How To Develop an Effective Ad Campaign

Developing an Effective Ad Campaign

                                                             Copyright GWR Research 2012


Since advertising is the primary method for businesses to inform and influence individuals to consider and purchase their products, the question is often asked, “How many exposures are needed to cause an individual to act?” Unfortunately there is no formula available to answer this question but there are considerations that can help.

Roger Wimmer, Ph.D. authored an article, “The Five Stages of Communication/Persuasion”. In his article Dr. Wimmer points out that all people must pass through five stages to make a decision about anything or learn anything. These stages are 1) Unawareness, 2) Awareness, 3) Comprehension, 4) Conviction and 5) Action.

If bringing an audience from the stage of Unawareness to the final stage of Action is the goal, the frequency of exposure to an advertising message will be much higher than that which is required for just moving the audience from Conviction to Action.

Moving through all five stages probably would involve a product or concept that is new to the audience and the initial communications would have to educate the audience. The more complicated the product or concept, the greater the education requirements will be. For example introducing a new drink to a market familiar with drink products will require less education than introducing insurance to an audience unfamiliar with the concept.

Moving from conviction to action is seemingly the easiest and should require the least number of messages to result in favorable action. This however is not necessarily the case.  An individual may know there is a need for a product but may be hesitant to make a purchase due to budgetary restraints or the inability to make a choice from many similar products.


Most businesses have a good idea of the composition of the target audience to receive advertising messages. The managers know the products, their uses and the intended audiences.  The audience demographic profiles can be fairly broad to very specific. For example, introducing a new computer would suggest those individuals that use a computer are the intended audience of the ad message for the computer. As it turns out, computer users come in every sex, age or other demographic profile.

Offering new roofing can be more specifically targeted to individuals who own homes 25 years old or older who have not purchased a new roof.

Before designing an ad or message, it is recommended that some time be spent on understanding the audience by identifying the stage of the persuasion cycle, the demographic profile and the specific message to deliver.  In some cases a general message delivered through a general reach media provides an efficient, effective means of moving individuals to action. In other instances a specifically directed message to an individual may be needed to result in action.


Choosing the right media for an advertising message should be considered as important as understanding the audience.  Broad reach media should be considered effective when:
1)   The audience is broad such as computer users or homeowners,
2)   The product or concept is new and requires audience education,
3)   The product is well known and is available from many sources, or
4)   The product has different uses by different audiences.

More targeted media should be considered effective when:
1)   The audience can be identified by 3 or more demographic characteristics,
2)   The audience has a specific interest,
3)   The audience has a specific ethnic, age, industry or target profile, or if,
4)   Individuals or small clusters of individuals are targeted.

General circulation newspapers are probably the most effective media for a broad market reach. In 2012, 42.9 % of total adults in the U.S. read a newspaper daily and 44.0% read a newspaper on Sunday1. Advertising messages can be placed in various sections of the newspaper to reach certain subsets such as sports and entertainment audiences. Newspapers also allow preprinted inserts that can be “zoned” to be distributed in specific zip codes or geographic areas.
Direct mail and shared mail programs provide the ability to reach the broader market or very targeted markets. The USPS reports that 74% of households read direct mail advertising weekly. Ad messages can be tailored to specific individuals or can be a uniform message to all recipients.

Radio and television have a broad reach but generally can’t duplicate the reach demonstrated by newspapers or direct mail. Radio and television lend themselves to distributing messages to demographically unique groups that watch or listen to certain programming. While the viewing or listening audience may be large and diverse, radio and TV audiences will be smaller than those reached by a general circulation newspaper or a full market mailing.

The Internet has the ability to reach general and targeted audiences. An ad placed for general viewing on a high traffic site such as Google will be exposed to a wide array of web surfers. An ad that employs key word searches can direct a very targeted audience to an ad or web site. Social media such as FaceBook and LinkedIn can reach very large audiences effectively.

Radio, television and the Internet have huge audiences but they are fragmented due to the number of channel or site choices available. When choosing these media it is important to study the consumers characteristics and target shows and sites that reach the targeted consumers.

Ethnic media provide the ability to reach meaningful audiences in a large diverse market. For example in Houston, Texas, there are newspapers for the African American, Hispanic, Jewish, Chinese, Pakistani and Indian communities. Advertising in ethnic media may open access to markets that are not available through traditional media. These communities are large enough to represent significant purchasing power for products offered and the publications are usually reasonably priced.

Targeted or niche publications reach audiences that are smaller and have more defined characteristics but may still be quite general in nature. A Vietnamese newspaper in a large metropolitan area would still reach individuals that have a wide array of needs and interests. Trade and topic focused magazines would reach more defined professional groups that are comprised of a large number of demographic profiles.

Outdoor advertising has the ability to reach the general audiences or targeted groups through the number and geographic placement of signage.

If an audience is reached by a media that doesn’t mean the advertising message will be received. The ad may not be welcomed in certain media.  The term “junk” mail was coined as a phrase describing advertising mail that cluttered the recipient’s mailbox. TIVO and then cable ready versions allow television viewers to eliminate advertising messages. The popularity of these programs suggests that in certain instances advertising is not welcomed. On the Internet the ability to screen “junk” email and close or prevent “pop up “ and others modes of  advertising also suggests that ad messages are not wanted at times.


Effective frequency is the number of times a message needs to be delivered to the right audience to result in action and is within the cost constraints of the advertising budget. Effective frequency requires that the advertiser understand the audience, the stage of the persuasion process, the cost of delivering the message and the best media to deliver the message.

For most products the general audience media is the best place to start unless the intended audience is a very small subset of the general population. General audience advertising can be supported with more targeted media to promote action.  For example adding ethnic publications may be a good way to reinforce advertising in the broader reach newspaper. These messages followed up with messages through the Internet key word searches or direct mailing will further enhance the ability to move audiences to action.

Another approach is to support a series of ads in a targeted media with fewer ads in a general audience media. Directing messages through key word searches, direct mail or targeted publications for specific audiences can be enhanced by an overarching ad in a general market media outlet.

The frequency of ads will generally be determined by an advertising budget. The mix of ad media should maximize the number of messages delivered to the targeted audience. If the budget is very limited and the target market is small, a well thought out series of direct mail, social media or email messages may be appropriate. For example a direct mailing to 10,000 CEOs might cost between $3,500 and $5,000. If there were ten messages needed to educate the CEO audience and lead them to action, a $50,000 budget would be required. An email  or social media campaign could cost less.

If the desired audience were all CEOs in a large area, a general circulation newspaper might be a good choice. For around $10,000, a quarter page ad can be purchased in most major newspapers. If ten messages were required, the newspaper budget would be $100,000. A positive consequence of this form of advertising is the reach of non-CEOs who would also have interest in the product. If the total number of CEOs in the market were 150,000, a direct mailing follow up might be prohibitive and could be replaced with an email, social media or niche product advertising campaign.

Gary Randazzo is founder of GWR Research, a media marketing and management consulting firm. Mr. Randazzo served as Senior VP at the Houston Chronicle and EVP and General Manager of the San Francisco Chronicle. He can be reached at

1) Newspaper Association of America


Unknown said…

Great site, I like this kind of site very much. I am searching this email advertising service. I think it is good site for Targeted email advertising service. Thanks for admin.
Unknown said…
The Five Stages of Communication/Persuasion really sum up what is needed to make a potential customer act. If you have a business for sale brisbane you need to understand this to get a good offer.

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