When marketers and media planners create marketing campaigns, they must carefully consider the merits of each type of advertising media. Each type of advertising media communicates marketing messages to potential customers through different mediums - for instance, over the television, radio, or social media.
What is the Role of Advertising Media?
By leveraging the right kinds of advertising media, marketers can engage with different audiences in distinct ways. For example, social media encourages customers to begin a dialogue, while television distributes messages through one-way communication. As a result, media planners must closely evaluate which channels offer the greatest amount of benefits for the least relative cost. Each advertising medium should be chosen based on the goals of the campaign (whether that be brand awareness or direct sales) and the channel’s ability to reach a target audience.
How Media Planners Can Maximize Impact per Exposure
Media planners need to think beyond basic television and banner ads in today’s evolving marketing environment. Instead, they must hone in on a consumer’s attitude towards your brand. The brand experience should be central to the media plan, and an advertising platform should support this focus. For instance, a media plan for a pet supplies company may include television ads, but the advertisements should be tied to strengthening the relationship with the consumer. Advertising media and the corresponding channels should support the overarching brand strategy and messaging, so each type of media must act as a puzzle piece that completes a picture of your brand strategy
It’s important to remember that consumers are exposed to over 5,000 advertisements every day – so media planners need to maximize their impact per exposure. This means creating a dedicated team that can optimize ad placement, negotiate budgets, and design creative content that resonates with the target audience.
5 Types of Advertising Media Channels
Before placing any ads, media planners must devise their overall objective and strategy behind their media campaign. Each type of advertisement has its own set of advantages and disadvantages that must be considered to optimize their media placements and maximize the campaign’s impact. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of these five prominent media channels:
Video Advertising: Television & YouTube
On July 1st, 1941, the first-ever legal television advertisement was broadcast in the state of New York during a Brooklyn Dodgers versus Philadelphia Phillies game, which was on the screens of about 4,000 televisions. In the decades that followed, the popularity of television advertising swelled along with the popularity of mass marketing. Today, television is one of the most popular media channels for marketers, especially with the advent of connected TV advertising, which uses viewer data for more effective segmentation.
Video ads have also expanded beyond the traditional cable box to include YouTube ads and online video. Media planners can now showcase their commercials across the web on various websites to connect with audiences online
Pros of Video: Online & Television Advertising
Television combines audio with visual. This creates a multi-sensory advertising experience that shows viewers how your product is valuable. When you play a commercial on someone’s television, the touchpoint takes place in their home. This makes it a more personal medium.Television is also a great way to establish a personalized connection with a viewer. Consider for example The Hyundai Super Bowl ad from 2017. This commercial reconnected soldiers with their families virtually to watch the game. Although this commercial did not directly speak to the cars they sell, it did reinforce its brand message.
Television is a great brand awareness tool - Almost every American has a television, with 83 percent of adults having two or more, and American households keep their televisions on for 8.1 hours each day on average. As a result, roughly $76 billion was spent on advertising in 2019 alone.
By combining television ads with YouTube’s reach, brands can benefit from viewers watching their commercials long after they have aired. However, brands need to be sure that they have strong creative. No commercial will go viral if it does not connect with viewers.
In addition to hosting commercials on a specific YouTube channel, advertising on the platform itself can be beneficial. Since many users are logged in when they view videos (2 billion logged on users), demographic data can be combined with the content they are watching, resulting in relevant content being seen by the target audience.
Cons of Video: Online & Television Advertising
Television advertising can be costly for organizations. It’s a large investment to not only purchase the slot, but to develop the commercial’s creative content. Media planners have to forecast which shows will generate a higher than expected viewership in the coming months. An inaccurate estimate can compromise marketing ROI. Additionally, since television ads generally get good exposure, a bad ad can really hurt a company's brand reputation. When there are more eyeballs on an ad, it is more important to make sure the creative is strong.
A con of television advertising is that viewers do not always actively listen to television commercials, and often try to skip or avoid them when given the opportunity. Also, not everyone tuning in will be part of your target audience making it easier to waste your advertising budget. Always consider which segments watch a particular television program before purchasing a slot. Although a primetime show may get more eyes, daytime or late-night television could be more targeted and save you money. Additionally, when selecting an advertising slot, we recommend booking live television where possible. When watching a football game, your users will be unable to fast forward through the commercial breaks if they want to watch the game as it is happening.
Audio Channels: Radio & Podcasts
While radio technology was developed during the 19th century, the commercial capabilities of radio broadcasts was not harnessed until 1912, where record companies supplied free music to broadcasters in exchange for mentioning which company provided the record. By the late 1920s, almost every U.S. radio station would play commercially sponsored programs. Today, traditional radio remains incredibly popular for listeners and advertisers alike – and with the rise of internet radio, it appears this audio-only method of advertising will remain popular throughout the digital revolution.
Pros of Radio & Podcast Advertising
Radio is extremely accessible – 95 percent of cars have radios, and 99 percent of homes have radios. 93 percent of American adults listen to the radio over the course of the week. This includes 97 percent of Gen X, and 95 percent of Millennials. Radio is also a cost-effective medium, especially when compared to its television counterpart. Through radio, advertisers can frequently message consumers without allocating all their budget on more expensive ads.
Radio has been effectively used in conjunction with television ads to strengthen a brand’s image in a listener’s mind. Also, recent studies have shown that approximately 90 percent of listeners will stay tuned during a commercial break. Another benefit to radio advertising being able to have the hosts talk directly to the product in some cases, making the ad more conversational.
A newer form of the audio medium is podcast advertising. 54 percent of users are more likely to consider products that they have heard mentioned on podcasts before. About 1 in 4 Americans listen to podcasts and that number is expected to grow over the coming years. Additionally, podcasts, like radio, can take advantage of more conversational ads. Hosts generally have built trust with their audiences and promotions are typically done in their own words.
Cons of Radio & Podcast Advertising
A major challenge of radio advertising is that listeners are often preoccupied while listening to the radio – they may be driving, shopping, working, etc. Radio only engages through audio. This makes it more difficult to command a listener’s attention – and the lack of a visual channel makes it more difficult to illustrate the product. For this reason, advertisements should be simple to understand and repeat critical information multiple times. It may also be helpful to combine this form of advertising with another more visual medium such as television. Additionally, since users may change the station, media planners should consider booking either the first or last slots after a commercial break.
For podcasts on the other, ads may be featured at the start, causing users to fast forward through them. If possible, it is beneficial to get ads booked in the middle of the podcast.
Finally, radio advertisements are transient – after the advertisement plays, it’s unlikely that consumers will play it again. For podcasts, this same disadvantage is also the case. Since these listeners may be preoccupied, they may not remember the ad or have a pen to write down the specifics for later. Media planners must keep this in mind and run the same ad multiple times
Print mediums, such as newspapers, are one of the oldest media channels for advertisers – in fact, newspaper advertisements predate brands. As literacy rates increased in the 16th century, advertisers in Italy, Germany, and Holland began publishing print advertisements in weekly gazettes. Almost 500 years later, and the newspaper is still an effective channel that commands approximately $15.9 billion in advertising spend within the U.S.
Pros of Newspaper Advertising
Newspapers can reach millions of people every day and are one of the most trusted mediums, with 82 percent of customers trusting it when making a purchase decision. Newspaper ads can be very targeted, as they are often delivered to certain geographic areas, and specific sections of the paper can speak to certain audiences. For example, newspapers are a great way to reach older demographics that may be less receptive to digital advertisements. Newspaper audiences also tend to be educated and/or higher earners.
Similar to radio advertising, newspapers when combined with other advertising channels, can make your marketing efforts more profitable. In the financial industry, campaigns were 5.7 times more effective and retail campaigns were 2.8 times more effective.
Cons of Newspaper Advertising
Newspaper viewership continues to decline. In 2000, 59.4 million Sunday newspapers were delivered, compared to an estimated 30.8 million Sunday papers in 2018. This is because young people rarely read newspapers – only 5 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 read their print newspaper often.
Another con is that newspapers often have editorial guidelines to minimize intrusive ads, which can compromise branding efforts. Additionally, it is difficult to measure the efficacy of newspaper advertisements, especially when compared to digital mediums. Lastly, unlike magazines, newspapers have a short lifespan and are often discarded at the end of the day.
Many newspapers are also moving to digital. However, many of these advertisements are banner ads, which are not always effective in grabbing an audience’s attention.
Magazines (Print & Digital)
The first magazines were published in the late 1600s as a form of entertainment for the upper class, and often discussed matters of philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the middle class began desiring magazines, so publishers started selling ad space to offset exorbitant printing costs and expand their readership. By the 20th century, magazines were known for having distinct audiences and the option to purchase sizable ads in full color. In 2019, magazine advertising spending was worth an estimated $15.6 billion.
Pros of Print & Digital Magazine Advertising
Magazine audiences are highly targeted, allowing marketers to easily target relevant consumers without wasting budget. Audiences are generally more interested in your advertising and expect it. There is also the added benefit that magazines may also have a strong brand associated with them, which can add credibility to your ad.
Readers also tend to recall print ads better. After a week, study participants from Temple University had a greater response to the printed ads than digital ads. Many Americans also still prefer the hard copies of magazines, with 70 percent saying they prefer printed formats to digital. Magazines are also continuing to grow as a medium. In 2019, 228.7 million people were reading digital and print magazines (for comparison, 210.7 million people were in 2012)
For example, if you’re a bicycle manufacturer, there are many magazines focused around biking, the outdoors, and other related topics. Similarly, women’s magazines often have segments dedicated to fashion and/or beauty. An ad placement for clothing, accessories, or makeup will likely be read with earnest interest. Additionally, magazines may already have strong brand awareness which can help your own ad.
Magazines have a long shelf life compared to other print media. Readers don’t immediately throw away a magazine after purchase and may have it for several weeks. Magazines also have a wider secondary audience, since they are often a business’s waiting room, or shared among friends. This secondary audience can further increase marketing ROI and according to The Association of Magazine Media, this audience “contributes to 73 percent of primary sales response.” Despite these impressive statsis, it’s important to get a firm estimate on a magazine’s primary readership when negotiating ad space. The secondary audiences can only ever be estimated (and not guaranteed) and they may be calculated into the media buy.
Lastly, magazines often have full color and/or full page advertising options, allowing for more creative license from their teams. By using bright colors and appealing photography, you can easily draw attention from readers.
Many magazines also come in digital formats now and allow you to take advantage of their email lists. You can promote products, white papers, or other content assets to generate leads and build your own email marketing lists. Many magazines are also very adaptive and can target users based on personas, job titles, or other information.
Cons of Print & Digital Magazine Advertising
Another con of magazines is that advertisers must have their advertisement ready weeks or months in advance of the publication date, which can make it difficult to place timely ads. Magazines are also often national, making it difficult to target specific geographic areas.
Additionally, magazine advertisements can’t be rescinded or retargeted – meaning if an advertisement is unpopular or poorly perceived, damage to the brand cannot be minimized in-flight.
For digital magazines, it can be difficult to assess the quality of their database without first testing it out. Additionally, not all publications in every industry are digitally savvy. This trend is starting to change, but depending on the industry you are looking to target, you may not have access to the granular details you need for a hyper-targeted campaign.
Social media is one of the newest channels for media planners to utilize. Social media advertisements evolved from the original digital banner ads, with the first social media ad placement occurring on Facebook in 2006. In less than a decade, advertisements on social media became the norm. Today, social media platforms derive the bulk of their profit from attracting users to the service, then targeting them using available user data.
Pros of Social Media Advertising
Social advertising can be very targeted, helping to convert new followers and build brand loyalty. Media planners can reach viewers based on job title, interests, marital status, recent locations, and more. Social advertising is also very cost-effective. On average, a single impression on Facebook costs less than a cent, while a click costs an average of 28 cents.
It is very easy to measure and optimize social campaigns while they are active. If an advertisement isn’t working, media planners can pause the campaign or reallocate funds on demand. Through methods like A/B testing, it is simple to test the effectiveness of certain promotional messages while a campaign is running.
Cons of Social Media Advertising
There are many social media platforms, and each platform has certain requirements and best practices that marketers will need to keep up with. Despite targeted advertisements supporting the social platform, many users will be annoyed or unnerved by messaging that is too frequent, or too specific.
Since social media is an accessible platform, it attracts a lot of competition. Brands must strive to stand out with compelling content. It’s necessary to keep your profile up-to-date, since an inactive social media profile can create mistrust among potential customers.
Additionally, with so many platforms, it’s important to stay up-to-date. New technologies are constantly emerging and different channels may be better for different audiences. Your team must figure out where your users are and how to reach them.
Key Considerations When Selecting Advertising Media
After evaluating the many different kinds of advertising media, it may be difficult to find the idea or bestl media channel. Each channel has a unique set of benefits, drawbacks, and applications that can help or hinder your organization’s marketing efforts. When selecting media for upcoming advertising campaigns, consider the following factors:
What is your strategy for this campaign? While a strategy can be fully fleshed out later in the planning process, media planners should begin by building a framework for their overarching strategy. Are you looking to increase general brand awareness, or increase sales on Black Friday? The ideal media channel for your campaign depends on its ultimate goal.
For instance, to increase sales on Black Friday, media planners should construct digital campaigns that encourage users to take action immediately. On the other hand, campaigns to promote brand awareness should take place over a wider time-span and include a more diverse media mix for best results.
Media planners should determine the campaign’s desired budget, and then allocate funds to different channels and spots based on that. If your firm has a modest media budget, they may need to choose the best option based on their available spend. For example, media planners may need to choose between a single television ad, or multiple digital banner ads in an online campaign. It’s better to understand the campaign’s monetary capabilities before determining the best possible channel.
Before booking an advertisement in television or radio, it’s important to understand how ratings relate to your campaign’s success. Ratings directly correspond with viewership in a specific demographic, so marketers should examine their target audience and place advertisements during programs with satisfactory ratings. So, if a television program has an 11 point rating for women between the ages of 18 and 30, that means that 11 percent of women between 18 and 30 watch that show.
Frequency is a significant determinant of how well campaigns perform. Marketers need to repeat messages frequently across multiple channels to ensure consumers internalize their marketing messages. Media planners should examine the campaign’s overall budget, and determine how it can be best allocated to reach its target audience on a regular basis. For maximum effectiveness, it’s recommended to use multi-channel campaigns that utilize a diverse set of channels in a unified way.
Efficacy of Previous Media Purchases
When determining your media planning budget, it’s helpful to understand what purchases have worked well for your team in the past. As a prerequisite, your marketing team should have an effective marketing attribution model in place that allows you to accurately measure offline and online data.
The most common method for accomplishing this is called unified marketing measurement. This form of measurement accounts for online and offline customer touchpoints, and uses advanced attribution to determine how significant each touchpoint was to their ultimate conversion. Marketers must have an advanced analytics and attribution solution to access this data and better allocate media spend.
How to Integrate an Advertising Media Mix
Modern marketers have access to a wide variety of channels that can transmit marketing messages in distinct ways. This often makes it difficult to settle on a single channel - and as a result, media planners and marketers often create a multifaceted media mix. As marketers tinker with this mix, they can enjoy the greatest strengths of each form of advertising media, while compensating for each channel’s shortcomings.
However, maintaining the ideal mixture of advertising media isn’t simple. Creating a multi-channel media plan requires additional creative and strategic energy, then marketers must continuously optimize their multi-channel campaigns. Otherwise, they risk damaging their ROI through wasted ad spend.
Thankfully, advanced marketing technology has made an optimized media mix more attainable. By leveraging the right tools and expertise, determined marketers can create a successful multi-channel media plan.