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An advertising campaign involves the development and placement of a series of strategic messages that are united by a core theme. The strategic messages are intended to promote a product, a service, or an idea among a specific group of people. Advertising campaigns usually have specific objectives or goals, such as increasing people’s awareness of a product or service, changing people’s attitudes toward a product or service, or enhancing people’s demand for a product or service. To ensure that a specific group of people can receive them, the strategic messages appear in various media channels across a specific time frame, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, or the Internet.
To build up the advertising objectives, advertisers need to obtain information on the relevant market for the product/service, outline its strengths and weaknesses, and assess its opportunities and any threat to it. While many large firms have their own marketing department to monitor the marketing environment, smaller firms hire an external marketing research company to do so. Researchers use two types of research to collect marketing data: primary and secondary. Through primacy research, researchers can collect data from the marketplace directly. However, conducting primary research is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, many researchers frequently conduct secondary research and collect data from published reports and databases.
Also, advertisers, before developing an advertising campaign, need to understand the target audience, a specific group of people whom a company wishes to reach. Those people may share similarities in certain characteristics, such as age, gender, marital status, geographical location, social status, and so on. For example, the luxury brand Chanel caters to middle-or upper-class urban men and women aged 18 to 40 years who love fashion and have good taste for elegance. The jeans brand Levi’s targets young urban men and women aged 18 to 35 years who love fashion and are optimistic about the future. Researchers need to design studies to explore the target audience’s attitudes, habits, personality traits, lifestyles, and specific needs and wants. Many social scientists have conducted research to study consumer decisions and to find out the factors that influence a person’s decision to choose a product. Besides a person’s own mental and physical status, social influence from family members, colleagues, or friends can also shape people’s decisions.
Based on the information about the market, the product, and the target audience, advertisers develop advertising objectives. After establishing the advertising objectives, advertisers develop an advertising strategy to fulfill the objectives. Advertising strategy includes creative strategy and media strategy. The critical part of creative strategy is to develop a core theme that sets the tone for all the advertising messages communicated through an advertising campaign. A core theme is the central message that conveys the benefit of the product/service and inspires consumers’ desire for the product/service. The process of developing the core theme or the central message of an advertising campaign is tedious. Advertising artists need to gather all the relevant information about the product, collect consumers’ opinions about the product, and search for a key verbal or visual concept to communicate the core assets of the product. The author Roger von Oech suggested that when artists create the central message for a product, they can think of what else the product can do for the target audience instead of the obvious. When there is information overload and a creative block, artists can just walk away and then come back after a break with a great idea. Once the creative thinkers identify the central message, they start to implement it. This is where the real advertising messages come in—writing the persuasive words and choosing the right layout. The words included in an advertising campaign not only communicate information about the product but also arouse people’s positive feelings and desire for the product. By choosing the right text types, colors, and graphic image, artists create the right atmosphere for consumers to process the advertising information and imagine about the product. A good combination of verbal and visual elements makes an advertising campaign work.
Moreover, advertisers can adopt different types of appeals in advertising messages to reach the target audience, such as the fear, humor, rational, sex, and bandwagon appeals. Fear appeals focus on the negative outcome if people do not do something as suggested by an advertisement. For instance, skin product ads often appeal to women’s fear of aging and tell women that if they do not use the advertised products, more wrinkles will grow on their skin. Humor appeals make the target audience laugh when they are exposed to the ads. Through humorous ads, advertisers hope to attract the target audience’s attention and to generate positive attitudes toward the ads and thus toward the product. Rational appeals focus on the function of a product, and ads usually provide factual information to emphasize the product benefits. Ads also use sex appeals to capture an audience’s attention. For instance, beer ads often use sexy young models to promote the product and to link the product to an attractive and sexy image. A bandwagon appeal corresponds to people’s desire to fit in with a group, and it makes consumers believe that they need to buy a product because others are using it.
Some issues arouse people’s attention when advertisers try to put an advertising campaign in international markets. For instance, there is a debate on whether an advertising campaign should be standardized or localized to different markets. For many global brands, adopting a standardization strategy sounds good. According to the international marketing researcher Marieke De Mooij, the standardization strategy helps an advertising campaign maintain a uniform brand image across markets, save costs, simplify the planning process, and make good use of the same ideas and management resources. When the standardization strategy is used, the advertising messages need to be translated into local languages while the other elements of the advertising campaign remain the same across all the markets. The standardization strategy works especially when the advertising messages include universal themes and appeals. However, due to cultural differences, local consumers may not accept the advertising messages the way people from the original market do. Some symbols used in the original ads may not resonate with the local people, and sometimes a color that refers to happiness in one culture may imply death or blasphemy in another. Therefore, some companies prefer the localization strategy. De Mooij noted that international advertisers using localization strategies adopt the same central message and the same advertising objectives across markets but execute the central message in different ways in different markets. Since different countries have different cultural values and media systems, advertisers may use different types of appeals across countries, different media vehicles to carry the advertising messages, and different spokespersons to increase the credibility of the messages across markets.
Media strategy describes how the advertising messages can be communicated to a specific group of people through the use of media vehicles within a given budget. Depending on how many people from the target audience a media vehicle can reach, how often the target audience use a certain media vehicle, and how much it costs to place advertising messages on a media vehicle, campaign planners can figure out a combination of various media vehicles to use. Moreover, since a variety of media vehicles are used in an advertising campaign, these campaigns can include different types of advertising. For instance, if newspapers and magazines are used, print advertising comes into being. A print advertisement contains a headline, subhead, body copy, slogan, and logo. The role of a headline is to arouse people’s attention, engage them, present the benefits of the product, and lead people to the main body copy. A subhead adds additional information to the headline and provides support for the headline. The body copy tells the sales story about the product and covers the benefits and features of the product in detail. Also, the body copy needs to capture people’s attention, to offer evidence to support the claim in the headline and subhead, to emphasize the product’s unique selling points, and to reduce people’s doubts about the product. A print advertisement also includes a slogan. The use of a slogan serves two purposes: first, to link all the ads in an advertising campaign together and, second, to present the key point of an advertisement in one single statement.
An advertising campaign can also include radio and television advertising if radio and television are used as its media vehicles. Compared with print advertising, radio and television advertising are able to present the sales story in more vivid ways. While radio advertising can add audio cues, such as music and voice, television advertising can include both audio and visual cues, such as music, animation, and the image of the endorsing person. However, when advertising campaigns have a tight budget, they may not be able to afford to use television as a communication vehicle.
Also, ads can be traced on Web sites, search engines (e.g., Google), and social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. The Internet provides an alternative and affordable platform for advertising campaigns to reach their target audience. Noticeably, Google provides services for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their advertising messages on Google, such as how many people have clicked on the ads placed on Google. Also, Google allows advertisers to customize the group of people they target and their daily budget. Other social media, such as YouTube, have also inspired advertisers to place video ads on the platform to attract many young people. These ads rely on social media users to spread them to others via the technological functions equipped on the social media, such as sharing and liking. In addition, advertisers have taken advantage of social networking sites to deliver individually tailored ads. Their tactics include tracking user behaviors and activities on social networking sites, searching for the pages and content social networking site users have visited and browsed, and following their status change (e.g., “in a relationship,” “married,” or “having upcoming birthday”) to deliver advertising tailored to their interests. Moreover, advertisers may even place ads in other digital media platforms, such as DVDs, video games, and mobile phones. Since the appearance of the smart phone in the market, advertisers have been placing ads on mobile phones. Banner ads are inserted into apps that users download on their smart phones. When they open the apps, they are exposed to the advertising messages.
When selecting the right media vehicles to use, advertisers also need to determine the schedule of placing the advertising messages in each media vehicle within a period of time, from a few weeks to a few years. They can either schedule advertising messages continuously throughout the time period, schedule advertising messages to run during time intervals separated by periods within the given time frame, or schedule advertising messages to run more frequently during some periods and less frequently during other periods.
An often-cited example of a successful advertising campaign is the Dove Real Beauty Campaign. The campaign was developed in 2004 after global research showed that only 2 percent of women consider themselves beautiful. The core theme “Campaign for Real Beauty,” which aims to improve women’s self-esteem, is a groundbreaking idea. The brand consulting author and practitioner Allen P. Adamson noted that because of the campaign, women would love to talk about Dove and believe that Dove products can make them feel more beautiful and confident. To execute the core idea, the campaign first included a series of billboards that featured real women with real curves and real figures. The portrayal of these real women falls outside the traditional definition of beauty propelled by mainstream media, such as women’s magazines. Contrary to the unattainable and unrealistic body images portrayed in mainstream media, Dove aims to redefine beauty. To reach women around the world and to invite them to join the beauty conversation, Dove has employed various media vehicles, such as billboards, women’s magazines, and social media. As Adamson noted, Dove has created a “newsworthy story,” and the brand’s promise to make women feel beautiful has helped it achieve great success.
Although advertising campaigns are most frequently associated with the promotion of consumer products, they also extend to a plethora of other areas, such as political elections and health promotions. For example, the purpose of Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 was not to promote a product but to support the idea of Obama winning the election. The central message of the campaign was “change,” and the slogan “Change We Can Believe In” was used in the campaign. Through the campaign, Obama’s image was linked to “change,” while his opponents were not. Moreover, Obama’s team identified two critical target audiences who should receive the messages: (1) undecided voters and (2) young voters. The campaign aimed to persuade undecided voters that they could change Washington if they voted for Obama. For young voters, the campaign encouraged them to register to vote. To reach these two groups of people, the campaign adopted a variety of media vehicles, both traditional media (i.e., television, radio, newspapers) and social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, MySpace). The use of social media to target young voters marks a success of the campaign. Because many young people rely on social media to get political information, Obama’s campaign team realized that creating a presence for Obama on social media was a necessity, and they sent out voting reminders on Twitter and interacted with people on Facebook. As a result, Obama made his policies widely known among American youth and gained their support.
An example of promoting healthy behaviors is the “Tips” campaign launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012. The primary target audience of this campaign is smokers aged 18 to 54 years, and the secondary audiences include people whose family, friends, or children are smokers, and health care providers. The central message of this antismoking campaign focused on “tips.” The campaign aimed to raise public awareness of the health damage caused by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, to encourage smokers to quit smoking and adopt a healthier lifestyle, and to remind nonsmokers to protect themselves from exposure to secondhand smoking. To fulfill the objectives, the Tips campaign featured emotional stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases (i.e., throat cancer, gum disease, premature birth, asthma, stroke, diabetes, etc.) and disabilities. In the campaign, several former smokers offered tips on how smoking changed their life in a negative way. Also, the campaign featured nonsmokers who got smoking-related diseases due to exposure to secondhand smoke. To reach the target audience, the campaign appeared on television and social media, such as YouTube.
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