Linear marketing refers to any type of marketing that is created as an entity unto itself and left to be distributed in its finished form. Linear marketing is typically created without any intent to edit or adjust its content and is meant to be heard or viewed as is by the consumer market. Almost everyone knows a few radio ads promoting a local small business that have been running for years. These ads were created once as a linear campaign and have remained in circulation ever since.


Many large companies with strict brand protection strategies create their marketing materials in a central corporate office. These materials are finished to the specifications of the brand, reviewed by the legal team and then distributed in original form to the public.

Small businesses typically engage in a linear campaign to contain cost, stay on message and build a brand. A linear campaign allows the average small business to distribute a constant, repetitive and effective message to the market at minimal expense. With the repetition of a single marketing phrase, jingle or set of images, the consumer becomes accustomed to the brand and is more likely to consider patronizing the business.

Print ads can be -- but are not always -- linear. A small business sometimes will create a print ad that lacks specific dates, promotions and other information that may change. These general branding ads are then handed off to various print publications or distributed as wall posters and allowed to run for extended periods. They may be present in every new edition of the magazine or newspaper as part of a marketing contract fulfillment agreement.

Radio and TV

Radio and TV spots are typically written by a professional advertising team, then shot and cut in a studio. Once completed and approved by the small business, they are sent out to radio and TV stations to be inserted into the playlist. Most radio and TV ads are never altered from their original state because of the expense involved and because the entire process takes place outside the business. They are a truly linear form of advertising and are played repeatedly over a given period according to the specifics of a marketing contract.


The main concern with a linear ad campaign is that once the message has been created, it typically cannot be altered without significant expense and effort on the part of your business. The re-creation or editing of TV and radio ads is a difficult process that requires a complete rerecording in many cases. For print, the process is less difficult depending on the changes you make. Adjustments to linear marketing campaigns are commonly necessary in cases of error or as a response to changing market trends. Flexibility is a top concern in these instances, but linear marketing does not allow for much of that in the short term.