In the pursuit of its purpose, the economic and social effects of advertising have become the subject of continuing debate. A quick flavor of the arguments put forward on both sides can be had from the table below.
The table presents two viewpoints, one considering advertising as an information disseminating utility function and the other viewing advertising as a source of market power.
On balance, advertising has carved out an indispensable place for itself in the marketing mix of a firm. Phillip Kotler very aptly refers to the following situations where advertising is likely to make a greater contribution. The situations are:
- When buyer awareness is minimal
- When industry sales are rising rather than remaining stable or declining
- When the product has features normally not observable to the buyer
- When opportunities for product differentiation are strong
- When primary instead of secondary motives can be tapped.
Are there some limitations to the role of advertising? The answer is obviously in the affirmative. Advertising, in the words of Richard H. Stansfield, cannot do the following:
- Sell a bad product twice.
- Sell an overpriced or otherwise non-competitive product.
- Sell a poorly distributed product.
- Sell a seasonal product out of season (significantly).
- Sell products to persons having no use for them.
- Work overnight.
- Do the selling job alone.
The usefulness of advertising, which has for long been accused of being a capitalist tool and a bane of the market economy, is now being realized by the planned and communist economies too. While Yugoslavia, USSR, Poland, and Hungary shed their hostility to advertising quite a few years ago, China is welcoming advertisements propelled marketing now.
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Advertising constitutes one of the four components of a firm’s promotion mix, which in turn forms an integral element of the firm’s marketing mix. In order to implement the marketing concept and to achieve the objectives of integration among different elements of the marketing mix, it is necessary that the advertising functions be systematically planned.
In particular, the link of advertising with the promotion and marketing objectives of the firm on the one hand, and with factors like product positioning objectives, the role of a sales force, dealer support plan, and the buying habits of consumers, on the other hand, must be clearly established.
This link helps a firm to achieve the desired push-pull strategy objectives and enables the product to have a distinct personality. The task involved in advertising is, therefore, complex and its management requires systematic decision-making.
In short, the basic decision-areas in advertising are:
- Setting advertising objectives
- Determining the advertising budget
- Developing advertisement copy and message
- Selecting and scheduling media
- Measuring advertising effectiveness.
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Setting Advertising Objectives
An advertisement is either good or bad in its ability to achieve its objectives. Though advertising is largely informative and persuasive in nature, yet to do a good job, the objectives of each advertising campaign need to be clearly spelled out in measurable terms, in order to focus clearly on the target audience, and on the period over which these are to be achieved.
Russel H. Colley called for the need to provide an explicit link between advertising goals and advertising results in his pioneering approach nicknamed DAGMAR – Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results.
Colley distinguished 52 advertising goals that might be used in connection with a single advertisement, a year’s campaign for a product, or a company’s entire advertising philosophy. Some of such goals are as follows:
- Announce a special reason for ‘buying now’ (price, premium, and so on)
- Build familiarity and easy recognition of the package or trademark
- Place advertiser in position to select preferred distributors and dealers
- Persuade prospect to visit a showroom, ask for a demonstration
- Build up the morale of the company sales force
- Correct false impressions, misinformation, and other obstacles to sales
- Implant information or attitude regarding benefits and superior features of the brand.
According to DAGMAR, the communication task of the brand is to gain (a) awareness, (b) Comprehension, (c) Conviction, (d) Image, and, (e) Action. Advertising goals should, therefore, be specific to the communication task(s) to be performed. The process of advertising goal- setting thus, should begin by understanding the dynamics of marketing communication effectively.
Further, let us also understand that improving sales is not the only objective of advertising. Advertising is only one of the factors influencing sales, the other being:
- Different elements of the marketing mix,
- The competitive position of the firm, and
- The purchasing power and the need of a buyer.
Also, the impact of advertising often occurs over the long run and not necessarily immediately, since consumers may belong to different stages of the product adoption process at a point in time. The advertising objectives are to:
- Inform and build awareness
- Create brand knowledge
- Reinforce position attitudes about the brand
- Precipitate buying action
- Increase sales
- Build up an image.