You need an advertising plan before launching an ad campaign to maximize the return on your advertising investment. It significantly increases the likelihood of matching the right message to the right audience using the right media to reach that audience. Your advertising situation analysis is the explanatory prelude to your advertising plan. It assesses advertising's contribution to your brand's current position relative to planned objectives that are detailed in the advertising plan.

Situation Analysis Content Overview

The advertising situation analysis provides the objective assessment of the brand's current position from an advertising communications perspective -- the framework of why you are where you are. This assessment should reflect the market and competitive dynamics in which the brand competes. The content should also describe the target audience for the advertising and the reasons why. Finally, the content should describe the critical brand issues that can be addressed by advertising in terms of moving the brand from its current position to a desired position. The body of the advertising plan then proceeds to describe how advertising will be used to move the brand from its current position to where you want to be.

Current Position

The classic SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is an effective technique to assess your current position. Keep the analysis advertising focused, however. A SWOT analysis will help you identify market opportunities to exploit and competitive threats to defend. Perhaps the most difficult part of an advertising SWOT analysis is getting market input about brand usage and attitudes from users and non-users. This input is critical, however, to identify high-potential target audiences. Demographic data tends to be easily available. Psychographic and qualitative data about users and non-users is generally hard to acquire. You can get input through one-on-one interviews or with focus groups. Regardless of how you get it, qualitative input is extremely useful.

Target Audience

Your SWOT analysis should place you in a better position of knowing which audience or audiences to target with your advertising. You might discover new market segments that have no experience with your brand, or competitors' customers who are ripe for plucking. What's important is that the SWOT analysis will encourage you look for similar and unique characteristics among users, occasional users and non-users that can be addressed through advertising.

Advertising Message

The SWOT analysis should also give you better insight about the effectiveness of your messaging strategy for different target audiences, especially if you develop psychographic profiles that explore buying motivational factors. Be aware, however, that an advertising SWOT analysis, at best, only sheds light on "what" to communicate to your target audience. Leave it to your creative professionals to figure out "how" that should be done.

Content Organization

Situation analyses tend to follow a logical sequence that starts with the current position of the brand from its historical context. You can follow this with your consumer and market analysis that is derived from your SWOT analysis, and then your competitive analysis that is also derived from your SWOT analysis. You can discuss the key advertising issues with a focus on your target audience and messaging in the next section. You can conclude your situation analysis by distilling the key advertising issues down to a concise and cogent statement on how advertising will be used to address those issues.