Setting Advertiser Expectations


(By Bob McCurdy) Following up last week’s blog that focused on a Borrell study which reaffirmed the importance of possessing a healthy dose of marketing acumen, I thought it worthwhile to review some marketing fundamentals that can serve to elevate our client conversations/education efforts and assist in more effectively guiding their ad spend.

The time to have discussions regarding the points listed below is not after a client’s campaign has ended but continually (pre/during/post), as we strive to enhance their marketing expertise and properly influence their expectations. There are no silver bullets in advertising.

Establishing realistic advertiser campaign expectations is the first step toward a renewal. Fail to accomplish this and getting a client to extend becomes more difficult. Like everything worthwhile, it is easier said than actually done for any advertiser to adhere to these teachings, but those that adhere to most will realize a better payback and become satisfied, consistent customers. These insights are not mine but have been “borrowed” from the smartest marketing/advertising people from around the world. Incorporate them into your client discussions. You will be on solid footing doing so. Clients need to understand that:
– Most advertising serves to neutralize the impact of the competition’s advertising — to protect a business from ongoing competitive ad assaults.
– It is generally a zero sum game. Competitors have to steal your customers to grow. Effectively communicate why you are the better option.
– A key purpose of advertising is to build up “mental availability,” coming to mind in buying situations. The difficult to “remember” remain “forgotten.”
– Established advertisers not only have a “legacy” advertising advantage (years of previous ad spend) but a “penetration” advantage (many customers over the years) and a “loyalty” advantage (satisfied customers). A challenger needs to be more aggressive, more nimble, and budget accordingly to overcome these obstacles.
– The first place to look for growth barriers is your own marketing strategy. Is your current marketing inclusive enough?
– A certain amount of targeting is good but targeting more tightly than all existing customers and category buyers is a recipe for negative growth.
– It’s difficult to sell consumers you don’t reach. This makes planning for “reach” the foundation of any effective media plan. Long term, low “reach” makes it harder to maintain the same sales level, let alone grow.
– Reach x Relevance = Response. Not Reach x Frequency = Response. The need to continually get hammered over the head with a commercial decreases as relevance increases. The build-up of too much frequency reduces the ROI of a media budget as the second exposure costs the same as the first but the return from the second exposure is lower, etc.
– “Flat” sales does not mean that advertising had no impact. It could well have insulated the client from competitive poaching (retaining) as well as poached (acquiring). Much advertising is aimed at preventing competitors’ advertising from stealing future sales. This “prevention” means an advertiser generates sales over a long period of time that they would not have obtained had they not advertised.
– “Successful” advertisers consistently keep their relative advertising spending above that of competitors regardless of circumstances. Share-of-voice prevents a commercial message being drowned out by competitors shortly after airing.
– Most advertising is meant to “remind” consumers about a product they’ve previously used or are familiar with. Reminding “many” is preferable to preaching to a “few.”
– Advertising rarely puts the consumer in the market for a product, “life” usually does; the washing machine broke. It’s advertising’s job to remind the consumer about a particular brand. This speaks to the importance of advertising consistency as buying never stops — it might differ by week or month, but it never stops. It is in the advertiser’s best interest to be “there” continually skimming customers who are in the market.
– If an advertiser has been on hiatus/dark for any length of time, it will take time to generate results.
– Advertising’s impact doesn’t end when the flight ends. It often takes a while for “life” to generate the need for the product or service advertised. Advertising does have “carryover” impact beyond the schedule end date.
– A 10-share brand that wants to remain a 10-share brand will need to win 10% of all new customers purchasing the category — simple math. This can only be accomplished by expanding upon the current customer base, which requires reach.
– Establishing an advertising budget as a percentage of sales is flawed budgeting. The reason is simple: Sales are a result of advertising. Advertising is not a result of sales.
– No matter how much more effective any medium might initially be perceived, there does come a point when the next ad dollar would be better spent in another medium.
– If you want more engagement with your advertising, create better creative. The most expensive cost in advertising is the cost of running creative that doesn’t work.
– The “double jeopardy” law of marketing states that most brand growth depends on reaching light and non-customers — the long tail.
– Paying “less” for “more” can result in getting “less” for “less.” It’s got to be right kind “more,” otherwise you really could be buying “less.”
– Projecting our own media habits upon others is what psychologists refer to as the “false consensus” effect. This projection bias is dangerous to the health of an ad campaign as it leads to designing campaigns that appeal to the designer and not the customer.

Many of the above tenets are common sense. All are backed by years of research. The tug of war for consumers’ hearts, minds, and dollars is never ending. It’s too competitive to trust marketing happiness, and the success margin of error is too thin to disregard them. It’s that simple and that difficult.

If you’d like these ad concepts and others illustrated with pictures in a PDF document, just email me.

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Years ago Katz Radio developed reach and frequency modules. You should get acquainted with them
    It was a great tool to help clients understand the value of multiple radio campaigns and what they could achieve in total reach and effective frequency.

  2. Bob-

    I think your statement that “there does come a point where a dollar would be better spent in another medium”
    (point of diminishing return) might be true if there ever comes a time when that point can be positively defined and the alternative medium can be resolutely chosen.
    After decades of observation, I have yet to find either. Because of that, I continue to pitch to command an advertiser’s entire budget.


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