Online versus Print Advertising

It's sobering to see how much money is spent every year on advertising. Through Google I found estimates in the realm of half a trillion dollars. General Motors alone spent over $4 Billion on advertising last year. Curiously, they pulled their advertising from Facebook a week before the latter went public, apparently because the phone wasn't ringing. As powerful as online advertising has become, it’s clear that it doesn’t always meet expectations.

Businesses of all sizes wrestle with striking the right balance between print and online marketing (I will cover television and radio advertising another time). Do you spend your precious marketing dollars on print advertising or online advertising? There are many advantages to focusing more heavily on your online advertising, but as General Motors discovered if it's not working you need to understand why.

In most cases, online advertising gives you control over who sees your ad, making it easier to track. Web addiction aside, there is a good chance that most of your customers access the web at least once a day. With the right online advertising, you can launch an ad campaign, specify the target demographic, and measure the results. With print advertising, you choose a publication you know and read yourself or would read if you had more time.

Even when an ad resonates well with a prospective customer, it may take some time before they bite the bullet and become an actual customer. Sometimes you might hear from an old customer who comes back after trying out your competition. Search advertising, such as Google Adwords, appeals to some because you reach your customer at the precise moment when they happen to be looking for what you sell.

If you don’t work with an agency and decide on the do-it-yourself approach, you certainly have your work cut out for you. There are a lot of choices to be made and you may get lost in the morass of details. You can experiment and see what works, but sometimes it pays to get a professional involved. Just make sure you have a realistic budget in mind. I like to use a simple formula: for every dollar you spend on advertising, you should expect $10 back in gross revenue. If you spend $100, you should expect $1,000 back in gross revenue. But don’t expect to see $1million ROI with only a $100 investment. If that happens, be sure you don't tell me about it because I'll ask you for more money next time.

Of course, advertising is not just about where you place your ads or which media you choose. It is also about strategy, art direction, and being in tune with your audience. I think the art of advertising can be summed up this way: make it memorable. The creative recipe is not so easy to describe in words. It helps to have an instinct for it, to see whether something works or not. It's appalling to me just how much advertising is just plain awful and offensive. I will never go to Carl's Jr. because I think their ads are sickening.

If your phone is ringing you have a good ad. If you’re getting emails from interested prospects your ad is working. The phone has been around for over a century, and I started using email before Mark Zuckerberg was born. Make sure you know which ad is making the phone ring and try to understand why it was a success.