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6 Types of Media Advertising

Set Your Company Apart from Its Competitors

By

A photo of darts on a dartboard

Target your audience by using media advertising to boost your brand.

Photo © Stockbyte / Getty Images
Media advertising should be part of an overall promotion campaign that targets a desired audience. The type of ad you choose depends on which type of action you want from your users.

1. Topical Ad

Topical media advertising is the simplest to produce and has a specific goal. You want to give the audience a call to action -- to tune into tonight's newscast or pick up tomorrow's paper, for example.

Highlight your content. A newspaper might insert a quarter-page ad that says, "Complete 14-page high school football preview in Friday's edition of the Sugar Valley Herald-Leader.

A television station would promote its newscast by saying, "Tonight! Bed bug battles, what hotel workers don't want you to know -- tonight on Channel 2 News at 6:00."

Use topical ads when you have exclusive content that will compel people to read, listen or watch, or when you need a quick boost in your audience numbers. Topical ads have a short shelf life. After the football preview is distributed or the bed bug story airs, the ad's work is finished. But if you string a series of topical ads together over several days or weeks, you can turn these small spikes of usage into long-term trends.

2. Image Ad

An image ad could be considered the opposite of a topical. It has a long life because it's not geared toward getting people to the newsstand or newscast for specific content. Instead, an image ad builds your brand by highlighting the qualities you want the audience to associate with your media product.

A TV station may want to be known as the leader in breaking news coverage. It would produce a gritty, aggressive image spot with quick edits of the news team in action during a flood, hostage crisis or a plane crash.

A competitor may seek a different image, one of a compassionate neighbor who cares about your problems. Its image ad would show members of the news team in the community, pushing a child on a swing at the playground, handing a bouquet of flowers to an elderly lady, or picking up trash off the curbside.

This form of media advertising won't translate into an instant Nielsen ratings boost for either station. But because TV stations often fight the perception that they're all alike, image ads can differentiate your product from your competitors. It's also a good way to target audience demographics, because certain imagery will perform better with a young males versus older women.

3. Comparison Advertising

Comparison advertising puts aside imagery for hard facts. This is another way to set yourself apart from competing companies.

"Channel 4 is the only station with live radar. Not Channel 5. Not Channel 17. No one but Channel 4 has this lifesaving equipment," is a form of comparison advertising.

If your audience isn't noticing the reasons why your media product is unique, comparison ads may be the solution. But care must be taken not to appear mean-spirited. If your station wants to be seen as the friendly, neighborly station, comparison advertising may not work at all.

You can soften the punch by not naming your competitors directly. "No other station but Channel 4 has live radar," is more polite, but watering down your ad makes it less effective.

4. Customer Testimonial

A customer testimonial ad allows a user to do the talking, touting the benefits of your media company. These ads are often considered more credible than other forms of advertising because "real people" are seen as more trustworthy than an announcer making the pitch.

A parent could be seen saying, "I used to start my day with the local paper or by flipping on a morning newscast. But now I go to my hometown website to know how to get my kids dressed for school and which way to drive to work to avoid traffic. This website gives me all I need to know, fast."

While the parent is seen as more believeable than either an announcer or an employee of the website, the truth is many of these testimonials are scripted. The "parent" may even be a paid actor whose home setting is actually a studio set.

Casting a testimonial ad, whether you use real customers or an actor, is critical in supporting your brand. If you're trying to appeal to a younger audience, make sure you don't put someone in her 60s in your ad.

The script is also important. If you write something for the person to say, make sure it sounds conversational. An alternative is to allow the person to speak her own mind about what she likes about your company.

5. Jump on the Bandwagon

A jump on the bandwagon ad is common in advertising. It seeks to convey that "everyone is buying a product, so shouldn't you?"

A fledgling Top-40 radio station can try to convince listeners that "everyone is making the switch" away from the longtime #1 rated competitor. This can persuade people who want to be part of a trend and don't want to be left behind.

Because this type of pitch is everywhere, it works best when it's used with another form of advertising. Otherwise, it will seem empty when you say you're the "fastest-growing radio station" in town with little else to back up your claim.

This is still an effective approach for media advertising, because customers can't be seen. No one usually has any idea if a newspaper, radio station or website is popular -- unlike counting cars outside a restaurant to determine whether you want to eat there. It's your job to tout the size of your audience.

6. Proof of Performance

A proof of performance ad, or p.o.p., is unique in that it is released after a big event. You want to showcase how your media company handled a big story, like an election night or hurricane.

"When Hurricane Hilda battered the coast, Action News was there. We had live reports, emergency information and kept you safe until the danger was over. The next time bad weather threatens, turn to Action News."

You want to remind people of what you did better than anyone else. Even people who missed your hurricane coverage will be exposed to what you accomplished and will be left with the message that the next time there's an emergency, they need to choose you for information.

But be careful about bragging too much. That can be a turnoff, especially in a crisis involving the loss of life. You don't want to say, "When 10 people died, we were the first to tell you!" and have your audience accuse you of poor taste.

The best media advertising strategy doesn't rely solely on any one of these forms of media promotion. By creating a mix of ads, you can target the needs of a specific situation in order to get the most results from your audience.

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