Is advertising still effective?

My experience in advertising is more from the other side of the fence. That is that I sell advertising space in the local fanzine I run, rather than create advertising for companies.

My personal experience as somebody selling advertising is that a lot of companies (especially small local ones) still like to pay for placing an advert and often don’t realise that they can get the same amount of coverage for free (if they do it themselves) by using PR and having an editorial piece written about them. I think this is because they can clearly see their advertisement, whether it be in a magazine, on the television or on a 40ft billboard. It’s also easier for small businesses to monitor to the success of an advert and judge whether it was money well spent or not.

As a consumer however, I have to question traditional advertising. It used to be that running an advert in an appropriate publication would be all it took to persuade consumers to buy your product.  The 1950’s had some great print advertisements like the shaving foam advert pictured. Nowadays I think it’s a lot harder for companies to run an advertising campaign that actually works. Consumer’s have learned to block out the constant advertisements they are exposed to every minute of the day. In an entire day, we’re likely to see 3,500 marketing messages (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2005/nov/19/advertising.marketingandpr) so an effective advert needs to stand out, but much more than that it needs to make the consumer go out and buy the product.

Humans are creatures of comfort, this is no different in their buying habits. Brand loyalty has a massive effect on consumer habits. For example PG Tips may have a great television advert that sticks out in your mind, but if you have always bought Tetley Tea then a great advert from PG Tips isn’t automatically going to make you change brands. In order to persuade consumers to buy into your brand you need create an emotional attachment to them.

As well as having brand loyalty we also like ‘impartial’ advice on products. Gone are the days when consumers relied on advertising to tell them how great a product is. Now we turn to industry experts or trusted bloggers to tell us which digital camera to buy. Consumers have become savvy to advertising and marketing techniques and that is where PR has picked up the reigns. By approaching journalists and bloggers to rate their products on their websites and telling their trusting followers what is the best product on the market to buy, companies are reaching consumers in a way they never have before.

On top of all of this, where do you put your advertisement? With so many different types of media, companies need their campaigns to be diverse and cover not just print or radio but online and social media etc. Viral adverts have become the latest trend with recent hits like the Muller yogurt advert which got almost a quarter of a million views in under 2 weeks. Something like this may not have immediately made consumers go out and buy Muller yogurts, but it has catapulted the brand into the consumer’s awareness which in time will translate into sales. With social media being big business a lot of companies are turning to Facebook and Twitter to advertise their products, but you cant rely on traditional methods when using these portals. WebTrends complied an interesting study on Facebook Advertising Performance one of the most poignant findings was that after 3 to 4 days the effectiveness of a Facebook advert dies off. This highlight the need for brands to change the advertisements a lot quicker than they ever had to when using print or television.

With all of these factors weighing down on the Advertising Industry it’s no wonder a lot of people are starting to wonder if advertising is on it’s last legs and PR is reaping the rewards. I however disagree. There is no doubt that successful advertising is more difficult to achieve than it used to be, but there are still creative advertisers out there coming up with amazing campaigns. Both Advertising and PR have their niches and for the moment I believe their is room for both of them to successfully work together.

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