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Advertising Theory

By Rix Quinn, for

How do I determine the amount of space I need?
According to ad expert Nat Bodian, a half-page ad "will be about two-thirds as effective as a full-page ad in the same publication." Our gut feeling: An ad large enough to dominate other ads on that page, or a fractional-page "island" (example: a one-third page ad surrounded by editorial), should be noticed.

How is advertising purchased in the print media?
Magazines and newspapers divide their space into columns. If you decide to purchase a 3" ad, for instance, your ad would be one column wide by 3" deep, or three columns wide by 1" deep. A 6" ad might be two columns wide by 3" deep, three columns wide by 2" deep, or one column wide by 6" deep. Newspapers and magazines usually also sell ad space in fractions of a page: a full page, half, one-fourth, and so on.

Explain the confusing term CPM, or cost-per-thousand.
This is a way for you to contrast space costs between media. You figure the cost-per-thousand by dividing the cost of the ad by the circulation in thousands. For instance, let's say your cost for an ad is $1000 in a newspaper with a 25,000 circulation. You divide the $1000 by 25. Your CPM would be $40.

If I want to advertise outside my area in a publication I've never heard of, what is a good way to decide on the right publication?
You could use the Yellow Pages and then call individual publications and request media kits. But the Mediabids site will give you information on thousands of publications, right from your desktop. Simply do a search for a particular publication. Once you've found a particular publication you can just click on it to view its media kit to see if the publication is right for you. All the information you need will be right there!

How much impact should my salesperson have on my advertising decisions?
Your salesperson is probably an expert on the medium he sells. He can tell you that paper or magazine's primary readership, its circulation, and its demographic breakdown. You should also request (1) the names of two or three satisfied clients, (2) the amount of experience your rep has had in your industry, and (3) how long the rep has been selling and designing print advertising space.

Should I request placement in a particular section of a paper?
We always do. If it's a full-sized newspaper, we also request positions "above the fold," or on the outside columns (far left on a left-hand page, far right on a right).

Should I have a product or a promotion in mind when I schedule an ad?
No...but it's better if you do! We are NOT strong believers in "image" advertising. We think ads should be placed to achieve a SPECIFIC result. Do you want to get responses today? Tell consumers about your new service? Run a sale on an overstocked item? Every ad should contain a REASON for a customer to take action.

Should my ad focus on one particular service or product?
We think so. The simpler the advertising offer, the easier it is to understand. Focus on a single item -- or single message -- is often called the USP (unique selling proposition).

How do I decide where I should focus my ads?
We think a successful ad campaign should target a specific audience. Who are the primary customers you want? If you run a cheerleading school, you might select newspapers, or sections within them, that get read by school students. If you run a medium-priced restaurant, however, you'll likely look for a general audience...and especially target those in your geographic area.

How do I determine the true audience for my ad?
Ask yourself: "What category or customers - or what industry - buys the most from me?" That's where you need to concentrate your ad dollars. The easiest way to determine this is via sales history. Determine the demographics of prior purchasers.

Is it good or bad to have my advertisement located near a competitor's advertisement?
There's a retail concept called "clustering." For instance, if you're in the fast-food business, it might make sense to build near other fast-food places in order to gather part of the traffic. Unfortunately, we don't think this makes sense in advertising. What you need to promote is your "unique selling proposition"...your "differentness".

Should I perform research on competition and consumer need before I advertise?
Absolutely. But don't let competitors determine your strategy. Be different. Search for niche markets. Why go head-to-head with a competitor? Look for things and ideas you can advertise that your competitor cannot. (Examples: better location, more styles, evening retail hours, etc.)

How much should I spend per ad?
This is a very personal matter. We have seen company advertising budgets range from 2% to more than 10% of gross revenues. Many are adjusted monthly, so ads become a "non-variable fixed cost" of doing business. These things should be considered:

  1. The price of your product/service. The higher the price, the fewer items you will need to sell to justify the expense.
  2. Seasonality. Will my product sell better in summer? Winter?
  3. What is your competitor spending? Has this had a positive effect on his/her sales?
  4. What is your target market? What is the least amount you will have to spend to reach these primary customers?
  5. How much revenue will I have to make to get to "break even?"
  6. Are there residual -- or future -- benefits to advertising in a specific medium at this time? (Example: A business-to-business directory or a newspaper special section could keep selling for you all year.)
  7. Have you pre-tested your new ad with current customers?

Types of Advertising

If I have a great deal of information to get across, what is the best method to use?
There's an old saying about direct mail advertising: "The more you tell, the more you sell." If you've got a lot to say, you might put the ad in the form of an "advertorial" ad that looks like a news story. To help the reader along, use short sentences and paragraphs, and put a sub-headline after every few paragraphs to give the reader an "eye break."

What is "saturation advertising?"
This means if you've got $300 to spend, and three publications go to the same readership, you elect to spend all your money in a single publication instead of spreading it among all of them. Many ad experts think this is the best way to maximize impact.

What's the least expensive way to promote my business?
Speak, speak, speak! Develop a short, exciting talk on your specialty, and offer it free to local civic and professional clubs. It could bring you more business...or even turn you into a paid speaker!

Should I use classified or display advertising?
If you wish to reach a very targeted, specific group (shoppers looking for garage sales, special equipment, etc.) classifieds are ideal. Advantage: They're generally inexpensive, succinctly written, and - if they appear in a daily newspaper often provide almost "instant" feedback...especially if you include a phone number. Disadvantage: They're often grouped in a big section with lots of other small all-type ads. And they generally do not appear adjacent to news stories. Display ads can be placed in specific sections of a newspaper or magazine. They're usually surrounded by news stories (editorial). Displays often appear with photo(s)...feature a headline or special offer...and can also contain coupons.

What's the difference between business-to-business advertising and consumer advertising?
Business-to-business ads often focus on how to either make money or save money. If you advertise to consumers, you often address other desires they might status, beauty, appeal to the opposite sex, power, political alliance, etc.

What are inserts?
Inserts are ads carried in a newspaper or a magazine that are not part of the scheduled design for that issue. Scheduled ads are called R.O.P. (run of publication) ads. An insert can be printed by the publication in which it runs, or printed elsewhere. It can be folded into a newspaper, or stapled, pasted, or simply placed between pages of a magazine.

When should I use an insert?
Advertisers often use inserts when (1) they have a previously printed brochure they would like to send to potential customers, or (2) the advertising message requires several pages, or is extensive. (Examples: Grocery inserts in newspapers, "scratch and sniff" perfume ads in magazines)

What types of businesses have the best results using inserts?
Just about every type! Inserts come in all shapes and sizes, often contain coupons or samples, and help the advertiser present his/her message. It may also cost less to distribute brochures or catalogs by inserting them then it would be to mail them.

If I use inserts, who designs them?
We suggest that you supervise the design. Start by developing a rough idea of the size you want it to be ( letter size, newspaper tabloid size, etc.) and how many pages you want to put in it. Think about pictures, headlines, and copy for each page. Then take these rough ideas to a graphic artist or printer, who can help you develop the project.

About the Author:
Rix Quinn is a former business magazine writer, editor and publisher, writes marketing columns for several magazines, and gives workshops on niche marketing and sales writing for college and university continuing education programs. He also serves as a journalism consultant for two Texas school districts. 817-920-7999 or e-mail

About Mediabids:
Mediabids offers free media planning and buying tools that help you to save time researching publications and negotiating for ad rates in U.S. newspapers and magazines. Ad space is purchased via an auction format where you set the price and publications compete for your advertising dollars - or you can purchase ad space directly from a publication at terrific discounts. Mediabids services are free and there is no obligation to make a purchase (publications pay Mediabids a commission).

You can use Mediabids services yourself by going to or call them toll free at 866-236-2259 - and they'll act as your free media planner & buyer. .

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