In marketing and advertising, the term medium is used to describe the communication mechanism, such as television or radio, through which you deliver a message to a target customer audience. A media vehicle is the specific medium where your message is placed, such as a particular local radio station. In developing your media strategy, several differences apply to choosing a medium versus a vehicle.

Broad to Narrow

In essence, a marketing medium is the general class or category of media, and the vehicle is the specific publication or station where you buy time or space to place your ad. Television and radio are common broadcast media. You buy time, often in 30- to 60-second spots, on specific TV or radio stations. In print publications, such as newspapers and magazines, and online, you buy space where your banner ad or pop-up ad appears.

Sensory Appeals

When you select a particular medium and vehicle, sensory appeals are an important consideration. Television is a popular medium to showcase your product and deliver creative messages to a broad audience. However, local businesses may struggle to find a particular vehicle, or station that offers affordable TV spots. You might want to place a print ad in a local newspaper, because papers offer a more affordable alternative. However, the use of color, quality of print production, circulation and readership of a particular newspaper vehicle impacts the value you get from a placement.

Audience Reach

The size and breakdown of the audience is a critical factor in media selection. Efficiency is the primary goal in media and vehicle selection. You want to reach the largest number of people in your target audience at the most affordable cost. Radio is another affordable option for local businesses. You can often buy lots of spots for several hundred to a few thousand dollars. However, when you select the specific media vehicle, or station, you need to consider the format, such as country music versus sports talk, and the demographic breakdown of listeners throughout the day. By comparing competing stations, audience breakdowns and cost, you can home in on the most efficient vehicle.


Costs vary greatly across marketing media and among vehicles within a given media class. A small box ad in a local newspaper might cost less than $100 per day, for instance. But a similar ad in a large metropolitan, state or regional paper may cost a few thousand dollars. Television ads are typically the most expensive, between production costs and placement. However, a small business might have the budget for a small package of spots on one local network affiliate but not another.