Advertising Strategy

An advertising strategy is a plan to reach and persuade a customer to buy a product or a service. The basic elements of the plan are 1) the product itself and its advantages, 2) the customer and his or her characteristics, 3) the relative advantages of alternative routes whereby the customer can be informed of the product, and 4) the optimization of resulting choices given budgetary constraints. In effect this means that aims must be clear, the environment must be understood, the means must be ranked, and choices must be made based on available resources. Effective product assessment, market definition, media analysis, and budgetary choices result in an optimum plan—never the perfect plan because resources are always limited.


Positioning Statement

Formal advertising strategies are based on a “positioning statement,” a technical term the meaning of which, simply, is what the company’s product or service is, how it is differentiated from competing products and services, and by which means it will reach the customer. The positioning statement covers the first two items in the listing above.

Implicit in a good positioning statement is what the industry calls the product concept, namely a cluster of values that the product or service represents and the associational frameworks in which it fits. A hunting knife will thus have a very different product concept than a pair of pink silk slippers that glow in the dark. The product concept will later guide the choice of copy, images, and message content to be used in actual ads (the “copy platform”). The positioning statement must also implicitly include the profile of the targeted customer and the reasons why he or she would buy this product or this service. At a later stage, more data on the “target consumer” is then developed as the strategy is fleshed out.

Target Consumer

The target consumer is a complex combination of persons. First of all, it includes the person who ultimately buys the product. Next it includes those who, in certain circumstances, decide what product will be bought (but do not physically buy it). Finally, it includes those who influence product purchases (children, spouse, and friends). In practice the small business owner, being close to his or her customers, probably knows exactly how to advise the advertising agency on the target consumer.

Communication Media

Once the product and its environment are understood and the target consumer has been specified, the routes of reaching the consumer must be assessed—the media of communication. Five major channels are available to the business owner:

  • Print—Primarily newspapers (both weekly and daily) and magazines.
  • Audio—FM and AM radio.
  • Video—Promotional videos, infomercials.
  • World Wide Web.
  • Direct mail.
  • Outdoor advertising—Billboards, advertisements on public transportation (cabs, buses).

Each of the channels available has its advantages, disadvantages, and cost patterns. A crucial stage in developing the advertising strategy, therefore, is the fourth point made at the outset: how to choose the optimum means, given budgetary constraints, to reach the largest number of target consumers with the appropriately formulated message.


The advertising campaign itself is distinct from the strategy, but the strategy is meant to guide implementation. Therefore across-the-board consistency is highly desirable. Copy, artwork, images, music—indeed all aspects of the campaign—should reflect the strategy throughout. This is especially important when multiple channels are used: print, television, and direct mail, for instance. To achieve a maximum coherence, many effective advertisers develop a unifying thematic expressed as an image, a slogan, or a combination which is central to all the elements that ultimately reach the consumer.


Berkowitz, Ira. Vault Career Guide to Advertising. Vault, Inc., April 2004.

Gordon, Kim T. “Selecting the Best Media for Your Ad.” Entrepreneur. September 2003.

Ries, Al,and Laura Ries. The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. HarperCollins, May 2004.

Stafford, Marla R., and Ronald J. Faber. Advertising, Promotion, and New Media. M.E. Sharpe, October 2004.


4 thoughts on “Advertising Strategy

  1. Nice, succunct summary kensafbi! I think you’ve summed up the entire unit in your blog! What’s really come across in this blog is the importance of planning every aspect of your overall marketing strategy not just the advertising strategy. .


  2. A good summary of everything to do with advertising. you can write an excellent book on this topic mate. as you clearly mentioned in your blog, the cost for ads is dear which means a company must choose a communication medium which must reach its intended customer base as well as being cost friendly.


  3. Great blog. It made me stop and think about an example of a company that uses many different media channels to get message to their target consumer, While I was thinking about this I started looking through the junk mail from my letterbox. One of the first ones I noticed was for Subway. Now I wouldn’t imagine Subway would be able to compete with the larger fast food companies, in terms of money to spend on advertising, but I do think they do a very good job of getting their message across.

    Who doesn’t know that Subway means ‘eat fresh!’. They combine the use of direct mail outs (junk mail) with timely ads on radio, TV, outdoors, and online to clearly get the message across, that their food is fresher, and also implied to be healthier. I always seem to notice their ads when I’m hungry, and forget about it if your within smelling distance of one of their stores! The baking bread onsite technique is a stroke of genius. Once that smell hits you it is very hard to resist.

    I think they do a very good job appealing to their target consumer, at the right time and the right place. The company uses advertising that is clear, directed, and easily associated with their products. Subway continues to evolve its menu offerings to ensure regular customers have variety, and new customers are attracted.


  4. Very good summary of advertising planning and strategy! 🙂
    To use most of the advantages of these channels a cross-media communication strategy could be useful – depending on the product, the overall objective and the target group!


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