The best advertising plan would include all types of media, but the cost could be prohibitive for small- and medium-sized businesses, a media consultant cautions.
What's the best way around that? Tire dealerships should establish goals and determine the target audience they want to reach when determining which media formats to use, according to Michael Grina, media director of Marshall Advertising, a Tampa, Fla.-based media buying service.
Are you trying to promote your products? Pricing? Are you having sales? Building awareness of store location? Or just trying to get people to come to your store? Mr. Grina asked.
The No. 1 most important thing in advertising when you're doing a media plan is to set your target correctly.
This can be done, he said, by:
* Determining the dealership's trade area and geographyBe realistic about how far people are willing to travel to your store, he said. Dealers should also be aware of competitors' locations within their market and determine if people would drive past those competitors to get to their stores.
* Narrowing the target audienceFigure out who is the low hanging fruit, which Mr. Grina described as customers who are easy to attract and would return to the store as repeat customers and are the purchase decision makers.
The gold target for years in advertising has been adults 18 to 49, said Mr. Grina, who presented his advertising tips during the International Tire Exhibition & Conference in Cleveland last September. But these so-called Baby Boomers are now getting older and many are nearing retirement.
There are 78 million baby boomers 46 to 64 years old in the United States. They are the largest consumer group and they dominate spending. They have the most disposable income as well as the time and capability to go out and buy even premium products, he said. Yet only 5 percent of advertising is directed to this older segment.
* Deciding the types of tires to promotewhether it is broadline, SUV or performance tiresfor which people might travel a little bit further to get to your shop, Mr. Grina said.
While the best advertising plan would be to include all channels of media, he advises dealers on a budget to target specific media to meet their advertising goals and each medium offers pros and cons.
TV still is the dominant medium, reaching 89.5 percent of the adult population at an average rate of five hours per day. If dealers advertise on a market-wide level, though, it can be expensive.
However, cable TV interconnects can narrow the market viewership by zone or by network demographics, Mr. Grina said. Dealers shouldn't worry about the impact of digital video recorders (DVR) on advertisingabout a third of the country owns a DVR yet about half of them still watch the recorded commercials.
One of the important points in TV advertising is to target by day part, which defines what demographic is watching, he said. For example, late night hours are viewed by college students while daytime period are viewed by stay-at-home moms. He suggested the real bread-and-butter is during the early fringe, about 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., to target the more affluent audience.
Mr. Grina advised dealers to ask for extra options from their TV vendors, like billboards that plug the dealership with: This program is brought to you by XYZ Tires.
The Internet reaches about 67.5 percent of the U.S. population, which spends an average of about 2.5 hours a day surfing the Web. It is the most accountable media format to measure how effective ads are, but there could be some high clutter, Mr. Grina said.
Advertisers can narrow their target audience down to a ZIP Code to help eliminate wasted coverage. They can also target their ads by site and by ad network, which is a group of sites packaged together so advertisers can target their ads.
Display ads are the best option for advertising deals and promotions, he said, but only about 16 percent of the country clicks on these ads. Rollover ads that open up are more expensive, but they can measure how much time viewers spent moving around the ad features.
Mr. Grina also suggested dealers collect their customers' email addresses so they can send coupons and other comeback incentives.
Radio still reaches about 60.6 percent of the population, but it is difficult to determine how much of radio broadcasts are background medium, Mr. Grina said. Also, some stations with a large coverage area could translate into wasted coverage for a local dealership.
Radio offers a local flavor and loyalty and is very promotional, but it could be wasted coverage, he said.
The station format defines what audience the ad will reach, Mr. Grina said. He advised dealers to tell the station representatives their target audience or market so the station reps can recommend the right stations for a dealership's advertising needs.
He also told dealers that, like television, they can opt for shorter, inexpensive spots as small as 5 seconds, but they should also pick the most optimum parts of the day in which to run their ads.
Newspapers reach 38.6 percent of the population, while magazines reach 28.6 percent.
Newspapers are still great for bargain hunters, for promotional messages. People will still go out and pick up the Sunday newspaper for all the inserts and get the deals. But readership is declining because of online and it's less timely, Mr. Grina said.
He suggested dealers choose sections that make sense to reach their target audience. If you want to reach more women, for example, don't put your ad on the back of the sports section, he advised.
Dealers also have the option to buy topper ads that come on top of the paper when delivered in a particular zone. They are more expensive but also more visible.
The effectiveness of print ads can be tracked by including a code on the ad, he said.
Another more targeted ad option is direct mail, but it can be expensive, he warned. Coupon mailers, such as ValPak, mails to everybody in a market so there is no opt out option. Door hangers that consumers have to see because they are hung on their front doors are an effective way to target a zone but also are expensive.
Outdoor billboards are the best media for awareness and location advertising, he said, noting that the reach is huge, and this type of advertising can be very targeted to specific areas. One drawback: The billboard medium is limited in content to about seven words.
While not an advertising medium per se, grassroots public relations is very effective in a small market. This is an extremely important thing: Go out and sponsor your local high school football team. Make yourself seen within the community, because the smaller the community, the more loyalty and just overall camaraderie there is, Mr. Grina said. However, it is difficult to measure the return on investment on sponsorships.
No matter what medium is chosen, pick the best media to fit your needs, Mr. Grina suggests.
Challenge your media vendors and get performance recaps. Make sure all your ads ran where they were supposed to run. Tell them what your goals are and have them create a proposal.
An advertising budget should be based on a dealership's goals, he said. The dealer should determine return on investment and track the chosen media ads to determine what's working and not working. The duration of the ad campaign depends on the dealer's goals, he added.
Dealers should follow three important tenets in their ad campaigns, he said:
* Don't waste media coverage;
* Just because a media option is new doesn't mean it's better; and
* If you're going to do something, do it right before you add new things to it. If you're going to run TV (ads), don't cut that budget in half just to be online because that's what somebody said you should do, he said, because spreading the budget too thin will dilute the ad campaign's impact.