ADV 450

Notes on Advertising Objectives


Objectives are statements that describe what is to be accomplished to capitalize on opportunities and/or overcome problems during the planning period. Effective objectives are concise but have enough detail to provide specific guidance to managers.

Types of Objectives

Management of advertising and marketing communications involves multiple types of objectives. Some may be very broad and define major accomplishments that may take years to achieve. For example, when you are managing a brand, you may set objectives that focus on long-term changes in attitude among a specific target audience. Others objectives may be very specific and focus on detailed action plans. For example, when you are developing a media plan, you may set specific reach and frequency objectives.


In this class we will focus primarily on broad objectives that guide strategic management decision-making. In general, these broad objectives fall into two categories: direct and indirect.


Direct objectives are focused on achieving some kind of action-oriented results. For example, direct objectives might focus on increased sales, development of new distribution channels, increased profitability, etc. Direct objectives are sometimes also called marketing objectives. This is because many elements of the marketing mix (e.g. price, product, and place) can be measured directly. However, many aspects of the promotion mix need to be measured indirectly.


Indirect objectives focus on pre-action steps on the hierarchy of effects. For example, indirect objectives may focus on changing attitudes, increasing awareness, etc. Indirect objectives are also sometimes called communication objectives. Communication alone is rarely enough to stimulate action. All the communication in the world will not lead people to purchase a product that is unavailable through distribution channels.


Traditionally, advertisers have focused primarily on indirect objectives. This is because advertising agencies typically have little control over other elements of the marketing mix. The role of advertising has been seen primarily as moving consumers up the hierarchy of effects so that they become more likely to take specific direct actions in retail environments.


Hierarchy of effects models are designed to show the stages that consumers go through in making a purchase decision. The most widely used is the learning hierarchy. In it, the consumer proceeds from thinking about a product to feeling something about it to, finally, taking action (or inaction) about it.


The problem with the learning hierarchy is that it only applies to certain types of purchase decisions--those that are highly involving. The purchase decision for other types of products is likely to be quite different depending upon the risk associated with the decision and how the consumer relates to the product. Foote, Cone & Belding came up with a model to account for these factors.


However, advertisers are under increasing pressure to show direct results of advertising. This is, in part, because of the increased use of direct response advertising vehicles such as coupons, 800-numbers for response to broadcast advertising, catalogs, and the Internet. However, it is also because marketers want to make sure that advertising really has direct, bottom-line results. Few marketers are willing to invest in "feel good" advertising that does not directly benefit the brand and the company.


Does this mean you should always strive to write direct objectives? No. Sometimes a case focuses on issues that are best addressed with indirect objectives. You should always carefully consider the situation and then decide what kind of objective is best.


Hierarchies of Effects: How We Buy


Advertising can impact the consumer in at least 3 ways. It can influence what he/she:

 1)  thinks (cognitive);

 2)  feels (affective); and

 3)  does (conative).


But how the advertising ultimately contributes to a purchase has a lot to do with the nature of the product.


Below are different hierarchies of effects based on product type. The purchase process presumed to apply to a product also has implications for the kind messages used to sell the product.  You’ll notice that this quadrant matches the FCB grid you’ve learned about in other classes.


Quadrant #1 is the learning hierarchy that presumably applies when we buy cars or other highly involving goods.  Since the first step is to learn about brands, advertisers emphasize building brand recall.  Quadrant #2 is similar except that the purchase is more emotional and advertisers would emphasize evoking feelings in consumers.  Quadrant #3 describes a low involvement, rational purchase where advertisers focus on consumer action such as an impulse buy.  Lastly, Quadrant #4 also applies to a low involvement purchase but, unlike in #3, it’s an emotionally driven purchase.  Advertisers might strive to inspire an impulse buy but it’s done by eliciting an emotional reaction.




cars, houses, new products

recall emphasis










jewelry, fashion, motorcycles

emotional emphasis 







food, household stuff

behavior emphasis 









candy, liquor, smokes

behavior emphasis


1Alternatively presented as Do-Learn-Feel


Elements of an Objective: What Your Objectives Must Have

A good objective includes four primary elements:

q       task

q       amount of change

q       time frame

q       audience


The task is what you hope to achieve. The type of task you identify will largely define whether an objective is direct or indirect. Examples of direct objectives include increased sales, or increased market share. Examples of indirect thinking objectives are increased brand awareness, or increased knowledge about the brand. Feel objectives include increased positive attitude toward the brand or increased preference for the brand. Do objectives are things like increased intention to purchase the brand, or getting consumers to redeem coupons, call 800 numbers or visit web sites.


However, it is not enough to indicate you want an increase. You must indicate the amount of change. For example, you might indicate you want to increase sales by 10% or increase awareness by 30%. By specifying the amount of change you hope to achieve, you make your objective measurable. You will be able to know whether the objective has been met. Obviously, it helps to know what sales or awareness is now. This is called the benchmark. If this information isn't available, you'll need to make an educated guess. For instance, awareness of MacDonald's restaurants is probably close to 100% among almost any target audience in the United States. Preference for the brand over others might be more like 40%.


When do you measure the amount of change? Your objective should also specify a time frame. Do you want to achieve the changes within a year, 6 months, 10 years? The objective should clearly indicate when your task is to be accomplished.


Finally, a good objective also makes clear reference to the audience. Who will the new customers be? What kind of people will be made more aware of the product? Many objectives simply include the phrase "among the target audience." That's OK if you clearly state your target audience in another part of your plan. But when you are writing your objective, you should always have your audience clearly in mind.


Good objectives should also be realistic. Don't either underestimate or overestimate what can be achieved. You should also be internally consistent. For example, don't mix direct objectives with indirect changes. Finally, make sure your objectives are clear and well written. It can often be tricky to word objectives in such a way as to avoid misplaced modifiers and dangling ideas.

Novice managers often leave out one or more of the four elements of a good objective. For example, a manufacturer of office furniture might set the following objective:

* Increase sales by 20 percent.
This objective has a task and an amount of change, but lacks a time period or a target audience. A better way to state the objective might be:
*Increase sales among small-business owners by 20 percent in the next year.


An example of an indirect objective for a humane society might be:
*Increase knowledge of the need for spaying and neutering pets.
This objective has a task, but nothing else. A better way to state this objective might be:
*Increase knowledge of the need for spaying and neutering pets by 50 percent among elementary school children in Knox County during the 2010-2011 school year.


Four different Ways to Focus Objectives


Another way to think about your advertising is to consider the different purposes there are for advertising--based on the product life cycle, the market share of your product, and the nature of your target audience.  Informative advertising may be intended to create awareness, or increase the TA’s knowledge of your brand.  Persuasive ads are intended to create preference for your brand by increasing the target’s liking for your brand over the competing brands.  Reminder advertising is used to encourage repeat purchases of your brand. Reinforcement advertising may be used to reinforce a purchase. (EXTRA CREDIT OPP!!!  Find me an article in a reputable research publication or book that says that the person most likely to read advertising for automobiles is someone who’s recently purchased a car.)


General Objectives for Marketing Communication


Rossiter & Percy identify four general types of objectives for marketing communication—including advertising:

q       Category need—establishing a product or service category as necessary to resolve a discrepancy between the consumer’s current motivational state and a desired emotional state. (Consumer recognizes there’s a solution to an acknowledged problem of desire.)

q       Brand awareness—consumers’ ability to recognize or recall the brand within the category in sufficient detail to make a purchase.  (The consumer remembers or recalls your brand as one of a group that might address a need or want.)

q       Brand Attitude—evaluation of the brand’s perceived ability to meet a currently relevant need. (Consumer feels positively toward your brand as a solution to a need or want.)

q       Brand purchase intention—consumer’s intentions to purchase the brand or to take purchase-related action.  (Consumer intends to take action toward the brand—make a phone call, visit a website, return a reply card, go to the store, etc.)


Material for this handout came from:

Kotler & Keller, A Framework for Makreting Management, 2007, Pearson/Prentice Hall; Parente, Advertising Campaign Strategy: A Gudie to Marketing Communication Plans, 2004, Thomson/South-Western.