Marketing mix part four: Promotion, advertising

In my second blog post about promotion as part of the marketing mix, I’m going to talk about advertising. It’s for the big boys and girls right?


I had just this conversation with a valued colleague recently who pretty much dismissed advertising as a channel not within the means of ordinary folk like you and me. Valued he may be, but I had to take issue with his stance.

Advertising has changed immensely - it’s not about the Mad Men anymore.

Of course there will always be a place for mentally expensive TV ads (if you haven’t yet seen John Lewis’ latest offering to the genre, check out Man on the Moon) and digital billboards may well be out of reach for most people along with full-pagers in the Times.

But, there is so much more that is within reach since the advent of online advertising. And, I would argue, online ads are much better for the marketer because you can see your ROI ratcheting up before your eyes.

John Wanamaker is probably only famous for one thing. A department store merchant in the US in the later 1800s, he is quoted as saying: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

(It turns out he was quite a busy chap and is credited with birthing much of the advertising industry including copywriting - check him out

The fact is that his statement is not true for online ads. There is so much data available that you can be swimming in it, especially if you are running complex A/B campaigns for multiple clients. Not only is it possible to know which half is working, it’s possible to turn off the half that isn’t while ramping up the half that is! Show me a newspaper that can do that.

There are two main areas to focus on:

  1. Search-based advertising 
  2. Social media advertising

I’m not going to cover paid-for banner ads (those ones that pop up randomly while you’re innocently looking at something else) because, frankly, I don’t have much experience with them and don’t like them that much! If you would like to know more, this article from one of my favourite blogs Hubspot is really good.

All three types of ads work on the same principle of pay-per-click (there are variations which I’ll explain) so you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad. Win-win right?

Search-based advertising

These days we are talking Google Adwords or BingAds - no other search engines really seem worth bothering with. They both work in the same way so these instructions work for either.

This is the process:

  • Decide what you want to advertise and how much you want to spend. Define some targets you want to achieve. 
  • Research as much as you can the keywords people are likely to use when looking for your product or service or that of your competitors. If you have analytics on your website already (and let’s hope you do) you can find out what keywords are currently actually bringing people to your site. Ask others to think of the phrases they would use if they were trying to find you.
  • Make a list of the top keywords - try for between 5 and 10 just to keep things manageable.
  • Create your advertising copy - there is a word limit and you can’t usually use images. Always include a call to action: usually this will be to drive traffic to your website but it doesn’t have to be. If you know that most of your business gets done over the phone, ask people to call you. Better still, create a landing page that captures their info so you can call them.
  • Your ad copy should include one or more of your top keywords but should be written in normal English. For example, if you sell jelly beans (regular readers may spot a theme here…):


Jelly beans sweets delicious tasty jelly beans get them now buy jelly beans.


Are you a jelly bean fanatic? Invent your own flavours, create personalised gifts.
  • Set up your keywords on your chosen search engine ad account - you should create separate campaigns each time you do this so you can measure performance differences. For example, one campaign could be using all your top keywords but the ad copy could be tailored to women or to people with certain other interests. Another campaign could have other variables.
  • You then have to bid for your keywords. Remember you only pay for the clicks and you’re only paying a few pence a click. But the more you bid, the higher your ad will appear. Google are also very clear that they place ads higher that are more relevant, as this is what is most important to them. This is a bit of a finger in the air job to begin with but it doesn’t take long to get a feel for what the right price is. They will usually give you a recommended bid to get you going and it’s ok to start there as you can adjust it at any time - up or down. If your keywords are a bit unusual you can afford to bid lower as there will be less competition but if you know there are lots of people selling what you’re selling, you will have to pay more to appear high up. Set a daily or weekly budget you can afford and wait and see what happens.

Once your campaign is live you can start tracking performance immediately. As a marketer it’s a great feeling seeing those clicks come in.

Of course the trick is turning those clicks into actions that bring in actual cash. That is a little harder but if you have a handy webmaster they can use webmaster tools to set goals for your website that can demonstrate your customer’s journey from their Google click right through to the checkout.

Social media advertising

Many of the processes are similar but these ads are not based on keywords, they are based on targeting users of the network you are advertising to. A key difference is that only logged in users of those networks get to see your ads whereas on Google anyone using the service will see your ads. This doesn’t make advertising on Facebook or Twitter less effective after all there are 974 million Twitter accounts and over 1 billion on Facebook. Only just less than Google which has 1.17 billion users. (All stats from as of 12 November 2015.)

But they do work differently.

They are targeted using geography, demographics, interests, behaviour and a whole range of other variables. So, the process:

  • As with search ads, first define your objectives. Who do you want to advertise to and why? What do you want them to do? What do you know about your target audiences? And if you don’t know too much, do some research! Pay-per-click may be cost effective but it’s not free so don’t waste time and money advertising to people who are not really your customers.
  • Write your ad copy. There is a word limit again but you can include images. On Facebook there are pretty strict guidelines as to what the images can be - mainly they cannot be text masquerading as an image. If you add an image that has a lot of text on it, Facebook will not allow you to use it. They say this rule is to “keep ads as high quality and engaging as possible”.
  • Images without text are good though and it’s not advisable to leave an image out altogether. Images with faces are thought to be the most likely to engage people that see your ad.
  • Set up your advert in your social media account. Again, use campaigns to test different versions.
  • Here you will set your target so, beginning with all 1 billion users you will see the number of people steadily drop down depending on the variables you put in. If you know that, for example, you want to target people living only in cities then you will need to have several versions (they can all be the same ad copy if you want) that target those cities. You will then be able to see which cities perform best.
  • As with search ads, decide on your bid amount for each click and your spending limit. Your bid will affect how often your ad is shown to your target audience and how high up it is in the ads area. You can even vary this, if for example you are worried that people might see your ad too much, you can tell Facebook to reduce the frequency.

Once your ad is live, you can track straight away. And you can again set goals within your website to track all the way through to checkout, or whatever action you want them to take.

That’s pretty much exhausted my knowledge of online ads but all of the services I’ve mentioned have excellent help and guidance so I recommend you read them carefully before committing any money. Here they are: