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How to get big advertising ideas for small companies

How to get big advertising ideas for small companies

By Jo Smith, UK General Manager of

One of the loneliest times for a business person is signing off an advertising campaign.
The cost will invariably run into thousands of pounds and there is bound to be someone internally questioning the need to do it at all. For the head of a small-to-medium sized businesses, that decision is even harder.

But there are ways to ensure that your advertising creates big waves, no matter what your size.

Here are nine ways to maximise your advertising spend and hopefully make you more confident to take the right advertising decisions.
1. Don’t be intimidated if you have a small spend.
Business people with small advertising budgets, take heart. Just as size is no measure of performance in other things, so you don’t need a huge marketing spend to build a brand with buzz. In 2005, Nielsen Media Research says that 177,654 advertisers in the UK spent less than £500,000 on their advertising, many at the lower end of that figure.

Just look at the number of multi-million pound advertising campaigns that do nothing for their brand’s profile.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising – advertising’s trade body - even has its own “IPA Effectiveness Awards” where it gives prizes to campaigns which can demonstrate that they have grown the business they are advertising. But they are notoriously hard to win, because even the most expensive strategies can fail.
2. Avoid larger ad agencies.
The easiest way to buy advertising is by retaining an advertising agency. They will help you with strategic business planning, come up with creative work and sometimes buy media for you, too.
But unless you are a charity or have a really sexy product which the agency wants to do ‘high profile’ work on to win creative awards, you may want to make other arrangements.
Budgets of less than £100,000 can get lost among the bigger-spending clients and find themselves passed around more junior members of staff.
3. Buy the best creative brains you can.
In the end, the creative idea behind your advertising campaign is what will make it a success or a failure. A powerful idea stylishly executed will leave an impression, no matter how small the media spend behind it. However, don’t be fooled into thinking you can come up with a creative idea yourself.
The best advertising seems deceptively simple, but the creatives behind it have usually had years of experiences and training. As the famous American writer Mark Twain once wrote to a friend: "Sorry for the long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one." Buy the best talent you can afford.
4. Be innovative in how you source your creative work.
If you want great creative but cannot afford conventional ways of getting it, you have to be innovative. Hiring freelance creatives is one way round the problem. There are some fantastic teams out there working independently or as small consultancies.
A good place to source them is through the advertising charity, NABS, on 0207 292 7330 or the Talentpool directory from the advertising and design educational charity D&AD, on 0207 840 1111.
Another avenue well worth exploring is Billed as the world’s first on-line marketplace for advertising ideas, it enables clients to post communication briefs and wait for answers from an on-line community of nearly 5000 top creatives in 53 countries.
5. Have a clear brief for creatives.

This seems obvious, but it is amazing how many clients get this wrong. A clear brief is essential if you are not using a full-service agency with a strategic planning function to help you define your needs.

If you are the strategic thinker briefing creatives directly, make sure you know the key messages you want to communicate and to whom. A muddy set of instructions will inevitably result in badly-targeted work.

6. Be clever with your use of media.
Don’t be too ambitious. If your business is small, and your budgets tight, perhaps do direct mailings to existing customers or a viral campaign before embarking on a lavish ad push. A good creative idea should have the flexibility to be used across a range of media, from posters to mailers.
7. Don’t be afraid to take a creative chance.
There is a constant debate in the advertising world about whether companies rely too heavily on pre-testing advertisements with research groups before deciding whether to run them. The consensus is that this can lead to ‘bland’ advertising which neither offends, nor excites. A good marketing director will go with his or her heart.
8. Don’t make the mistake of thinking sex sells every time.
Scantily clad men and women are a fall-back for even the biggest advertisers and especially tempting when creative ideas are in short supply. But sex does not always sell, even for large, glossy advertisers. Explicit ads can alienate your customers, especially if done with poor production values and little charm.
9. Finally, trust your instincts.
And take heart from the fact that instinct is still seen as one of the best arbiters of great work. Not everyone is a ‘natural’ at buying advertising. But if you know your business, you should at least have a good sense of what messages will resonate with your customers.

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