Ad Talk 101 Blog

Straight Talk about Advertising
September 27, 2010

Advertise for Free or Close To It – Part 3: Social Media

Author: Mark - Categories: Advertising Tips - Tags:

Everyone is talking about social media, but how many people are really working it? Although it is free to get on Facebook or Twitter, the problem with advertising through social media is time and making it work takes many man-hours. In fact, few small businesses have the time it takes to really make social media work.

When Facebook first started happening, one large company in the Harrisburg, PA area went on Facebook to start promoting and found their customers were posting negative comments about them. As the number of friends increased they found the need for a larger staff working full time to clean up the negative comments about their business.

Earlier this year a client we know began building a friends list. Within a very short time they had the maximum 5,000 friends and eventually as many as 200,000 fans.  It takes on person in the marketing department about two hours a day to work Facebook and a second person spends about an hour a day working Twitter. The time is spent first reviewing all the comments on their Facebook accounts. With 5,000 friends you may imagine, this can take some time. The next thing they do is post new comments talking about various things going on at the business, which are of interest to their friends and fan base. What do they get for all this work? Through Facebook they can get up to 200,000 impressions every two days. Not bad for working about ten hours a week.

There are over half a billion Facebook users and about 105 million Twitter users but Twitter is quickly growing and should become part of your social marketing strategy. News travels fast on Twitter and many of your customers use it to communicate daily. Download the Tweet Deck and start sorting and organizing your tweets!

Social Media - You need to be involved

Social Media - You need to be involved

Tell Your Employees to Stay Home

Author: Mark - Categories: Uncategorized

Over the past few months we have been talking about the advantages of working with our employees remotely from home. This may not be feasible for all businesses but some such as our advertising agency can work remotely because almost everything we do is on computers. Plus, with two talented IT people on staff we are easily able to employ other technologies such as video conferencing and PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems over IP to make working together over the Internet almost the same as working in the same room.

This is a big step, even for our small company, but the advantages are huge. Not only can working from home save money but also it could increase productivity. There are many studies proving the workspace employees work from directly effects productivity.

In addition to improving productivity by allowing the employee to work in a space they are comfortable in, they can save on the cost of time travel. I travel 15 miles a day to and from my office and at the end of the year that ads up to about $2,000 in gas and depreciation, as well as about two and a half hours of my time each week. One of our employees who travels forty three miles one way calculated staying at home would save him the equivalent of getting a 2.00 an hour raise. The company would save even more by closing our office in downtown Lewisburg when you consider utilities, taxes and insurance.

The problem many business owners will have to consider for this option is accountability. Sure, the employee may be more productive working from home, but they may also be distracted and shirk their duties because the boss isn’t there to watch over them. Accountability is a concern but the solution may be to set job performance standards based on goals rather than on time spent working.

Working from a virtual office is not for all business, but with a good working staff that has a good work ethic, today’s technology makes the virtual office a reality.

Print Advertising Marries Digital Advertising

Author: Mark - Categories: Advertising Tips

You may have seen them in you favorite magazine, they are called two dimensional bar codes and look something like this:

QR Code for smart phones

QR Code for smart phones

A great way to give your printed direct mail piece some extra punch or bring any type of printed material to life is by placing one or more of these images within your printed piece.

Here’s how it works. You would need a smart phone to download an application designed to run on your particular phone (iPhone, Black Berry, Android). This application would be able to recognize the code using its camera lens and get the instructions from the code such as get a coupon, go to a web site or play a video.

AIM applied this technology to a direct mail piece in September. Although smart phones are just starting to take off in our area, we expect this concept to become widely used in the near future. To demonstrate, download the application for your particular phone here (iTunes app store or Android market) and load the application. Then launch the application. You’ll see the camera on your phone come on. Hold the phone over the image above so the camera can see it and line it up until the phone reads the image. Then, it will take you to one of our videos. You can now use this application whenever you see it in your favorite magazine or many other soon to be seen places.

AIM Launches CAT Pilot

Author: Mark - Categories: Press Release

Aim Digital Visions has launched its first experimental digital signage on one of the Capital Area Transit (CAT) buses in Harrisburg, PA. In our first live run the system performed beautifully. We rode the bus for about 90 minutes and watched the weather information update along with other news and information. The content on the screens could easily be seen from almost every seat in the bus. During our brief trip we observed every rider watching the screens and most riders watched the screens the whole time they were on the bus. Many of the riders that day commented on how much they liked having information such as the latest news, sports, entertainment news and weather and were excited about our plans to eventually install screens on all the buses in the system.

AIM Digital Visions launches screens on CAT buses

AIM Digital Visions launches screens on CAT buses

July 30, 2010

Internet Marketing Is Getting Even More Powerful

Author: Mark - Categories: Advertising Tips

If you’ve been following our blogs, you know our company is always aggressively looking for ways to improve and increase return on our clients’ investments. One of the most exciting new concepts is email marketing. You may have heard success stories from business people using email marketing or advertising companies like ours, who are offering the service. But this month we asked one of our clients to tell of the results he has seen since he began his Internet strategy employing email marketing.

Check out this video of Keith Phelps, General Manager of Country Farm and Home Gift and Garden Center in Mifflinburg, PA:

This is a great time to look seriously at all the new internet technology available and how it can be employed to market your business. If you are doing as much traditional media advertising as you did 10 or even 5 years ago, you are probably wasting a lot of money. The minimum Internet strategy for most businesses today should include the following:

  • A good Internet site built by people who understand how to optimize for high rankings on search engines.
  • A plan to build an email list of prosective and current customers
  • An email marketing plan

Once you have a great website, email list and email marketing (E-Blast) plan, you can take it further by creating a blog page on your site and using social sites such as Twitter and Facebook to bring people to your site and find prospective new customers.

June 17, 2010

The Advertising Industry Needs to Police Itself

Author: Mark - Categories: Uncategorized

A recent article in Ad Age, Ad Industry Battles Back Against Bad Rep, Forms Ethics Institute, really made me laugh. The very formation of this “Institute” by the American Advertising Federation (AAF) which is the Advertising Industry’s primary trade organization founded in 1905, just reinforces the ethics problems in the advertising industry. They state the reason for this organization is to:

1. Determine what matters to consumers regarding advertising ethics
2. Recognize advertisers who demonstrate high ethical standards
3. Introduce a set of guiding principles for advertising ethics and how to apply them

The reason the AAF is finally showing such concern about the image of the industry is because advertisers are more aware of the problems. Due to the economy, businesses are scrutinizing their expenses more than ever. Advertising, being one of the more begrudging expenses is getting more than its share of scrutiny. Plus, as an intangible product, advertising is ripe for dishonest practitioners.

The first goal as stated above is misleading in itself. They do not define consumer which leads you to believe the concern is over our image with the general public. The consumers of advertising are advertisers, not food shoppers. Sure, we have to convince the public to buy a product, but we are not hired by the public. So who they are really talking about is the advertiser, not the general public.

The second stated goal sounds nice. But all it will do is create some sort of award event. How about creating an internal affairs committee where dishonest advertising people can be exposed to the advertisers, excuse me, the “consumer?”

The third goal is a joke. If advertising people are not being ethical, it isn’t because they don’t know what is ethical. There are some industry specific issues that may need some guidelines like ownership rights and maybe some new issues created by new media such as social marketing. But the real reason for the sudden concern is because advertisers are tired of widespread dishonesty in the advertising industry. I am sorry, but someone finally needs to say it.

In the thirty years I have worked in this industry I have worked hard to gain the trust and confidence of my clients. But in retrospect, I have been part of the problem too. I have seen many, many instances of dishonesty and did not expose it. Why? We like to consider advertising a profession. As a profession, it is considered unprofessional to knock, or sound like you are knocking others in the profession. We also had to work with some of the less professional people in the industry. So as a practical matter we had to get along. As a result, I have looked the other way in order get the job done as best I could for my clients and not to appear unprofessional.

Today it is a new world where the advertiser is less likely to automatically assume you are just knocking the competition. That may be because advertisers today have become more aware as they scrutinize their advertising and make their advertising suppliers become more accountable.
If you’ve followed our blogs, you know we have talked about questionably ethical practices in our industry before. It is too bad the AAF can’t find a way to make it professionally acceptable and practical to expose unethical practitioners.

Running an advertising agency in Central PA and selling advertising for 30 years I have seen it from all angles. One of the main reasons for this site is to educate advertisers which include exposing unethical practices. If you would like to discuss this subject further, please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me.

April 19, 2010

What You Should Know Before You Pay for a New or Redesigned Web Site

Author: Mark - Categories: Uncategorized

As you know when a new electronic product hits the market the price drops dramatically over time. That day has come with web site design. In the early days of the Internet, when there was a huge demand for web site design and few highly skilled web designers, the cost of a web site development could cost many thousands just for a relatively basic site.

Today there are millions of highly skilled web designers worldwide. The reliability and availability of broadband Internet now makes it easy for these designers to sell their services around the world. In addition pre-designed templates make it much easier and faster to design exciting looking webs sites quickly. This makes it possible today to purchase powerful and dazzling sites for a fraction of what they would have cost just a few years ago. In addition, many of the new platforms such as Joomla, Word Press and Drupal make it possible for people with little more than the ability to use a word processing program to maintain their own sites.

If you are contracting a new web site or redesign you should know the basic structures of sites can be purchased templates from designers in India, China or Russia and cost less than a hundred dollars. A design from Word Press is free. It takes very little time to fill these templates with text, pictures and graphics. Make sure you are not paying thousands for a web site that claims to be made from scratch but instead are downloaded templates off the Internet.

There are some sites that could take a great deal of time to build, even using these pre-designed templates if a large amount of data needs to be filled in. But in most cases, a skilled designer can build a beautiful site with the technology available today quickly. So we recommend you negotiate the price on any site you buy today based on the time it will take to build the site. Then, make sure you have the option to maintain the site yourself so you are not held hostage by the web designer every time you need something updated. We recommend updating all the time! To see a Joomla template go to to see a template made with word press go to

The Importance of Relevance

Author: Mark - Categories: Uncategorized

If the audience is not interested in what you are selling it doesn’t matter how many people can see or hear your ad. This fact seems obvious, but when it comes to mass media advertising (radio, TV, newspaper, billboard), many advertisers really miss the mark. It takes extra effort to make your ad relevant, but in this economy you need every advantage you can get. So don’t be lazy and just run generic advertising in the name of “branding.” Often, that is an excuse to avoid the time and effort it takes to come up with the right offer or copy that could make the difference in getting the attention of your prospective customers. Media sometimes promotes generic ads as branding because it takes less time and effort for them. Advertisers must make a better effort to work with their media reps and/or agencies to create ads that both brand and sell.

You may have heard of something called search engine optimization. Type the words “relevant advertising” into a search engine on the Internet and you will quickly see the key to getting your site to appear first when browsing through the use of search engines is to make your site relevant to what people are searching for. You will also see the key to converting people into customers on the Internet depends on how relevant your site is to what the person browsing is shopping for. The same concerns pertain to mass media advertising.

Before the Internet, advertisers assumed the number of impressions equaled the number of people seeing or hearing their ads. Not true. The fact is only a small portion of the audience, whether its radio, TV or some other media actually noticed your ad. An even smaller number may actually spend significant time listening or looking at your ad depending on their interest in what you were advertising.

The fact is if you expect to reach everyone with any form of mass media, it will not happen. Only the people interested in what you are advertising will pay any attention, and only people extremely interested will pay close attention. So be realistic with your expectations and try to use a media that best targets people who would be most interested in your ad. Then, try to imagine what most of the people you are reaching on that medium will be thinking about at the time you will be reaching them and make your ad as relevant to what they are thinking at the time.

February 23, 2010

Is It Just The Economy?

Author: Mark - Categories: Uncategorized

If you’re in business, you know the economy has forced many businesses to cut expenses. Many of the business people I call on in Central and South Eastern Pennsylvania have few expenses they can cut but very often one of them is their advertising.

I have always suggested that if you stop advertising, you would not necessarily see much if any change for a while.  This was the case for one of our former clients (2009 blog What if I Stopped Advertising). I talked about his experience where he cut all advertising while changing nothing else in his business.  For the first few months, the client saw no drop in business.  But after almost a year he saw a 42% drop.  So if you need to lower the bottom line, cutting advertising may save you money, at least for a while.

To the advertisers who cut their advertising in 2008, 2009 and plan to continue cutting in 2010 if your business is still off, ask yourself this question. “Is it just the economy or do I need to change my advertising strategy? Good economy or bad, if you received two dollars back for every one you spent, you would not be cutting your advertising… you would be increasing it, right?

A lot of advertisers are starting to try new things.  But before you do, think about your strategy.  If you’ve been in business a while, you know the world has changed.  Unless your business model has changed, cutting advertising alone is probably not much of a strategy.  If you are not trying new ideas to improve efficiency, cutting advertising budgets without loosing market share is unlikely.

Some advertisers blame it on the economy.  For sure they are at least partially right.  But the advertisers loosing the most business right now are the ones that don’t try any new ideas or techniques such as new media.

The basics of advertising are still the same.  The methods are changing.  Top of mind awareness is still just as powerful as it ever was.  But now you have to learn a new way to grow market share using new tools and techniques.

Top of mind awareness (TOMA) equates with market share. (The more top of the mind, the more market share.) This has been proven by Toma Research.  TOMA has surveyed and measured 1300 markets over the past twenty years. Growing and maintaining your market share is critical and businesses should have a strategy of how to be the first name that comes to mind in your business category.

So how do you increase TOMA, and in turn increase market share?  It is a very simple principle.  You need to reach as many people as possible as often as possible.  This is called reach and frequency.  In the following charts you will see how much information people remember as a ratio of their exposure, and how quickly they forget.  This shows frequency of exposure and time between exposures, which are both important considerations.

Note, in order to fully remember a message, it took 80 exposures.  But after two days, only 10% was remembered.  These charts are from studies done in the early 1900’s.  But it is still relevant today.  What has changed is the cost to achieve TOMA using traditional media.  With audiences shrinking as lifestyles move to the Internet and other technologies it has become very inefficient to use many traditional media to build TOMA.

You know the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” So start looking for better ways to keep your business on the top of the mind of consumers. Rather you Tweet, Facebook., eblast or embrace any of the technologies you have got to keep your name in front of the consumer.  And if you try to achieve the same results you got 20 years ago without trying some new tools and techniques, you may find your market share dropping along with the economy.

December 31, 2009

Planning Your Advertising for 2010

Author: Mark - Categories: Advertising Tips - Tags: , , , , ,

With the current economic downturn and digital initiatives changing all the rules, if you’re not planning your advertising a year ahead, this is the year you should start.

Start with a Review

First, review your advertising from the past year and determine what gave you enough results to consider doing it again.

Rule of thumb: If something is working, keep doing it until it stops!

If you are unable to determine with any certainty what worked, then assume nothing worked and make it a priority to determine how you are going to track your ads in the coming year.

How Can You Track Your Advertising?

There are many ways to track advertising. The accuracy of the tracking will depend on the form of advertising you are doing, the method, and your diligence.

Advertising such as billboards or radio are harder to track than direct mail, digital, and print. It is important to plan how you are going to track your advertising when you are deciding what media you intend to use. If you choose radio or billboard you will need to incorporate creativity to effectively track your results.

Here are some effective ways we have found to track mass media advertising, based on our experience working with advertisers in Central Pennsylvania and beyond:

1. Do a monthly drawing for a prize giveaway each month for at least a year to build data. Offer a prize like dinner for two at a nice restaurant. On the registration include a questioner such as what radio station have you listened to and what newspaper have you read in the past day or two. This is better than asking, “How did you hear about us” because people rarely remember. If over a period of three to six months you see a trend of more mentions for the media you are using, that is a good indication that media is working. This is also a great way to build a mail and email list.

2. Surveying with the right question may be all it takes, but you need to be diligent in asking. Sylvan Learning Center’s national call center asks the question “what made you call us today.” The key word is today. Since most advertising works after the message is delivered numerous times, it is likely the respondent will think back and remember the last time they were exposed to a Sylvan ad.

3. Ask your customers directly if they have seen or heard your ad in the specific media you are using. While some may consider this to be aided questioning, I believe the majority of people will not tell you they saw or heard your ad if they did not. But there is a possibility of the respondent telling you what they think you want to hear. So this method takes some intuition on the part of the surveyor.

4. Coupons are certainly a tried and true method. But consider that when you use coupons you are also testing the strength of the offer and any other part of your over-all marketing strategy. Your ad may reach a large audience but if the coupon is not suited to the product or service and if the audience and product are not well matched then it is likely no offer will get you results.

5. Compare records from one year to the next. Do this over a period of three or four years and you should begin to see trends that can be very good indicators as to the success of your advertising and your marketing plan. Keep daily records of:

a. The number of customers in the store
b. The number of sales
c. Where each customer lives
d. The average amount of each sale each month
e. Weather conditions
f. Competitive business activities
g. Internal operations such as employees off or other special situations

Choose Your Advertising Media

You will need a marketing strategy to help you determine what media to use. The marketing strategy will help determine factors such as the target market demographics, life styles, and geography. Many businesses are moving away from traditional mass media in favor of more targeted digital media. Some advertisers will get so excited about the results they get from advertising methods such as emails they will stop all other forms of advertising. Others will use powerful media such as email in moderation and use a media mix to reach out to new customers as well as targeting their existing customer bases.

Web Sites
One media everyone should use in some form or another is the Internet. Creating a basic web site is relatively cheap and easy to do. Plus it is becoming expected that all businesses have a presence on the Internet beyond a listing on the phone book pages. If a web site is not something your customers would use as a rule, you should still have one just for credibility and basic information.

That being said, your web site may or may not be an integral part of your advertising strategy. This will depend on your business model and how you determine to best attract customers. If your business is based on walk in customers like a quick lube business, your web site may not be a focus of your advertising effort. But if your quick lube offers on-line coupons or you want your customers to make appointments then your web site could then be a very important part of your advertising.

Traditional Media – A Few Things to Consider
Traditional media such as radio, cable, TV, billboard and newspaper are still the primary mass advertising media in Central Pennsylvania. Due to technology, consumer habits are changing. Time spent with traditional media is shrinking and the fractionalization of channels plus intrusive on-demand and digital video recorders are making these medias less attractive to advertisers. While billboard messages are limited, they can target audience geographically, and billboard is the only mass media not losing audience.

To preserve their value and compensate for loss of audience, radio stations in Central Pennsylvania have lowered rates… but buy with caution. Cheap is not always best. Stations package their strength with their weakness and 30 seconds is the new one-minute ad. Remember being creative is very hard to achieve in a small time frame. Some stations are also offering special rates if the advertiser runs at less premium time, so remember when you pay less you get less. The newspapers are also lowering rates, but like radio, you should be aware that low rates may also mean less return.

Rule of Thumb: Assume when media is offering a package, they offer it to solve their inventory problem, not your advertising objective.

New Media – Digital Media
There are many forms of new digital media. The most well know form is the e-blast or email marketing. This is a form of advertising almost any business can use cost effectively. We recommend you use one of the major companies providing e-mail marketing services such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. Without any computer skills, these companies make it easy to set up a great looking e-mail to send to your mailing list. Another huge advantage to e-blast is the ability to track. When you use one of the professional e-mail marketing companies they offer ways to see how many people actually click on your e-mails as well as other information. Never send an e-blast without an opt-out option.

Most of the new digital media you are hearing about are NOT MASS MEDIA. E-blasts are targeted marketing. Targeted marketing is always most efficient if you can zero in on your target New media such as social media services Facebook, Myspace and Twitter have not yet proven to be efficient due to the amount of time and effort needed to work the sites. Another new digital concept that has had a lot of notice this past year is text messaging. Again, this concept is still ahead of it’s time because the number of people using text messaging regularly is limited, especially here in Central Pennsylvania. Another problem with texting is it costs the user money. Very few people want to spend money to receive an advertising message. However, in time we believe as the cost comes down and more people adopt this method of communication, texting will become more viable.

There is one other form of new digital media that is actually somewhat of a cross between mass media and targeted media. Digital sign networks have the ability to reach audiences as large or larger than traditional mass media. At the same time digital signage can target audiences by location. This is sometimes referred to as place based advertising. If you want to reach tourists, advertising on a digital sign network located at a tourist destination has proven successful for many advertisers in Central Pennsylvania. Beware of the perception that people do not look at digital signs. This perception is being created by traditional media threatened by digital signage because of its ability to reach large audiences much cheaper. Plus, digital signage has the ability to be very flexible with the ability to program the ads on the video screens across networks instantaneously from one remote location. One other very powerful use of digital signage is at point of sale. It is widely known that point of sale advertising is effective because in most cases the best time to advertise to an audience is as close to the time when they are making purchase decisions. If you are a retailer or even a professional office such as a dentist, seriously consider how digital signage can increase your sales.

Media Mix
This year, we are recommending our clients learn how to utilize the best of all worlds with a media mix of new digital media and traditional media. Traditional mass media is and will probably always be, important to reach new customers. Once customers are developed, targeted media like e-mail comes into play.

How Much Should I Spend On Advertising?

There is no simple answer to this question. A good place to start is by looking at what advertisers in your industry spent last year as an average. You can see this information by downloading this document containing average advertising expenditures by most industries. This information will tell you if you are spending over or under the national average. If you are a new business or launching a new product or service, you will probably need to spend more. If you are established and have a good marketing plan with an efficient advertising program you may be able to spend less.

If you would like to know more about planning an advertising or marketing strategy, or would like a free one hour consultation on the subject, please contact AIM at 1-800-598-5038