Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How to Buy Advertising Part I

Going Hunting

Buying advertising can be a very confusing thing. What kind? Where? How much should I do, and how much will it cost? How will I track my results? It can leave you pretty baffled.

Let me start out simplifying things a little bit.

First of all, let’s talk about hunting. Deer hunting and duck hunting, specifically. Don’t worry, no deer or ducks were harmed in the writing of this article.

But they make for a convenient analogy because all of the world’s advertising fits very nicely into one of those two models.


OK, this is where a hunter goes out in the woods near a swamp or pond. There’s a lot of ducks in the air, and he shoulders his shotgun and blasts up a spray of tiny little pellets. Most of them miss. But, a few of them hit, and he gets his dinner.

This is comparable to advertising methods like newspapers, television, radio, and other mass media outlets. Often mailers (traditional and emailers) will be “duck hunting style”. Flyers and handbills fall into this category as well. You might be able to do a certain amount of general aiming, like the hunter does when he decides where to point his gun, but overall you’re just looking for coverage. You’re not so concerned with who’s out there, but rather you’re interested in getting in front of as many people as possible. You put out lots of ads, and most of them miss. But—enough of them hit that you’re profitable, like the hunter getting his dinner.


On the other side of the forest is the deer hunter. He shoots with a rifle, which aims a single shot straight at the target. This kind of advertising is targeted and focused at the people that we already know are interested in our product. In this category are strategies like Magazines (with all their special interests), and direct mailings using targeted lists. Building your own business mailing list is a big part of deer hunting advertising as well. Online, it includes strategies like inbound linking and search engine optimization.

The question that’s in your mind shouldn’t be “Which one is the best,” because they are both effective. They are effective in different ways and with different situations. The question should be “How should I use each one?”

For example, duck hunting is usually done in much higher quantities that deer hunting. Think of it this way. There’s only one bullet in a rifle, but there’s a lot of shot bb’s in a shot gun shell. So, when you do duck hunting advertising, you’ll want to do a LOT of it. If you make one flyer and put it in a single supermarket bulletin board, you’ll probably not get many customers. As a result, per unit, duck hunting advertising is usually much less expensive. In the long run, since you have to buy more of it, you still end up paying.

Duck hunting is also the style of choice for branding advertising. These are ads that, instead of focusing on immediate response, focus on getting the company or the product name in people’s minds. Almost all television ads are branding exercises, and many online ads are also branding. For branding to work, you have to see the company or product name a lot. Why do we recognize the McDonalds arch? Because we’ve seen it over and over and over for years and years.

Deer hunting advertising, while usually being much more expensive per unit, is also much more effective in terms of response. It makes sense. If the ad appears in front of people who are interested, they’re more likely to respond, right? The biggest challenge with this kind of advertising can often be correctly identifying your audience. If you’re marketing to the wrong people, in the wrong way, you won’t get many results. That’s why you don’t often see perfume ads in “Field and Stream”.

The idea, in setting up your advertising campaigns, is to utilize both duck and deer hunting strategies. Don’t neglect either one, but don’t confuse them, either. Imagine going duck hunting with a rifle. It would be difficult to make it all work.

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