The Role of Advertising in a Promotional Mix

by Cheryl Munson; Updated September 26, 2017
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Advertising is the “grease that drives” the promotion. The greatest promotion in the world could produce the most dismal response without incorporating advertising as part of the overall mix. Advertising is used to make a large potential body of target audience members aware of the promotion, to communicate the key benefits and to deliver a compelling reason why the target audience members should take advantage of the promotion. Effectively executed, advertising plays a significant role in achieving the promotion objectives and goals and provides a means to measure results.

Reach Target Audience

Advertising is used to “reach” and communicate with the target audience members for the promotion. For example, if a daycare center conducts a promotion to offer a week of free childcare for new customers, it might use magazine advertising to reach working moms with children under age 5. Close attention would be paid to how many readers the magazine reaches who meet the target audience criteria. Readership statistics from several magazines would then be compared to make the final selection of where to place the advertisement about the promotion.

Generate Awareness

It is important to use advertising media strategically and effectively to achieve awareness of the promotion and gain a Return on Investment (ROI). For example, a newly opened fitness club in a downtown area might develop a promotional campaign to target downtown office workers. The fitness club could strategically purchase radio advertising time to air commercials during morning and evening commute hours (also referred to as “drive time”), to reach the target audience as they listen to the radio while driving to and from work. The club could then track new members and revenue gained as a result of airing the radio commercials.

Drive Traffic

Marketers and advertisers often set a goal to “drive traffic” during a promotion. This term can encompass driving traffic to all stores in a chain, specific retail locations or perhaps a website. A tax preparation software company might place a banner ad on the website for an office supply store. The banner ad could promote a discount or free use of the program for a limited time. When people click on the banner ad they are driven (or redirected) to the website for the software company to get the free trial or purchase the software during the promotional period.

Communicate the Call to Action

The “call to action” is a major element of the advertising message. In a promotions campaign, it is used tell the target audience members what to do to participate in the promotion and gain the benefits or advantages offered. A banner ad on a website will say, “click here” for more information. A TV commercial promoting a special sale at a department store will say “shop this weekend only.” A newspaper ad promoting a free oil change might say, “bring in this ad” in order to get the free service. In each case, the advertising serves to tell the target audience to take an action that qualifies them to take advantage of the promotion.

Measure Response and Effectiveness

Advertising provides a means to measure the overall response and results of the promotion campaign. In an online advertising campaign, the number of clicks on banner ads and number of website visitors can be tracked. In cases where the promotion has been held before, and without advertising, measurements can be taken to analyze increases (or decreases) in several areas, such as sales, attendance and repeat purchases or participation. Polling customers at check-out or at promotional events is also a useful technique to gather data to compare results when different forms of advertising are used (such as print, online banners and commercials).

About the Author

Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

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