The need for advertising in a recession

In times of a downturn one of the easiest areas to cut is advertising. It is easy because managers can simply decide to make the cut and, unless they are tied into a contract, then do it. It’s not like trying to get a reduction in rent, which means negotiating with the landlord, or reducing overheads like phone or electricity bills which entails putting controls and systems in place. Advertising can be cut, just like that.

You would do this, of course, only if you view advertising as an overhead. If you consider it an investment, which your marketing budget is, you wouldn’t dream of cutting it. Marketing, which includes advertising, is an investment in growing your business.

Like all investments, advertising should be carefully planned and decisions not made ad hoc. Some of the elements you need to consider when investing in advertising are:

Target market

In my experience, companies often fail to consider who their target market is before deciding on the advertising media they are going to use. Ask yourself, ‘who are we trying to sell to, and what will they be reading?’ It’s a straightforward question, but often goes unasked.

A good example of this is a Galway company which recently asked me to develop an advertising and PR campaign for them and they specified that they wanted to use Business and Finance. I explained to them the Business and Finance is an excellent magazine, but they would not get best possible return for their advertising investment as their own target market was localised to Galway, and not the Business and Finance segment of the market. The managing director of the company replied that the magazine had ‘prestige value’. Basically, the advertising budget was being used to make the MD feel good about himself, but was of no benefit to the business.

Your advertising has to be seen by your target market for it to be effective

Another example of poor targeting, and of reactionary spend of budget, that is very common this time of year, is taking advertising on various calendars and diaries. These publications generally come from local sporting groups, charities and trade publications. If you are happy to support a team, charity or trade group then definitely do so, but don’t expect it to bring in business unless it is an integrated part of your marketing plan, as opposed to a reaction to getting a sales call.

As an example of this, I received a call to my office from a sales person selling advertising space in a publication which was internal to a government department. Having listened to the sales talk, I asked if any of the recipients of the publication would be buyers of marketing services. He replied ‘no’. I asked what benefit this advertisement would be to me, he had no reply.

This again, is an example of your advertisement getting to your target market. If it doesn’t, it has no value outside of altruistic support of a group.

Advertising content/design

Once you’ve read this article, have a look at the actual design and content of your advertisement. What does it actually say? Is it selling? Is it differentiating you from your competitors? If you have a shoe shop and your ad says, ‘we are a shoe shop in Galway’ is this sufficient? No, it’s not. The content of your advertising needs to position you in the market place. Also, in terms of design, it needs to speak to your market.

To continue the shoe shop example, do you sell sports wear, men’s, women’s, children’s shoes? Are your prices cheap or are you offering high quality, high cost products. Are you targeting the fashion market or the formal market? A person seeing your advertisement should be able to answer all these questions from the ad itself.

Your advertisement also needs a ‘call to action’. It’s of little use simply advertising the fact you exist. Your advertisements have to give people a specific reason, with an incentive if possible, to come to your business and make a purchase, to actually become a customer.

Also, don’t make assumptions that your target market already knows who you are. It amazes me how often I see ads with no address or contact details. This is either an assumption, or a mistake, both of which are a disaster.

For the design, it should reflect your market. If you are targeting the fashion market the design should be colourful and funky, if you’re targeting high end formal footwear, the design should be elegant. In my experience, designers often design an advertisement which is visually excellent, but does not take into account what the ad is trying to sell and who the target for the ad is.


A key element for the effectiveness of advertising is repetition. There are a number of reasons for this. First is basic recall. Readers have to see an advertisement for, on average nine times before they remember it. A single ad is of little or no use. The second reason for repetition in advertising is credibility. When people see a company or product being advertised continuously they naturally start to lend credibility to the business. Finally, repetition builds overall brand awareness, promoting your company overall, as well as specific promoting specific products or services.


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