The purpose of advertising is NOT exposure

in On Entrepreneurship

I like Roy Williams and I actually like most of this article. But something not said needs to be cleared up. Not for the article’s sake, but for the sake of small business owners who all too often buy into one of the worst myths about advertising.

High rent accomplishes the same thing as advertising. It gives you exposure.

Exposure is what advertising DOES, but it is NOT how we evaluate success. The purpose of advertising in a small business is NOT exposure. It is to generate a measurable response that advances a sale. Period.

If I buy an ad in the Wall Street Journal and get no new customers, it matters not how much “exposure” I received.

If I buy an ad in the Wall Street Journal and get congratulated on how professional it looks but I get no new customers, it still sucks and exposure is still meaningless.

A hefty amount of bull circulating about image and brand and marketing only exists because most businesses aren’t tracking response. They simply don’t know any better. A better situation for ad sales reps, to be sure. Also better for the “creative” ad firm reps who know how to be “creative” but not how to sell. Much worse for the business.

I find it endlessly entertaining that a “big company” advertisement winning awards has little or nothing to do with results. Instead they are handed out as a sort of insider’s secret handshake of self-congratulatory puff. “Oh, look at how brilliant we are. The soul of the brand of the company was so powerfully communicated by the sparkly blue snowflakes.” My, oh my, the businesses that would no longer exist were they held accountable for results! Off with their heads! grin

Thanks to Todd at A Penny For… for the link.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marketer September 13, 2011 at 11:08 am

You’re devaluing exposure. Certain industries rely almost exclusively on credibility which is often built by exposure until true relationships are formed. Exposure does lead, not only to sales, but to customer loyalty. Hence the reason corporate giants invest billions each year in advertising or high end retailers seek a spot in Times Square. Small businesses follow this practice but on a tiny fraction of the scale. Take this example, the recent college graduate who “advertises” himself by getting out and networking versus the mid career professional who uploads his resume to a job search engine waiting for employers to seek him out based on his experience. The person looking for more exposure may not land a job during his first encounters, but will eventually and have many contacts under his belt in the process.

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2 david hanson January 29, 2009 at 2:04 am

I disagree as well. Advertising has “communication goals” that need to be accomplished before any sales are made. Such communication goals vary, but can be such things as building trust, gaining exposure. I think of the continuum as: Exposure leads to Familiarity. Familiarity leads to Trust. Trust leads to Trial. Trial satisfaction leads to repeat purchase. People are more fearful of a loss more than a gain so exposure builds familiarity which can soften the fear of loss because the brand is “a player, trusted, other people must think it’s ok”. yada yada.

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3 katy apartments January 29, 2009 at 1:57 am

absolutely correct. you advertise for sales in the end. Nothing else

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4 Anonymous July 5, 2008 at 6:02 pm

I think your argument is overly simplistic. In our view, saying “The purpose of advertising is to make a sale” is like saying, “The purpose of life is to eat.” Advertising is only one of several activities that “make a sale”, and it is far better to have communication goals rather than sales goals tied directly to the advertising, except in the case of direct marketing or sales promotion.

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5 Anonymous July 5, 2008 at 11:02 pm

I think your argument is overly simplistic. In our view, saying “The purpose of advertising is to make a sale” is like saying, “The purpose of life is to eat.” Advertising is only one of several activities that “make a sale”, and it is far better to have communication goals rather than sales goals tied directly to the advertising, except in the case of direct marketing or sales promotion.

Reply

6 Anonymous November 28, 2007 at 2:34 pm

Michael: you are right on. The purpose of advertising is to make the cash register sing. Exposure, Repetition, and Targeting are simply tools used to make it happen effectively.

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7 Anonymous November 28, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Michael: you are right on. The purpose of advertising is to make the cash register sing. Exposure, Repetition, and Targeting are simply tools used to make it happen effectively.

Reply

8 Anonymous February 27, 2007 at 1:29 am

I disagree with you.
The 3 basic principles of advertising are as follows:
EXPOSURE
REPETITION
TARGETING
If you do not have exposure, how will people know who you are and what you have to offer.
The importance of advertising is so that people will call you before your competition. 
Exposure gives you “Top of Mind Awareness”.  Many large companies; Eastern Airlines, Pan Am et al had lost their edge and along came newer airlines, who took an aggressive ad campaign, and before long, the new carriers had top of mind awareness and were called on before the larger companies.
Read Sergio Zyman who wrote the end of advertising as we know it.  In the book he quotes how companies like Coca Cola never had any fears because they were on top of the world in the soft drink business. Coca Cola shrugged and laughed when bottled water was first introduced.  Very quickly, the other cola was on top.
Advertising is exposure.  The more you advertise, the better known you are – big or small company. The best known company is the most used.  Let’s see – do you remember the “Marlboro Man”?

Reply

9 Anonymous February 27, 2007 at 6:29 am

I disagree with you.
The 3 basic principles of advertising are as follows:
EXPOSURE
REPETITION
TARGETING
If you do not have exposure, how will people know who you are and what you have to offer.
The importance of advertising is so that people will call you before your competition. 
Exposure gives you “Top of Mind Awareness”.  Many large companies; Eastern Airlines, Pan Am et al had lost their edge and along came newer airlines, who took an aggressive ad campaign, and before long, the new carriers had top of mind awareness and were called on before the larger companies.
Read Sergio Zyman who wrote the end of advertising as we know it.  In the book he quotes how companies like Coca Cola never had any fears because they were on top of the world in the soft drink business. Coca Cola shrugged and laughed when bottled water was first introduced.  Very quickly, the other cola was on top.
Advertising is exposure.  The more you advertise, the better known you are – big or small company. The best known company is the most used.  Let’s see – do you remember the “Marlboro Man”?

Reply

10 Anonymous October 7, 2004 at 11:10 am

i would like more in depth information on purpose and function of advertising. Ur argument is good, possibly not completely right, but ur ideas and much more would be apreciated.

Reply

11 Anonymous October 7, 2004 at 4:10 pm

i would like more in depth information on purpose and function of advertising. Ur argument is good, possibly not completely right, but ur ideas and much more would be apreciated.

Reply

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