Traditional advertising includes methods such as ads in magazines and newspapers, radio and TV spots and direct mail. More recently, website banner ads have become the norm for many businesses. Unconventional advertising, often referred to as guerrilla marketing, often consists of creative, low-cost marketing methods used by small businesses to temporarily promote a product or service. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and analyzing each will help you choose the best advertising tactics for your business.


Advertising is classically defined as a paid message you control, including the text, graphics, placement and frequency of the message. Some small businesses include promotions in their definition of advertising. For example, businesses that don’t have separate advertising, public relations and promotions departments include sponsoring an event, handing out coupons on busy street corners, arranging a celebrity endorsement or holding a contest in their advertising budget.

Traditional Advertising

Advertising using methods chosen by most other businesses includes placing display ads in print publications, running broadcast spots, buying billboard ads and sending direct-mail pieces. On the Internet, pay-per-click advertising lets you display your message on websites, paying only when a potential customer clicks on your ads, taking her to your website. Online advertising also includes paying a set fee for a display ad on a website page, regardless of whether anyone clicks on it, adding links to your site or placing short videos on website pages.

Unconventional Advertising

Using methods to promote your product beyond traditional advertising techniques, especially those you create yourself or use only once or infrequently, falls under the classification of unconventional advertising. Examples include having people wear clothing with your logo at events, giving out free samples at events, creating a partnership with a local charity, and unusual public displays, such as sidewalk paintings and skywriting. Coordinated social media campaigns using free or low-cost online tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Groupon, Constant Contact and LinkedIn also have become integral parts of small-business advertising efforts. Because of the number of small and large businesses using social media, this form of marketing might soon be considered a conventional method of advertising.

Pros and Cons

Traditional advertising has a track record of working for businesses, which is why these methods are so frequently used. You usually buy media from expert salespeople who can help you identify a target audience before you buy, create more effective ads and test your ads before you commit your entire budget. Using traditional advertising often costs more money than guerrilla marketing, and you’ll compete with many other advertisers for the attention of consumers. Unconventional marketing often makes people look twice, since they haven’t seen what you’re doing before, can be a more personal experience for potential customers and can make a bigger impression. Using newer advertising methods, you might not be able to target a specific buying group, deliver a specific message or test the results before you spend your budget. Unconventional advertising is often more fleeting than a printed ad or a broadcast spot run many times.