Quick definition: Advertising entails the paid promotion of marketing content with the aim of acquiring new customers.

Key takeaways:

Answers to the following questions were surfaced in an interview with Austin Meisel, an Adobe corporate team trainer.

What is advertising?
What is programmatic advertising?
What is the difference between marketing and advertising?
How does digital advertising compare to traditional advertising?
How can technology improve advertising strategies?
What are some advertising strategies a company can employ?
How does a company effectively advertise?
How has digital advertising changed the way customers engage with products?
What is the future of advertising?

What is advertising?

Advertising is the technique and practice brands use to bring products and services to the public’s notice for the purpose of getting them to respond to what a brand has to offer — whether product, service, cause, or idea.

Advertising helps sustain brands. It’s focused on getting a message out to a specific customer type or audience in order to get them to take a certain action. Types of advertising include video, display, paid search, paid social, print, email, radio, TV, and outdoor.

What is programmatic advertising?

Programmatic advertising is the automation of the advertising process: artificial intelligence (AI) software decides where and when ads are placed and automates the purchasing process. There are usually three types of people involved in programmatic advertising:

Programmatic advertising automates the role of the broker. It helps people find where to place ads based on the criteria they've established to reach the people they are targeting.

What is the difference between marketing and advertising?

Marketing is a wider discipline. It includes understanding your customers through research and then using that information to promote the value of the product you want them to buy.

Marketing goes beyond telling customers about your product; it's also about understanding how your product relates to the customer and what value it will bring them. And then advertising is used to take action on that understanding. Advertising makes the product or service known to your customer.

How does digital advertising compare to traditional advertising?

One of the benefits of digital advertising over traditional methods is that it provides an easier means to track a customer across their journey. Compared to traditional advertising, you get more information about your customer and can build a better understanding of their behavior.

Traditional advertisers couldn’t track a customer’s interests and past purchases and then make accurate purchase predictions based on them. With digital advertising, you can understand customer behavior in greater detail. And in turn, customers can develop a better feel for your brand via digital advertising.

For example, say somebody finds your web page through search and then goes onto your social media platforms, starts following you, and sees your Instagram photos. If you want people to understand and further research your brand, digital advertising tends to be the favorite.

But digital advertising can also be expensive, so if you don’t know who your target audience is or how to effectively reach them, you could spend a lot of money and not get the return you expect if you aren’t tracking your audience.

Traditional advertising can still be relevant depending on the brand or what your goal is. Print advertising — that appears in newspapers or magazines — can help capture the essence of what the brand is and what it stands for, and it projects that concept to the audience.

The problem with print advertising is that we don't know all the people it reaches.

You can assume certain things based on a publication’s brand, but you don’t really have that actual data of who the people are. But you still get the benefit of building brand awareness and associating your brand with a certain idea.

For example, if you run an ad in a publication like Vogue, you’re connecting your brand with the lifestyle offered by Vogue, which is different from the lifestyle offered by, say, Harper’s or Cat Fancy. You're invoking a general feeling about your name.

Television advertising has generally managed to adapt to the new market since many people now watch TV online. Advertisers can now track and connect with those customers through either source.

Traditional TV advertising is still a valid option for marketing professionals because it allows them to tell a story visually. It’s interactive, in a sense, because it's more than just a phrase or one static image. With both TV and podcasts, you get to tell a story about your product or service.

How can technology improve advertising strategies?

Technology can improve an advertising strategy by automating ad circulation, thereby targeting an interested audience from the first.

Using AI and machine-learning technology to look at historical data is key. Doing so helps companies make decisions regarding how to pinpoint those moments when customers, who behave similarly, might potentially engage, or convert. Technology that tailors ads to customers and sends them on a specific journey based on their past behavior and needs allows companies to understand and convert or retain customers.

Companies need to be careful not to over-automate, though. Advertisers still need to have a hand in some of these decisions, as AI has its data interpretation limits. But AI and machine learning are helpful and effective in brands getting the most out of their digital marketing budgets and running more efficient campaigns that have a better return on investment (ROI).

What are some advertising strategies a company can employ?

It’s true that encouraging customers to develop an emotional connection with a brand or product is key to conversion. Another strategy is making a specific claim about your brand. You have to develop an association between the customer and the product. For example, you might imply that eating a certain food will make you feel healthier or happier or a specific brand of body wash will help you feel beautiful and luxurious.

You can also convince a customer to join the bandwagon. You show them how other people are enjoying the brand, and ask why they haven’t engaged yet, since so many others have. To further convince them, you can offer promotional rewards. If the customer chooses to interact with your brand, they will get a discount or some other promotional benefit.

Repetition is also key in keeping up brand recognition. And here’s where AI comes in: By targeting an audience and with brand exposure, you can encourage conversion little by little over time.

Many companies run simultaneous ad campaigns across different channels. They may show the customer a display ad, then later show them a video ad describing a few additional benefits of the product. All the ad types play into each other to solidify the brand’s significance and reliability as well as the product being offered.

How does a company effectively advertise?

To effectively advertise, a company must have a goal. They will often think of advertising as a non-tangible item used to show people the brand is great. While that can be helpful to tie your brand to a specific product and reinforce your brand name, it’s important to make sure there is some goal you’re trying to achieve.

You can change the goal as you get results back, but it's always important to make sure that you're working toward some goal, and you're analyzing that data to know what you do next. If you aren't, then you're not getting the ROI, and you're not sure how effective your advertising is.

Furthermore, you must understand who your target audience is, how they’ll respond emotionally to an advertising campaign, and what it takes to lead them to conversion. Advertising can run into problems when people don’t think about how to pattern certain associations to their product.

In a perfect world, you’re reaching your target audience in the right place, at the right time, and with relevant content. To effectively advertise, you need to target the right audience during the right point of the sales cycle. Do you want your ad to target a customer at the beginning when they’re trying to decide on a brand, or do you want to target somebody who’s already picked your brand and is now in your store looking at their options?

Each ad is going to be different depending on your goal and what you want the customer to do, but it’s important to understand where that customer is in the sales funnel to then better tailor that advertising to them.

How has digital advertising changed the way customers engage with products?

Traditionally, a customer goes into a store, looks at a variety of options, and chooses one. Later, at home, they use the product and decide if they would like to continue with it or choose a new brand. This is called the “moment of truth,” and it was with this type of conversion event in mind that advertising traditionally moved forward.

Now, in the digital advertising age, customers can research multiple brands online and use information from social media, display ads, or reviews to choose a product. But today’s customers are just as human — just as driven by emotion — as yesterday’s. Even if you’re a brand that’s in the final running to be a product the customer purchases, customers are now making last-minute decisions to try a totally different brand, even up until the moment of purchase.

The problem with digital advertising is that you’re not sure where you're falling in that funnel. You have to be agile enough to respond to customers in the right way, and catch their attention, at the moment that you know they're willing to change their mind.

How do companies know which customers to target with ads?

Choosing which customers to target with which ads comes down to collecting first-party and behavioral data about user activity, and understanding how different users come to your site.

You need to find out how customers learned about your brand, whether it was via:

If your brand attracted a far smaller number of website visits during an email campaign than after a series of ad placements, you know more about your customers than you did before: They aren’t meaningfully responsive to your email campaign. Any elements contributing to the success of your paid media campaign should be applied to your email marketing strategy. Alternatively, you may decide to shift your email budget to paid media to maximize the impact of fewer channels to your bottom line.

How can companies advertise on a small budget?

If you can’t pay, then you have to put in the work. There are a lot of free resources out there, such as social media pages or search engine optimization. You don’t have to go all in on a paid search campaign — you can choose a few keywords and craft some text-based ads to appear on a search engine results page.

You can craft an info-rich homepage and effective landing pages. And there’s no replacement for good content. Long-form content, in particular, yields high conversion rates.

How can companies ensure their ads stand out without becoming annoying?

There are a lot of little things that marketing channel publishers are doing to try to force the hand of customers to engage with an advertisement. For example, when YouTube first incorporated ads into videos on their platform, people were suddenly getting bombarded with ads they didn’t want to watch.

As a solution, YouTube added an option where users could skip an ad after five seconds. Customers are still exposed to the ad, and can continue to watch it, but they have the option to skip it if doesn’t appeal to them. And it gives the advertiser five seconds to convince the customer to engage with their brand.

As advertisers look for ways to stand out, they need to explain the value of their product to their customers in a succinct way. They also need to know which customers to target, what they’re likely to respond to, and what calls to action will drive conversions.

What does poor advertising look like?

Advertising can be considered bad when it isn’t prudent, thoughtful, or conscious of what’s happening in the world. It can usually be tied back to some kind of social inappropriateness or a lack of awareness about the current market. There’s a lack of consideration about how an ad will be perceived.

Inauthentic advertising is also a problem, like one brand copying another brand’s spontaneous moment. Inaccurate advertising — advertising that misrepresents a product — can also be considered bad.

Also, any advertising that doesn’t target correctly or speak to the brand’s customer base won’t be effective.

What is the future of advertising?

Advertising is growing increasingly specific, with a hyper-focus on first-party data. The trend is identifying specific customers and their specific behaviors and then understanding how to either target or retarget them.

Privacy laws and regulations will also have an impact since data collection is so vital. We’ve seen some challenges already, such as how limited data can make it difficult to get the right ads or get the right information in front of your customers. And further restrictions on customers' first-party data will probably present some more challenges.

But what we're finding is that there's a level of acceptance that customers have in the Americas. They understand that without giving some information to advertisers, the advertising experience will diminish. The ads you see won’t necessarily be relevant, and that’s one thing that creates a frustrating experience.

Deloitte predicts that that AI and programmatic advertising will dominate, and that “traditional processes involving RFPs, human negotiations, and manual insertion orders will vanish from the digital advertising space.”

Kate Scott-Dawkins at Essence Global concurs that AI will play a major role in the future of advertising. However, she doesn’t discount the importance of the human element in advertising, stating that “companies will need to become more transparent, sustainable, and purpose-driven to meet the expectations of post-Millennial generations over the next decade.”

People also view