amount of media time and space devoted to advertising. The problem is more pronounced in broadcast media, radio, and television, because it is more difficult for audiences of those media to avoid the commercials; print readers can simply turn the page, and Internet viewers can click on another site, but broadcast listeners and viewers must sit through the commercials or take actions to avoid them. Then, too, broadcast has a bigger concern with clutter because of the so-called irritation factor, when audiences actually become angry because of the number of commercials or irritated at an advertiser whose commercials run too often.
Ironically, the solution to clutter has been increased clutter. As more and more commercials appear on radio and television, the portion of a single advertiser’s messages as a part of all commercial minutes, known as share of voice, has declined (Bloxham, 2007). To overcome this dilemma, advertisers have resorted to buying more commercials of shorter lengths so that the advertisers’ messages appear more often. Where once there was only one commercial per minute, and then two, today, there may be four or more. Clutter has increased as advertisers try to fight the clutter from their competition. Yet longer messages still work better than do short ones (Loechner, 2007).
Another possible solution to clutter may involve the use of behavioral targeting, which aims advertisements at certain desirable audience segments rather than using demographic targeting. More specific targeting based on consumers’ behavior would reduce the number of advertisements that go to audience members who are not really interested in that particular product or service (Leggiere, 2007).
Economic price inflation is a problem for all businesses. It is especially a problem for advertising media. In recent years, media costs have been rising faster than the consumer price index in the United States. Another complication is the fact that some media are losing market share. Network broadcast television, for example, has lost audience levels for some years now, with the audience rating figures getting smaller each year. The solution for advertisers has been to try to reach the same size of audience as they did in the past, which, because of the decreasing ratings, forces advertisers to buy more advertising. So the demand for network television advertising time has been increasing, even though the audience ratings have been slipping. This is certainly an ironic situation: getting more demand because market share is slipping. Television networks have even raised their advertising rates to take advantage of the increased demand for television time, at a rate somewhat higher than the general inflation rate.
To some extent, the same trend has occurred in other media. Magazines have charged higher prices for advertising space as the demand for magazine advertising has declined (Mandese, 2007b). In addition, some media vehicles have been able to fight the declines in advertising faced by their types of media. Some newspapers have maintained or even gained advertising even while the newspaper industry as a whole has suffered from a dramatic decline in advertising (Roberts, 2007). Industry analysts have charged that the shifts in audience levels, advertising demand, and media prices have been disguised to take the advertisers’ attention away from what is actually being offered in advertising buys (DeWitt, 2007).
Audience Attention Levels
More types of media availabilities mean that audiences have more choices of where to spend their time. This means that the audiences spend less time with the traditional media as their media exposure is spread across more types of channel outlets.
As people’s lives get busier, they also spend less time on any one activity, be it recreation, entertainment, or information. These two factors, more types of media and more segmented activities, mean that audiences are spending less time with the media and that they are more likely to multifunction: doing two or more things at once.
If audiences try to balance the checkbook and take care of the children while the television is on, they obviously are not paying full attention to the television program.
These split audience-attention levels have obvious implications for advertising media. Buying an advertisement today may not give the advertiser the same audience attention even though it may reach the same audience size. There is no easy way to calculate the loss of attention and its impact on advertising media efficiencies, but there certainly is a loss of advertising impact when the audience is not paying close attention to the message.
“‘Creative’ Sells Campaigns”
There is an old saying in advertising that “creative sells campaigns.” In the heading for this section, the word creative is in quotation marks because, even though many practitioners in the advertising business call the message strategies the creative portion of the campaign, all advertising involves creativity: media and research and production as well as message strategies. So what the saying means is that the advertisements themselves, the messages, are what sell campaigns.
Here, the selling of the campaign is not just to the audience but also to the advertiser. An advertising agency prepares an advertising campaign for its client, the advertiser, and the client must give approval before the campaign can run and money can be spent. Advertising agencies usually stress the advertisements when presenting the proposed campaign to the advertisers, because the message should be inherently interesting and thus might make the campaign easier to accept. Yet, even though the message may be stressed, the message and media strategies are ideally formulated together, in concert with one another, and neither one is more important than the other.
Effects and Effectiveness
Advertising is not an altruistic business. Businesses invest in advertising because they expect a return on their investments. A problem arises because the stimulus, advertising, may not be traceable all through to the response, sales. Also, not all advertising has sales as the goal; there are many other possible objectives, such as product awareness, opinion change, product knowledge, and similar outcomes. Yet most of these results cannot be traced back directly to advertising.
For that reason, much advertising research focuses on surrogates for the intended result. It may not be possible to trace sales results or opinion changes, at least not directly all the way back to advertising, often because a series of intervening steps is involved. So the surrogates used are outcomes that can be traced and that may be meaningful; examples of surrogates include readership of a print advertisement or recall of a television commercial.
Measuring the Contributions of Media in the Overall Campaign
An even more difficult research problem arises when trying to separate the media effect from the rest of the advertising campaign effect. If one cannot determine whether sales occur directly because of the advertising campaign, then determining the effect from the media portion of the advertising campaign is virtually impossible.
Separating the media effect from the overall campaign effect cannot be researched easily, quickly, and economically, so again, surrogates are used. With media, coupons are often used, with a key in the coupon indicating where the advertisement appeared, so the coupon response can tell which advertising placement location brought the greatest response and can also measure cost per response. Keep in mind, however, that if a coupon response is not the intended goal of the advertising, the research is again measuring something other than the intended objective of the campaign.
To understand the role of advertising media strategies in the 21st century, it is critical to try to predict future trends and developments. Of course, it is impossible to tell the future accurately and completely, but there are a number of current trends in the mass media that can help us forecast what may be happening in the coming years—probably not the entire 21st century but at least the coming decade or two.
Media-buying specialty firms have been around for many years. These companies specialize in the mediaplanning and -buying functions of advertising.
Such work is often conducted by the advertising agency that handles the overall advertising campaign. But for a number of reasons, an outside firm may be sought. Many times, media trainees at advertising agencies are eventually promoted to some other line of work, such as account service or management, rather than continuing their experience and expertise in media work. Then, too, advertising agencies often encounter certain periods of peak activity, when several campaigns are due for a variety of clients, so using outside vendors for some of the work may be desirable.
The larger a media-buying department or company is, the better volume discounts it may be able to negotiate for advertising costs. Thus, combining several accounts into one buying activity gains budget volume, which can result in lower advertising rates, as well as gaining the economic efficiencies of larger operations. Combining several advertising agencies’ work at a media-buying service can gain even more budget volume to provide lower rates and greater economies of scale.
In the mass media, there are several trends that appear to affect the way advertising, and particularly advertising media strategies, work. In addition, there are some general business trends that affect how advertising operates and some general advertising trends that affect how the media function may operate (Kelley & Jugenheimer, 2008).
Earlier, there was a discussion of media convergence, the fact that the media are becoming more similar and overlapping in their technologies, functions, and applications. As this trend continues and the media continue to become more similar, advertising media planning will simultaneously grow more difficult and less difficult.
This seeming contradiction can be easily explained. If the media grow more similar, buying media will be easier because one may be able to purchase a newspaper advertisement and a similar announcement on the newspaper’s Web site, all with one easy media buy. However, when all media have Web sites, and newspapers also publish magazines, and other new forms and outlets are developed, there will be even more media choices, making the mediaplanning task more difficult.
Then, too, is the problem of common digitalization of the media. Digital media are simple and quick to save for future use, perhaps on a personal computer. If an advertiser is running a campaign and the audience holds the message until some future date, is the value of the advertisement decreased or perhaps lost altogether if a special sale or political vote is over by the time the audience gets around to calling back up the media content that was saved?
Advertisers like media that involve the audience members. There is some evidence that interactivity with an advertisement brings increased recall of that advertisement and perhaps even a more favorable opinion about the advertised item.
Interactivity can go even further, however. In some media such as the Internet, the audience can not only interact with the advertisement but also actually place an order for purchasing the advertised merchandise. This expansion in activity also changes the scope of advertising; advertising was once considered to be most effective in pretransactional and posttransactional roles, but the actual purchase was made at a store or in some other way separated from the advertising. Now, the purchase transaction can become part of the advertising. This means that the advertising media selection is even more important, because it may shorten the marketing channel and transform advertising into a transactional as well as a promotional tool.
Currently, there is much discussion of engagement in advertising media. It is not enough, so it is thought, for audiences simply to read, see, or hear the advertisement.
It is better to engage the audience members in activities that may make a more lasting impression on potential customers. Engagement activities are not necessarily interactivity, as discussed in the previous section. Instead, engagement could be just something to keep the audience members busy, to induce them to stay with the advertisement longer, to encourage them to think more deeply and to remember longer the advertising message (Rose, 2006).
Television commercials that entertain as well as sell are a means of engagement. Most advertisers would be pleased to know that audiences actually look forward to their television commercials and that people may tell others to “watch this ad.” One research study found that an engaged television viewer is worth eight regular viewers (Neff, 2007) and that return on investment increases 15% to 20% with engagement (Wilson, 2007).
The media are not the only converging development. Products and services are becoming more similar to one another, too. Pain relief products claim that “no other product is stronger,” meaning that they are just as strong but no better. Banks all tend to offer the same services, lobby hours, and online services. As these products and services become more similar, they are more like commodities. Commodities are like agricultural products, such as wheat, that meet certain standards and that are assumed to be uniform throughout no matter who produced them.
If product and service differentiations disappear, or at least decline, the role of advertising changes dramatically because it is no longer possible to find the “unique selling proposition,” the one thing about a service or product that made it different from its competitors. Yet the role of advertising will not decrease just because natural differences are diminished; rather, advertising will become more important when it is needed to create or imply differences between the advertised items.
The world is becoming an ever-busier place. People do more now in a day than they may have done in a week when our country was founded. Mechanization, computerization, industrialization, and electrification have all made it possible to accomplish more in less time.
The pace of life, the cadence with which we live, is especially important in advertising media. If we have minute-by-minute television commercial ratings, how long will it be before an advertising media buyer is expected to shift the campaign to some other medium or vehicle not in a couple of weeks or in a few days but in the next couple of hours?
Cadence is important to advertising and especially to advertising media, and we have not yet begun to see the increase in the pace of business activity that all the new media and new media developments will bring.
Future of Advertising Media
While it is not possible to predict the future with total accuracy, at least not for the long term, some trends in the mass media and in advertising can lead to reasonable forecasts for advertising media. “Aggregate mass audiences are diminishing and being replaced by smaller groups of individual consumers” (Picard, 2007).
As the media continue to converge, it is likely that most media reception may be able to come through a single device, whether it be a portable instrument such as a cell phone or a personal computer. Most likely, portability will be a prime desire among audiences. Media content will be wherever consumers want it to be (Smith, 2007).
At the same time, this convergence along with digitalization means that consumers will be able to select through which means they will receive the media information. Read the newspaper on the computer screen, listen to it on a cell phone, or have it printed out: These are possibilities now, and they are likely to gain more widespread availability and use.
The proliferation of types of media and vehicles will require that consumers be able to select which ones they wish to access and what kinds of information, opinion, entertainment, and advertising they wish to receive. Already, many e-mail advertisers ask recipients for permission to send promotional information, and consumers seem to like having that choice.
For advertising media strategies, these changes will mean that there will be less wasteful distribution of messages; advertisements need only reach those who are interested and perhaps opt to receive the advertising. At the same time, such changes may make it more difficult to introduce new products, services, and ideas because audience members will not choose to receive advertising messages about things about which they know nothing.
Database information about consumers is becoming more prevalent and more detailed. These kinds of in-depth information sources about consumers—what they buy, what they want, and to what media they pay attention—will make media selection more scientific and less haphazard, again reducing waste and, perhaps, increasing efficiency.
Because of the large number of media choices, it will be more difficult for advertisers to reach a large general audience, so specific targeting will be in demand by advertisers. Engagement will continue to grow in importance, perhaps through interactivity or through new media that have not yet been developed.
The pace of life, in business and in personal dealings, will continue to have a faster cadence. In advertising, the need will be to predict exactly what consumers want and give them exactly that.
No matter what changes occur in the future, advertising will be there, likely to support the costs of new media as well as to use the media to reach potential customers. Advertising media strategies will become even more crucial in the advertising effort, to take advantage of the new developments; to cut costs and gain efficiencies; to make advertising a desired selection among audience members; and to serve its essential economic function of expanding the economy, announcing new developments, and facilitating marketing and commerce.
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