The 5 M's of Advertising

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Devendra Vyavaharkar
Manager, India

The 5 M's of Advertising

🔥NEW Advertising is an activity involving paid, non-personal promotion of a product, service, or brand by the seller. Typically the aim of advertising is to influence consumption behavior with respect to commercial products or services, but the purpose of advertising may also be educational, political or ideological. But how do marketers go about when planning out an advertising program or strategy for their firm, brand or product?

Marketers focus on 5 key decision areas while developing an advertising strategy for a brand or product. These can be referred to as the 5Ms of Advertising:
  1. MISSION (What are the advertising objectives?): An advertising objective is a specific communication task which is to be completed in a particular time with a particular group of audience, and to a certain level (For example, to increase the market penetration of the ABC brand in the target market by XY% within six months.)
    There are four main types of advertising objectives:
    • Informative: Creating brand awareness and knowledge about new offerings, or new features in existing offerings.
    • Persuasive: Aims to create liking or preference for a firm's offering and persuading customers to purchase the product/service.
    • Reminder: Aims to stimulate a repurchase of the product or service offered by the firm.
    • Reinforcement: Reassuring customers that they have made the right choice by purchasing the firm's product/service and would get the intended results or satisfaction by using it; aimed at maintaining the market share.
    More on: Communication Objectives of Advertising.
  2. MONEY (What is the advertising budget?): Advertising is an essential expense toward building customer loyalty and brand equity. Unlike an investment in a capital asset (like machinery), which is capitalized, i.e., depreciated over the years, an advertising expense is considered in the first year. Thus, firms have to set the advertising budget meticulously.
    Factors considered while setting the advertising budget are:
    • Product Life Cycle stage: New products require more advertising budget as a ratio of revenue, while mature products require a lesser budget.
    • Competition: Firms with more competitors spending heavily on advertising need bigger budgets to be heard out distinctly.
    • Product Substitutability: Less differentiated products require heavy advertising (ads have to be displayed more frequently).
    • Market share and customer base: Firms with bigger market shares need lesser advertising budget as a ratio of sales.
    • Frequency of advertising: The higher the frequency of advertising, the more the budget.
    Various pieces of literature argue between two forms of the Advertising Response Function (how the sales for a product varies with advertising expenditure): the S-shaped curve and the Downward-facing Concave curve. However, both agree that after a certain level of advertising expense, the sales seem to saturate.
    More on: How Much Should You Spend on Advertising? Budget
  3. MESSAGE (What do we intend to communicate via the ad campaign?): The advertisement strategy consists of the Message strategy (what to convey about the offering) and Creative strategy (how to convey it).
    Marketers follow these three steps while deciding on the message to be communicated:
    • Message Generation and Evaluation: An advertisement typically focuses on two or three features of the firm's offerings. Initially, marketing research is conducted to understand how to 'connect' with the customers, and then a Creative Brief is prepared. The Creative Brief serves as the roadmap for the positioning of the offering and includes information about the firm's background, message, target audience, channels, features of the product/service, etc.
    • Creative Development and Execution: Along with the message content, the way it is communicated also affects the ad's impact. Various media such as TV, Print, and Radio are used for audio-visual communication. With all the eye-catching elements in the ad, one must make sure that the target audience should not overlook the key message about the product and the brand.
    • Social and Legal Review: While developing ads, advertisers should be sensitive towards the various sections and classes of the society, without offending them. They should also ensure not to trick or deceive the customers (For example, using Bait-and-switch advertising).
  4. MEDIA (Which media types should the firm use?): Marketers aim to find the most cost-effective media, which provides the required amount of exposure to the target audience. The following steps are carried out while choosing the media, which carries the message:
    • Deciding the Reach, Frequency, and Impact: Firms expecting a specific Trial rate for the product (T*), aim for a certain level of Product Awareness (A*), which is attained through a certain level of Exposure (E*) to the target audience. The level of exposure depends on the range (number of people exposed to the message), frequency (number of times the recipient is exposed to the message in a stipulated timeframe), and impact (a qualitative measure of the exposure).
    • Selecting the Media type: Based on factors such as cost, product characteristics, media habits of the target audience, etc., marketers may choose the media type. Social Media, Newspapers, TV, Radio, Telephonic, and Direct Mail are some of the examples.
    • Selecting specific Media vehicles: Within each media type, the most cost-efficient media vehicle is chosen; cost-per-thousand exposures is typically considered as a measure. Adjustment factors such as audience quality, audience-attention probability, editorial quality, and ad placement policies are considered to get a more realistic insight from the cost-to-thousand measure.
    • Selecting Media timing and Allocation: Advertisers make macro-scheduling (related to seasons and business cycles) and micro-scheduling (shorter periods) decisions about how to vary the advertising expenses across the year. The advertising could be continuous (exposed over a longer time), concentrated (within a short period), flighting (alternating periods of advertising and no advertising), and pulsing (continuous low-intensity advertising, with intermittent high-intensity advertising). Similar to time, advertisers should also allocate advertising budgets over space National buys (National TV networks or Magazines), Spot buys (Few markets or regions), or Local buys (local TV, newspaper, or radio).
    More on: Media Selection: Media Characteristics, Types, Advantages and Disadvantages
  5. MEASUREMENT (How should the firm evaluate the performance of the ad campaign?):
    • Communication-Effect Research or Copy Testing: Aims to find whether an advertisement is communicating effectively. The firm should employ both pre-tests (before putting the ad into the media) and post-test (after printing or broadcasting the message).
    • Sales-Effect Research: Aims to find the number of additional sales for the advertising expense, which increased brand awareness and brand preference by a certain amount. Researchers typically use the traditional method of correlating sales to advertising expenses.
    More on: Measuring the Effectiveness of Advertisements.
Kotler, P. & Keller, K. L. (2016) "Marketing Management", 2016, pp. 569 583
Schroer, J. C. (1990) "Ad Spending: Growing Market Share", 1990, Harvard Business Review
Vakratas D., Feinberg, F. M., Bass, F. M. & Kalyanaram G. (2004) "The Shape of Advertising Response Functions Revisited: A Model of Dynamic Probabilistic Thresholds", 2004, Marketing Science, 23:1, pp. 109-119


Helen Strong
Business Consultant, South Africa

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