Not All Ad Positions Are Created Equal

In advertising, not all ad positions are created equal. That should come as no surprise to advertisers.  Every media has its star positions and remnants.

  • Radio morning drive time is valued over all other time slots.
  • In TV, prime time – 7-10pm – is the coveted time slot.
  • For magazines, right-paged ads get more eyeballs than left-page placements, and front of the book or inside covers are clearly premium spots.
  • In newspapers, above-the-fold positions are the“top” spots, but a below-the-fold strip ad on a section front also has extremely high value.

This is all common advertising wisdom, but effective ad placement is not always that cut and dry. Newspaper data, for instance, shows that comics and lifestyle columns are highly read and, yet, most advertisers overlook these key positions when creating their media plans. Don’t try to run next to Dear Abby or Garfield in The New York Times, since the Grey Lady doesn’t carry those features. But if you’re a local psychologist introducing a new service in an area served by a regional paper, an adjacency to Dear Abby or Carolyn Hax, Abbey’s younger counterpart in newspaper advice columns, might be just the ticket for getting the right eyeballs to your ad.

Positioning means just that – the position of your ad. It can include adjacencies to key features, or a “Blue Ocean” spot. For instance, a mortgage financing company should find that a newspaper ad adjacency to real estate listings is both more affordable than an above-the-fold ad in regional news AND more effective due to the readership affinity with real estate listing readers. The same would hold true in an online environment.

A “Blue Ocean” spot is one where other advertisers may not normally appear, giving you an open space, or blue ocean spot, to get your message clearly across without clutter from your competitors. An example of this is a recent real estate ad placed in Hometown, the zoned community section of The Press of Atlantic City, rather than in the real estate section. In this case, the realtor was effectively targeting interested residents from a specific area for attention to a unique property. It doesn’t mean the ad should not also run in real estate, but the positioning clearly set this ad apart from competitors. And that’s the point of all advertising — gain attention towards you and away from competitors.

Ad positioning is both an art and a strategic play. Great positioning means your ad is where  the right people will see, hear or interact with it. But positioning alone doesn’t make for ad effectiveness. For instance, an auto detailing ad in a Sunday afternoon radio hour may be inexpensive, but not worth the dollars paid for it. Why? Radio listenership plummets on weekends except for morning religious shows for the homebound.

No matter the media, great positioning is the result of being in the right place at the right time to reach the right people.

The Walk-away: Positioning is one leg of three-legged stool – with the other two legs always being Reach and Frequency. Just as with a stool, one leg of a media plan won’t give you a strong platform. You need all three solidly in place at all times.


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