Is Advertising a Waste of Money?

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”

Steuart Henderson BrittMarketing Management and Administrative Action

UPDATED June 18, 2015

I am amazed at how often I hear economic development professionals claim that advertising simply doesn’t work. When I ask them what measure they are using to determine failure, the typical response is that nobody ever picked their location based on an advertisement. They love to say “Ed, it’s not like selling soap”. The last comment is a reference to my 33-year Procter & Gamble career where (for the record) I actually worked on prescription pharmaceutical brands and never really sold soap and I never expected advertising to convince a doctor to prescribe a drug based on advertisements, free classified sites in USA, or social media campaigns, everything goes by hand.

But, in my opinion the capital investment decision made by CEOs is actually a lot like the prescription pharmaceutical decision made by doctors. The risk for both is high if they make the wrong choice, and the evaluation process is complicated.

An Ad Typically Cannot Do All The Work

I never expected advertising to convince a doctor to prescribe a drug based on an advertisement. The goal was to capture the doctor’s attention and interest and then create an understanding of the drugs benefits. This contributed to helping move the physician along the path of evaluating the drug for possible inclusion in their armamentarium. That path included review of clinical studies, listening to colleague’s experience, reviewing the package insert, and ultimately a trial with a few carefully selected patients before adopting the drug on the short list to be considered for consistent prescribing.

In economic development, the goal is also to capture the attention and interest of a CEO (and/or the location evaluation team) to learn more about your community so ultimately it can be considered for inclusion on the short list of location options taken into the due diligence phase.

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The most appropriate measure of success is a positive impact on the perception of your community and an increased willingness to learn more. You need to determine if that outcome is worth the investment given the resources you have available to attract capital investment.

If you decide it is a strategic choice your community should pursue as a component of your holistic communication effort, then here are 8 tips on how to maximize your probability of success.

8 Tips For Better Advertising

  • Communicate an authentic promise. Trust is built when you keep your promise. If you simply say whatever the capital investor wants to hear, and it is subsequently found to be false in the due diligence process, your community will automatically be eliminated from further consideration. Surprisingly, by being up-front and truthful in characterizing the assets of your community you can create an opportunity to potentially find alternative solutions to meet the capital investors needs.
  • Make sure your message is action oriented. You want leads. Your message should move the purchase decision forward. It is important to use action verbs in your copy and your 1:1 discussions. Action verbs energize. They create more drama and emotion than a noun, adjective or adverb of similar meaning. Action verbs rivet a reader’s attention, while passive verbs weaken your message.
  • Create imagery that brings your promise to life. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That is true if it enhances your ability to communicate your message. A good image can convey thoughts, ideas, or events that words alone cannot do justice. Images can stimulate emotion and create a connection between the capital investor and your community. A good Agency will find an appropriate image that reinforces your community promise. This is often a real challenge, but when the right “iconic” image is created the impact will easily justify the effort.
  • Create messages that speak to capital investors, not yourself or your Management.  This is the biggest mistake I see in advertising. Remember, features tell and benefits sell. Rather than share a litany of community assets with a capital investor, translate the features into meaningful benefits. That means you need to assess your community through the capital investor’s eyes and not yours. You need to speak the capital investor’s language. Often that means losing the economic development jargon and speaking in terms of return on investment, risk minimization, and time to market.  Your copy should have the word “you” in it.
  • Don’t bore people, inspire them want to learn more. Great communication grabs attention and forces people to challenge their existing paradigms. It makes them interested in exploring your community further. Trite phrases in advertising like “Open for Business” are an immediate turn-off and a virtual guarantee the rest of your ad copy will be ignored and the page will be turned. In oral presentations, learn to tell real-life stories from your community to illustrate your point and provide compelling proof what you claim is true.
  • Leverage communication channels capital investors actually use. If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a noise? If you are paying for that tree to fall, it had certainly better be heard. If it is not heard, then you just wasted your money. Here is a simple rule – Don’t Communicate in Channels Capital Investors don’t Use. Having a well-developed media plan can be critical to success.
  • Move the capital investor forward in the decision process. Create interest and direct the capital investor to the next step in evaluating your community as a location choice.  Be absolutely certain you have a practical call-to-action included in the ad.
  • Serve. Care about helping the capital investor find a good location that meets their Company’s needs. If it is your location, then fantastic. But, if your location falls short of the mark, try and get to a “No-Go” decision as quickly as possible. Convincing a capital investor to select a location that does not meet the base requirements is a recipe for certain failure. The Company will be put at risk of being non-competitive and jobs created will turn into layoffs when the Company either goes out of business or opts to relocate in order to be in a better position to succeed.

How You Can Help

Leave a comment on your experience with communication tactics. What works and doesn’t work? What are the action steps you find most helpful in moving the capital investor along the decision process?

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49 Comments so far

  1. David

    September 5, 2011

    Advertising is NOT a waste of money. However, proving its value added worth is another matter. The important thing is to have a rigorous evaluation and research method and process agreed that can capture changes – changes in people’s perceptions, behaviour towards products and services, buying motivations and viewpoints. Advertising is part of an overall Marketing MIX of activities that looks to influence and convince customers to buy. The KEY is to understand more about which elements and activities are the most significant motivators and why….

  2. Ed Burghard

    September 6, 2011

    @David – Great point. We often blame the tool when the problem is the operator.

  3. Fred Pottschmidt

    September 6, 2011

    Great question. To see clear proof that advertsiing is not a waste of money, watch an episode of “How I made My Millions” on CNBC. In almost every case, the featured entrepreneur(s) struggled with sales until they were able to get people aware of their products. In one case it was a local news cast that featured them; in another it was an online ad. The point is: if people don’t know about your product or srevice and its benefits, how can theybuy it?

    However some advertising will be more efficient that others. Each business needs to determine what works best for them

  4. Guy Pearce

    September 6, 2011

    Ed, I would normally use Economic Development in a governmental context (developing the economy), so I was interested to see that you were actually talking about corporate development.

    True – many folks ascribe failure although they were never really clear on what they were looking for in the beginning.

    In either case though, what is the objective of advertising (as an element of the broader marketing strategy). If it’s to build Brand Equity, a long term strategic objective, then it’s a fantastic tool, especially if it leverages a higher purpose such as socio-economic development, environmental protection/improvement and such. Ultimately, depending on the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, the brand equity converts to cash flows

  5. Don Holbrook

    September 6, 2011

    I have asked and discussed this question for over 20 years with economic developers and to date have not yet found one deal that originated due to any of the advertising in the site location magazines or other advertising. It is always due to hard work and personal one on one initiative of a professional economic developer taking initiative. I think the advertising as a value as a political placebo to make communities feel like they are doing something, but there is no real economic value to the mission due to these efforts. Nothing replaces professional initiative and personal hard work. there is no arm chair approach to sit back and wait for deals to come to you by just spending money in advertising.

  6. Dave Eatwell

    September 6, 2011

    I agree with Don Holbrook. Good advertising to site selectors doesn’t hurt, unless it distracts you from doing more productive work. But I have found over the last 16 years that the best way to attract site selectors is to gin up the energy level among the business that are already in your service area. When the local business community is excited and willing to invest their resources toward expansion within your community, it grabs the attention of outside investors. Much more effective than thousands of dollars in advertising is one article in the newspaper or regional business journal about the businesses that are already thriving locally. It is the best way to publicly demonstrate the benefits of siting a business in your service area.
    At first, the newspapers and advertising media do not like to hear that marketing the area through advertising is not the most effective use of funds, but eventually they become aware that thriving businesses will make up the difference with their own marketing.

  7. Qaisar Shareef

    September 6, 2011

    Just like any other product or service proposition, advertising for a destination for business investment has it’s place. The value advertising may bring will depend on how much the location was already known among prime prospects and within their consideration set. Advertising could open up minds to the location. The cost-benefit ratio would be another matter. However, ultimately, a carefully crafted message has to be created and delivered to the prime prospects – whether through mass media or otherwise.

  8. Richard Morea

    September 7, 2011

    Advertising today is old school and it’s EXPENSIVE and its appeal is based on the OFFER only, not the the person or service. Publicity, in print and on the Web, has taken over – and it’s FREE. Ads are recognized as in-your-face sales tools, that’s why TiVo is so popular. Publicity, in the form of disseminating niche information, like articles, e-books, essays, editorials, etc. about an issue, situation, or problem helps people understand and make an intelligent decision – based on testimony and facts, not an ad’s promises. In the process you, the by-lined client, are viewed as a go-to person/company to revisit. Eventually a sale is made, but on the buyer’s terms.

  9. Brian Dowling

    September 7, 2011

    As I understand it from the old ad adage, only half of it is wasted, the issue is that nobody seems to know which half. It becomes a bigger issue when there is an unrealistic expectation of a direct and high ROI from the venture. I do suspect however that a good deal of advertising is more a matter of institutional ego than focusing on a specific market segment. A smal town putting advertising dollars into a national magazine rather than local newspaper advertising would be an example. This does not discount the point that for something to be evaluated it has to be measured.

    Brian G. Dowling

  10. Al Jones

    September 7, 2011

    Ed’s got excellent points as usual and P&G’s historically been the most sophisticated (and most measured as often the largest advertiser on earth) user of advertising and consumer marketing in general. I think the bias against advertising may come from how many folks in the ED process are far more familiar with political campaign advertising than business to consumer, much less business to business advertising. My training and early experience was in advertising and no one wastes more money than political advertising practices while business to business tends to be either smart and technical or weird image stuff to somehow reassure investors or regulators. For an ED agency there are a number of mostly separate advertising campaigns they have to undertake and allocate resources to:
    1. Letting their own stakeholders know what they’re doing and why they remain a good investment with so many causes and programs fighting for the same dollars. Sometimes this can be a matter of focusing efforts on businesses who spend a lot of retail advertising dollars in the local media as that gets the most favorable media coverage for the agency while often doing little for the local economy. (No I’m not cynical, just experienced.)
    2. It’s erratically used for business retention and expansion efforts, typically in retail promotion events designed to bring in more shoppers, lure state athletic tournaments, or “shop local”. It could be used to recruit skilled workers, young families with kids, empty nesters with entrepreneurial capacity/angel investor potential, business clusters’ missing pieces in supply chains, key missing service businesses (you do see it for doctors most often), or to help local businesses with high-wage jobs become more regional in their markets, but it mostly gets squandered on high cost/low yield “bring in customers for a day’s worth of mostly trivial spending” (as opposed to buying cars, implements, homes…). Lots of opportunity there.
    3. Advertising for business recruitment includes websites so by their actions, most communities believe in some form of advertising while often leaving that and an outdated, overly general, shallow color brochure as their sum total. I’ve never run print ads in the national relocation media so have no direct idea how they work, clearly they’re more interesting when they focus on a specific site with existing buildings and infrastructure offered for far below the cost (and time) to build it. Most of the relocation inquiries I’ve dealt with and particularly landed started with or had narrowed by existing, available buildings that potentially fit their needs. Quite often the people doing the search won’t be living in the community if they pick it so the soft quality of life theme in many ED ads is talking to the person who doesn’t personally care (that’s bad.)

    While many communities have little or no available empty facilities and infrastructure rich sites that would attract the kind of recruitment they dream about, every community has significant gaps in it’s skilled and managerial workforce, needs more entrepreneurs and angel investors, and has all kinds of unaddressed needs in services from Ob/Gyns to skilled heavy equipment and auto mechanics. Advertising to reach them makes a ton of sense and the communities here with the greatest workforce shortages have been doing that (but forgetting to address the housing issue so it’s workers who don’t mind living in an RV for years to come.) Just about all ED marketing would benefit from the kind of results and return analysis that’s fairly common in commercial marketing/advertising (although most of the business volunteers on an ED board don’t measure their own marketing nearly enough either.)

  11. James Gardner

    September 7, 2011

    Ed, you’re probably right that advertising isn’t likely to have a lot of influence on a final capital investment decision. These decisions are too complex for advertising to have a significant impact. But I’d bet that advertising could be helpful earlier in the decision process when a shortlist of options is being developed for consideration. Unfortunately, most economic development advertising that I see feels stale and undifferentiated. Safe, yes … but probably ineffective.

    Are you familiar with Nova Scotia’s campaign from a few years ago? They really broke the mold with their Pomegranate phone campaign. It felt very clever and was judged effective, I believe. For a $300k investment, they claimed to have had 3 million visitors from over 195 countries — so it definitely had some impact on their awareness and interest metrics. It certainly got attention and created public buzz.

    I archived the ad in my collection:
    Pomegranate “Where No Phone Has Gone Before” 300×250

    NPR profiled the campaign (as did many other media outlets):
    Nova Scotia Web Ad Is Viral Hit


  12. robert fort

    September 7, 2011

    One ad doesn’t work. An ad that has a hook and is part of a well-plotted campaign can draw attention and tours. I don’t know how anyone in economic development can ever say never.

  13. Karen Schultz

    September 7, 2011

    ABSOLUTELY! Advertising moves us whether done subliminally through programming on television or other medias or through the message that is sent over and over to us in an ad or visual space of a product strategically placed on a specific shelf in a specific location, or on your IPad. Wait until the stores start to welcome you on a monitor when you enter and let you know where sales are on product you use!

  14. Pam Mehta

    September 8, 2011

    It is true that capital investment decision process is complex but being aware of your choices is fundamental as one initates the process of where to locate or relocate one’s enterprise. Advertising about the benefits and attractiveness of a state or a country is essential in this highly competitive arena. Were it not so,why do countries and states spend mega money on pages and pages of expensive ad space in magazines like Fortune,and Forbes and other business publications?

    If the Economic Development units start to think of what they are doing as a business (i.e. like owners of a private enterprise,rather than a government job) the necessity to compete vigorously will be at the foreront and as such, the necessity to promote and advertise will be at the core of their marketing strategies. And then they will understand the B2B concept and the need to build the brand equity. This combined with Economic Development’s presence at industry expos can bring good leads. I think, their reticence may have to do more with their budget realities.

    How robust a state’s economy is depends on how well the Economic Development proactively engages in attracting businesses rather han just responding to inquiries. Can we start a new category called G2B advertising?!

  15. Ed Roach

    September 8, 2011

    Often times it’s not the advertising that doesn’t work, it’s the message. What they are saying doesn’t resonate with its targeted audience. Most I have seen have some cleaver slogan, that means almost nothing to anyone except the politicos they answer to.

    Advertising creates awareness. That awareness develops interest and tries to push buttons over time. Most ED promotions I have seen, don’t lead but follow. I’ll bet that after that Nova Scotia pomegranite promotion ran, you heard a lot of “we’ve got to do something like that and go viral” in the back rooms.

    Don’t blame the messenger.

  16. Malcolm allan

    September 11, 2011


    Thanks for sharing your thinking on this important and often vexatious subject. I have been involved in economic development for 40 years and throughout that period have struggled with the challenges associated with the promotion of the good work that my employers and clients were undertaking to improve people’s lives, businesses’ prospects, the quality of urban realm and the reputation of cities, individually and collectively. Rarely have I read or heard such concise wisdom and advice as in your eight tips, many of which I recognise as things I would do now but must admit that I was less clear earlier in my professional practice. Having wrestled with the demands of countless local and national government politicians to promote their latest real estate initiatives or land investment opportunities, ones that in reality look much the same in Alabama as they do in London, Toulouse and Sydney, I have concluded that the real story worth telling, promoting and advertising is that of the people who live in these places, the entrepreneurs who run businesses, the people who work there, the people who invent there, and, yes, the local politicians striving to change the lives of their constituents for the better. And, as I have developed my current practice on place and destination branding I have learned even more about the power, resonance and relevance to people of powerful stories about the experience of being in places and, despite the trends of uniformity in urban development, how people’s stories can have transformative effects upon the reputations, identities and feel of places, helping them to differentiate themselves from the next town down the road and places around the world.

  17. Ruth Buchanan

    September 11, 2011

    Great discussion. The City of North Port started to market and brand itself in 2010 backed by a full branding study. It has been a year since we started our efforts and we are seeing a definite uptick in interest in our community. I agree with the earlier comment that marketing in economic development is not a one-shot deal – it is a whole strategy supported by buy in from all stakeholders. And that marketing is one tool amongst many that ED professionals use. Looking forward to learning more about economic development marketing at the IEDC Charlotte later this week.

  18. Jyoti Prakash Haldar

    September 12, 2011

    Obviously yes, Advertises plays a major role in the Development of the World Economy.

  19. George Huang

    September 13, 2011

    Sure it does, but most people don’t even know what are the right stuff to advertise, and end up making a fool of themselves. Others have great assets and don’t advertise. Advertising cannot create anything that doesn’t really exist. It can only generate awareness and let the real strengths and resources of a region be known.

  20. Marcin Czaplicki

    September 14, 2011

    I think that it all depends how it is done, when a Gov invests in marketing to promote its country as a destination for FDI, it can have a positive impact as long as you know who you are targeting and that you do it in wording/language that the recipient of the PR/Marketing understands. The question in development is: what should be the budget or the ratio you should invest in PR/Marketing, as normally most of the budget should be allocated to projects. If you invest most of the energy and resources to get more resources by advertising, it can become a negative cycle, where the real reason for the existence of the institution is put a side and the main reason of existence of the institution becomes of marketing/PR.

  21. Gianfranco Di Salvo

    September 15, 2011

    My opinion.
    First of all, we have to distinguish Marketing (advertising), Public Relations and Scouting.
    Public relations and scouting (developing in “negotiations” through networking and business intelligence activities) are essential for attracting Investors. For every territory, in every step of development.
    Marketing (advertising) can be important or less, depending on the past and present visibility and position of your brand (territory) in the market (worldwide). Unknown regions or business areas with “bad reputation” HAVE to do marketing, to make the first successful step on attracting foreign investors. Building or re-building the image of the brand, and create the base for negotiation in the perception of Investors.
    If you have not a good support from the brand’s fame, your efforts in PR, scouting and negotiation will be damaged. You cannot promote a country or a region telling “is near…(another famous business destination)”. You cannot promote a City telling “Is in the north/south… of this country/continent” or “it is not so bad as people think”.
    You should promote your territory telling simply its name, at first, supported by a good brand’s notoriety, and developing your negotiation on the more important economic and business elements of the investor’s business plan.
    The result of a marketing campaign is not proven by the number of investment “directly attracted”, but by the effectiveness of PR, scouting and negotiations activities, supported buy a good brand strategy.
    This is my experience in the last 10 years in promoting Torino (Italy), a city that needed a really strong marketing campaign on brand in the first 5 years (because quite unknown or bad-known as the “grey” Detroit of Italy, headquarter of FIAT Group), being on the contrary, a real Hi-tech, lively and business friendly City (Torino “ALWAYS ON THE MOVE” has been our slogan), with almost 80% of the budget dedicated to brand positioning, and a final “showcase shot” with the Winter Olympic Games visibility, in 2006.
    Today, less than 50% of our budget is dedicated to marketing, and we focus our activity more in PR, networking and scouting (intercepting FDIs flows to Europe/Italy), picking up the results of a previous good marketing campaign in our approach to investors.

  22. Gerard Klinkers

    September 20, 2011

    Advertising/marketing is communicating your product/service to potential customers. There are so many different ways to do that. There is no silver bullet. But in business investments it’s unlikely that investors act impulsive/get a new idea after reading/seeing ads.

    In these days it’s even doubtfull if the traditional trade shows are (still) effective. Internet, social & business networks!

    I can imagine this being slightly different between continents/countries, based on cultures/history.

  23. Varad Kamini

    September 22, 2011

    Advertising works, but only if enough background work has been done to identify the client needs and ensure that key messaging revolves around the same/ establishes connect with the relevant TG. In absence of the same, it is nothing but a piece of art and could be very well relegated to wasteful expense.

    Also, advertising is the first step in the AIDA communication process, which if done effectively can lead to potential/ desirable action.

  24. Cassim Nakkooda

    September 23, 2011

    I think it all depends on budget and whether you have an effective marketing plan in place. From my experience advertising does not work as most times economic development agencies place adverts in publications and use billboards to satisfy a political agenda and not aimed at attracting an investor. The placement is not strategic and is aimed at being seen but not to convince. I have experience of placing an ad in an international magazine at huge costs to the entity and only yielding one enquiry from another government agency. Nothing beats the 1 to 1 meetings as cumbersome as they might seem sometimes.

  25. Tina Frazer

    December 13, 2011

    Integrated marketing has to play a key role for ED agencies, otherwise we are all just “needles in a haystack” so to speak. The dificult part is the right combination and finding the right advertising and/or methods that most engage our audience (site selectors). “Measurable results” or ROI for print or online advertising can be difficult but has to be part of our strategy too. Perhaps we aren’t always marketing as we should (as George said above). However, the worst we can do…is to do nothing at all. We just finished a branding campaign with new print collateral, and will be redesigning our website too to be mobile ready and multi-lingual. We utilize Google Adwords campaigns, direct mail, email marketing and local and regional media, as well have placed advertising or editorial in trade publications for specific targeted pieces such as FTZ’s and ports (which we have both). This is our new marketing brochure, – love to hear your feedback

  26. Shar Toler

    December 21, 2011

    A clear vision must be present before considering advertising. What do you have? Who are you attempting to market to? What commercial need are you fulfilling? Blue Collar or White Collar community? Urban, Sub-Urban or Rural focus? Can your locale support a healthy mix of the afore-mentioned? It takes alot of preparation, it is much more than an unfocused flyer detailing what’s available, and everyone in the community must be on board (and, when I say everyone, I mean a vast majority of the businesses already in place) to ensure cohesiveness.

    Once your vision is clear, start your PR campaign follow-up by advertising because at this point you know where your pockets are in the market. Every municipality may not already be Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Orlando and/or New York but they can be just as distinguished (if not more so) when envisioned correctly.

  27. Rudy Deighton

    March 16, 2012

    To be honest, If we look back at the past, a big bag of money, good ideas or oncepts,, “Traditional print advertising”, The Internet, TV & Radio, and all the other advertising tools didn’t help our clients and us (marketers) a lot. What ever we did we couldn’t stop a recession globally and we are still in the problems over and over.

    Our clients are in need, so we have a job to do. How? By start Thinking out of the Box.
    Be professional, and show ourself, our clients that we are able to clear any job when its about our profession/core-business “branding and marketing.

    If we are not able to help them, we are no use of them at all, we better change our job.

    Its so easy to work only for the big clients with a good name, products and management and make our money. Don’t worry about them, they always will be able to make money and promotion..

    We have to work at the other side now also, help the goverments, firms in really big problems, Green Enviorments, Human people, Animals & children organisations.

    To fix the problems we must start with the clients of our clients “the customers who is buying and pay products, we have to convince them.

    But they are lost, in panic and don’t now what to do or what to believe anymore.

    A good tip? Its not about a good tip its about the new strategy, concept and plans we have to make for each new client and their whishes By Thinking out of the Box and not what we now know or have learned or at school the last few years.

    We must be very very creative and original

  28. Steven Mason

    March 16, 2012

    Advertising is not necessarily a waste of money. The approach I use is outcome-based, which goes beyond “action-oriented.” Absolutely, you want the target to take an action. But to do what? For what purpose? For what ultimate end? In my methodology, I start with the outcome: i.e., whom do we want doing what and why? Only then can one ask what type of advertising, if any, will achieve that objective. Of course, whatever you do must be on-brand, etc. — no argument there. But too often, I have seen too much deductive reasoning, and not enough inductive processes, used in order to perfect a campaign.

    Ex: I once had a law firm that wanted a brochure to distribute to prospects. It turns out that the brochure would have been useless given how they wanted to distribute it (both by direct mail and after in-person presentations) and given the content they had in mind (general firm overview) as well as the actions they wanted prospects to take (they weren’t sure, other than “become a client”). So instead of paying me to create an on-brand brochure, I created a position paper that explained why their approach to the drafting and negotiation of contracts differed from the norm and why it reduced the likelihood of litigation, arbitration or mediation (all costly in time and money) later on. This gave clients a reason to believe (and to become a client!) — branding through advertising, as it were; as well as a framework for thought leadership.

  29. link

    March 19, 2012

    Scott Adams: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

  30. Ed Burghard

    March 28, 2012

    There are some great perspectives here. The general theme is don’t blame the tool when the mechanic is at fault. The big reason advertising fails is the lack of a strategic rationale. It is a classic case of needing to think before taking action.

  31. John Derick

    June 21, 2012

    Hello Ed, There is a great deal of discussion on this topic, with evidence going both ways – some advertising has proved itself to be a great brand-builder, and some advertising has definitely been a waste of money. The difficulty lies in being able to have a way to stop or correct the advertising that will be a waste of resources before it gets to the point of big expenses in production and exhibition of the ad in the media. After evaluating more than 200 ads, the numbers indicate that about 60% are ok with approximately 4% of these being outstanding. The other 40% needs to be adjusted or cancelled. Correcting this 40% represents a return on investment of between 600 and 3,000 %, depending on the type of campaign and the cost of the instrument used to catch the underperforming advertising

  32. Dan

    June 21, 2012

    Great perspective. I do SEO for trade and a lot of time people don’t have a strategy in place or a call to action when traffic comes to their site. They just spend money to get traffic and complain about not getting the results they want.

  33. Pam Mehta

    June 25, 2012

    Is advertising a waste of Money? Only if the brand is well entrenched in the marketplace and has the dominant share,like Coke or Tiffany or Levi, other than that advertising is a must to keep the brand awareness level at the desired level. If a brand is number two or less, then it has to in order to maintain or gain market share.

    This is true for business to business, as well as state and local governments to business sales, unless one is offering a very unique advantage, like the Delaware state for business incorporation, or Germany for excellent reputation for engineering and therefore quality. Unless one has achieved the status of becoming a de facto benchmark for some superior attribute.

    When it comes to states competing for corporate relocations or for attracting new businesses, the game is no different. And the rules of the game are pretty standardized and commodity like; selling the state on financial incentives is good but that just gets you on the list. To be on the short list or slate to be considered for locating one’s business, the states have to differentiate and raise the awareness levels about the distinct advantages they offer to the prospects.

    Competition is getting stiffer in the current declining economy. States are bending over backwards to attract the right types of businesses. I think that to attract businesses that help the state stay abreast of fundamental shifts taking place today, the states have to have strategic vision and a concerted proactive approach to marketing. Advertising is integral to this approach for raising awareness and be in the top of the mind. That can happen only with a commitment to invest in designing and executing great marketing campaign. So , in my view advertising is not a waste of money, it is an investment in finding the right partners in sustaining and growing the economic development.

  34. Paul Newman

    June 28, 2012

    Hi Ed,

    Great article and follow-up discussion. It’s important to look at the big picture when advertising. With 3,009 counties, 19,000 municipal governments and 30,000 incorporated cities EDO’s have plenty of competition. Advertising gives EDO’s the opportunity to tell their unique story and educate decision-makers.

    Hopefully they read your tips and take advantage of the excellent advice. Let’s face it local word of mouth from exisitng business of course will help, but that only goes so far. To get on the radar for site searches EDO’s need a strong web, social media and YES print presence. Old school (print) now is often coupled with web exposure giving advertisers greater reach.

    Old school print ads now often come with digital components like digital editions, e-newsletters, social media and more so think beyond hard copies. Where you advertise is so very important and it’s often hard to distinguish one publication from the next. Protect your investment and use BPA Audited publications only. BPA delivers consumer and business media audits of unsurpassed rigor, objectivity, accuracy, transparency and timeliness—audits that provide solid assurance for both media owners and media buyers.

    The last point I’ll make – pick a publication who can prove their readers are launching projects. This URL will take you to our Impact Reports which list every project the readers of Site Selection magazine launched in the previous month.

  35. George Harben

    July 25, 2012

    Ed, excellent points. Advertising is a tool to reinforce a perception. In our business, perceptions matter a great deal. You must be able to back up the perception you are trying to convey with actual facts and intelligent analysis.

  36. Adam Jones-Kelley

    August 1, 2012

    Excellent piece, Dan! I might have included a 9th point, covering the importance of sustaining your campaign, what ad agencies call “Consistency of Message.” We have decades of research that shows you need to be in front of your prospects at least three times a year to really be remembered. It’s important to set realistic expectations, to help an advertiser understand that throwing up an ad one time isn’t going to generate the response of industry recognition they desire.

  37. […]   […]

  38. Ed Burghard

    October 14, 2012

    Another important element for success is reach and frequency among decision makers. Your campaign needs to be adequately resourced. You can have the absolute right and compelling message, but if the communication effort is under powered it will ultimately fail. Bottom line, if you are going to invest in advertising as a communication tactic do it right.

  39. Ted Coene

    December 10, 2012

    Business Facilities recently conducted a survey of Corporate Real Estate Executives which was presented at IEDC in Houston this past fall.

    One of the questions asked was “What are your top resources for Location Information”? Here was the results of that survey question.

    Internet 63%
    Magazines 47%
    ED Agency 45%
    Consultant 42%
    Referral from Business Associate 38%

  40. Ted Coene

    December 10, 2012

    Sorry I must of run out of space, but the final 2 resources most often used are
    Newspapers 25% and Social media 11%

    It’s best to conduct research and find out what sources your target respondents utilize and then market accordingly. In the case of
    Economic Development, the internet and magazines are most important. However, old fashioned relationship sales still is important as indicated by the next tier of resource results being Economic Developers and Consultants.

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  47. […] Is Advertising A Waste Of Money? […]

  48. mavicair

    February 18, 2018

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  49. Praveen Kumar

    December 17, 2019

    Never seen such an elaborate post on advertising. Especially the tips were spot-on. It will be useful for beginners as well as experts in advertising. Thanks for writing and sharing this. Bookmarked!

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