7 Keys To Advertising Effectiveness

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(By Bob McCurdy) We have the tendency to make things more complex than necessary in this business. There are a handful of easily understood and relatable advertising facts of life that set the table for marketing success, such as:

  • What you say and how you say it (creative)
  • How recently you said it (dark/hiatus)
  • Do you say it consistently (baseline sales)
  • What others are saying (competitive advertising)
  • How long they’ve been saying it (legacy advertising)
  • Are you recalled (top of mind awareness)
  • Is a business healthy or ailing (growing or declining).

The following provides some “color” on these seven tenets.

Creative: No medium is inherently more engaging than any other. None. If an advertiser wants more engagement with their advertising, generate better creative. Poor creative can take a 24x/week schedule and generate the results of a 10x/week schedule. At a minimum, the creative must be strong enough to neutralize/nullify competitive messaging. The best radio creative contains multiple audio stimuli that serve as identification triggers, i.e. voice, music, tags, or audio signatures. Commercial messaging with no audio “ties” to previous advertising is destined to start at “ground zero,” requiring more spend to generate results. A recent Veritonic study confirms this point.

“Dark/Hiatus”: Advertising has a “carryover” effect. Its impact doesn’t cease when a campaign ends, but it does wane over time. The longer the elapsed time between advertising exposures, the less impact of the previous exposure(s) due to memory decay. As such, always strive to minimize the time gap between each purchase occasion and the last advertising exposure. It will take a larger budget, aired more consistently, for an advertiser who’s been “dark” or on hiatus to generate results than one who’s advertised continuously. Overcoming prolonged “darkness” requires more than a three-week flight.

Baseline Sales: These are sales that would have occurred without any advertising support. Even if an advertiser stops advertising, consumers will continue to purchase the product or service before gradually tapering off. Typically, 85%-90% of any retailer’s sales will be “baseline sales” — but there’s a direct correlation between “baseline sales” and advertising, as the longer an advertiser is dormant the smaller the “baseline sales” will assuredly become. It’s why businesses can stay in business for a while after they’ve stopped advertising. But make no mistake, a lack of advertising starves baseline sales.

Competitive advertising: Total ad spend within a product category impacts the effectiveness of all advertisers within that category. No business competes in a vacuum and no business is immune to the effects of their competitor’s advertising. Advertising’s initial goal is to first neutralize the impact of the competition’s advertising, then grow the business. This poaching “prevention” means an advertiser will get sales over time they would not have obtained had they not advertised and been poached. Being familiar with the competitive landscape in which an ad will air is wise. Set budget accordingly.

Legacy advertising: Legacy advertising is the cumulative amount of an advertiser’s previous ad spend and should influence current budget. Advertisers are not only competing against the current spend of their competitors but their previous ad spend as well, which does retain residual, positive impact. Legacy advertising also influences the all-important share-of-mind which is really top of mind recall. It is much easier to refresh an existing memory than to create a completely new one, which is why legacy advertising can be so impactful. New advertisers compete against their competition’s current and previous advertising and ignore this fact at their own risk when allocating ad budgets.

Top-of-mind awareness: They can’t buy from you if you’re not recalled. It takes time and the proper investment to achieve top-of-mind awareness. Radio is an ideal vehicle for creating this as there are typically fewer competitive advertisers in the same commercial pod trying to “out-shout” each other. The more competitors attempting to do so on any medium diminishes the impact of every message, generating less value per ad dollar. Another way to view top of mind awareness is thinking of it as “mental availability.” As time passes from each commercial encounter, memory fades. To maximize sales, advertisers need to have sufficient “mental availability” to come to mind at the zero moment of truth.

Growing or declining: Whether an advertiser is in a growth mode or is contracting plays a role in the results advertising delivers. Radio is not a panacea that can cure all business-related ills. If an advertiser’s business is declining, there are often ad-related and non-ad-related reasons why. We can craft an effective marketing campaign but we can’t overcome poor service, inventory issues, pricing, and other internal business-related challenges that are out of our control. Advertising always works best with clients who have momentum vs those in retreat.

So an advertiser’s current and previous advertising history, their competition’s current and previous advertising history, current state of business, creative, and budget all play a role in determining how effective current ad spend will be — not terribly complex or complicated stuff that can be understood by all.

It might be helpful to keep the above in mind when setting campaign budgets and expectations with clients.

Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at bob.mccurdy@bbgi.com.

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