Don't spend more to make your advertising less effective

There are times when doing too much can be as harmful to your bottom line as spending, and doing, too little.

Audience size isn’t everything

In buying media, for example, the temptation is to go for as large an audience as you can. It’s only logical. Logical, yes, but not necessarily right.

Let’s say you own a small downtown restaurant. Do you really think that your radio buy, reaching listeners a hundred miles away, is going to get people to drive two hundred miles, round trip, to your door?

The principle applies to dayparts as well as media. If that restaurant of yours does mostly lunch or, even worse, dinner business, does a morning drive time buy really make sense? Sure, it’ll reach the most listeners, but hours away from their next meal.

Radio is great for reaching people while they’re driving or, in many cases while they’re at work, but you can reach them with a less expensive time of day.

The newspaper equivalent of drive time is the Sunday edition, which historically draws more readers than any other day – sometimes more than other days combined. But paying more to reach more people on Sunday may just help you reach them too late.

A large Chevrolet dealer, whose biggest sales day was Sunday, used to pay the higher cost of buying space in Sunday editions. What happened, though, that was by the time people got up late on Sundays, browsed through the paper over leisurely brunches, got dressed and went car shopping, at least half the day was gone. When the dealership switched to Friday and Saturday advertising (giving people more time to see the ads and to shop throughout the weekend), it increased sales and cut media costs.

Ad size isn’t everything

Speaking of newspapers, while full pages are the most expensive advertising units, they aren’t the most noticed. What’s obviously a full page of advertising is all too easy for readers to flip past. A page-dominant unit – say, a vertical 3/8 page – dominates the page while attracting more attention to your message. This is for two reasons: First, the surrounding editorial content gives readers a reason to go to the page your ad is on. And second, the gray look of all the newspaper type surrounding a well-designed ad works like a matte in a picture frame, making the ad really pop.

Another newspaper investment to avoid is space in a special advertising section, where you pay extra to have your ad buried among all your competitors’, all bundled up in one easy-to-discard-unread supplement. If the supplement’s timing is right for your business, better to buy run-of-paper space in the same issue.

Newspapers tell you that you can boost readership of your ad by running it in color, because it will stand out from all the black-and-white ads next to it. That’s true as far as it goes. But what they don’t tell you is that when the production department gets hold of the color ads, they gang them all up together to save on printing costs. The result is that your ad gets lost among all the other color ads, and you’ve paid a premium for the dubious privilege.

Ranking isn’t everything

In buying a sponsored link (aka pay-per-click) online campaign, it’s natural to want the highest possible ranking (which, of course, costs extra). It’s natural but wrong. Go into your Google Adsense calculator, look at the traffic estimates, and surprise! Rankings four through seven bring in more traffic than rankings one through three – and at lower cost.

Results are everything

There’s nothing wrong, and a lot right,  with wanting to spend more on advertising to get more sales. But before you do, look carefully at how you’re going to spend it. Put your money into things that really do increase sales (e.g., more frequency), and you’ll get the higher ROI you’re looking for.