Top Ten Mistakes In Advertising: #2 – Plan Your Campaign Timing Carefully

As we saw in article number one, Testing remains front and centre the most important, powerful and effective thing you can do to help your advertising. Regardless of the budget,  the message, or the media placement you make. Testing Is Advertising. You need to test and test and keep testing because there is going to be an opportunity for improvement, however modest, in each and every ad. Those cumulative changes can be absolute gold showing you what your customers want and need, and are prepared to put their hand up for. Equally important, it  will teach you what they don’t want. Now that you have testing ingrained and under your skin it’s going to be part and parcel of every ad moving forward, correct ? Good.  I’m thrilled to learn that you’re onboard with that.

Mistake Number Two that I’ve seen too often through the years is that far too many advertisers are jumping in at any time without rhyme and reason, not thinking if this is the best seasonality to be in front of the target. I understand very few advertisers can afford to be there all the time running their campaign at full throttle, and that’s not unexpected. You have to have some rather deep pockets to keep an ongoing campaign all of the  time. You can quickly make yourself broke if you keep marketing, but not testing to see if the ads are working. 

The whole idea is Salesmanship. That goes back to John E. Kennedy in 1904 in Chicago.  His story starts in a saloon, where most good ones should start. In 1904, he sent a note to Albert Lasker, the new President of Lord & Thomas ad agency.

Albert Lasker became an icon in the ad industry

This is the moment in history when advertising was invented . One day, Albert was sitting in Ambrose Thomas’s office and a secretary handed a note to Thomas that said: “I am downstairs in the saloon. I can tell you what advertising is. I know you don’t know. If you wish to know what advertising is, send the word ‘Yes’ down with the bellboy. Signed – John E. Kennedy.”

Thomas scoffed at the note, but Lasker was intrigued and sent the word ‘Yes’ down to the saloon. Kennedy was shown into Lasker’s office. He was a strapping 6-foot tall, ex-Mountie  who used to write ads for the Hudson’s Bay Company. When Kennedy asked Lasker if he knew what advertising was,  Lasker said, “I think so. It’s news.” Kennedy said no, news was just a technique . The secret to advertising, Kennedy said, can be summed up in just three words: “Salesmanship in print.”

Those three words would change the advertising world forever…”Salesmanship in print” was an epiphany to the advertising world in 1904. Essentially, Kennedy was saying that advertising had to persuade. It had to give people reasons to buy the product. It had to convince. Up until then, all advertising was just straight facts. Here’s the product, here’s what it costs. That’s kinda why you’re marketing isn’t it? Regardless of what you’re selling, a product or service, you want to Sell something.  Make sure every ad is a sales opportunity for you.

The pair used this concept with the 1900 Washer Co. (later Whirlpool). Their campaign was so successful that, within four months of running the first ad, they attracted additional clients and their “advertising spend” went from $15,000 a year to $30,000 a month. Within six months, their firm was one of the three or four largest advertising agencies in the nation.

Print Ad Archives for Albert Lasker

Here’s what I’d like you to do. Plan in advance. Maybe some of you are already doing this and if so that’s fantastic, because it will give you a much better understanding of your spending and your planning. The biggest challenge for many advertisers is not anticipating when their best sales periods are going to be.  

They end up jumping at every advertising opportunity from each well-intended  media sales person, who comes through the door.  In the majority they are all very good people.  I have some wonderful relationships with many of my sales reps going back decades, which is amazing. They have become true allies for me in making a campaign work incredibly hard for my clients. I applaud them and I continue to do business with them.

Please understand their mandate is to sell. To sell the advertising space or time or placement. They want to see you do well but they also want to see some money. Remember, it is in their interest to get you to advertise as often as possible with their  publication. Their website. Their outdoor board. Their radio station, and kudos to them, they should be. But that can really stretch a budget if you’re trying to be there all the time, and you’re not sure what you should be doing. So here’s a simple tip that will really help crystallize for you what your timings should be like.  

I want you to map out an entire year on a spreadsheet.  It can be any fiscal if you prefer but for simplistic sake I try to stick to a calendar, January to December. (If you’d like a Sample Yearly Calendar, send an e-mail to with Sample Yearly Calendar in the subject line, and I’ll send you a copy)

What is the seasonality of your sales?

I want you to pick any two sales periods. If you have more, that’s great but two is easier to work with.  The times where you have some sales history showing you your best months, your products’ seasonal applicability, will determine the key sales potential period. Let’s say April and May for spring and then November and December for winter are your best sales carrots.  I actually have several clients in different industries where that is exactly the case. Those are the pivotal periods for them. What I want you to do is devote up to 50% of your annual ad budget to support these two windows.

That’s where perhaps upwards of 80% of your business is coming from. You should  be giving those two key periods the best opportunity to maximize your exposure. I encourage you to put much of your marketing muscle in these periods because  they are driving the majority of your revenue. These are the key times that you want to be making sure your name is out there on  an ongoing basis, and they will get your most attention and your most support.

Okay, with those in place, the remaining eight months of the year will share the  remaining 50% of the budget. Perhaps you devote 30% to six months and 20% to the final two months. You can allocate that as you feel comfortable, and as your cash flow allows.  In my experience, this gives you an opportunity to have sustained presence, to have even some modest exposure, so you’re always on your prospects radar. You don’t have to be running full-throttle all the time. This allows you to ramp up your presence in the four heaviest months split between spring and winter.

You have maybe six months that are second tier and that need some Increased support. Importantly, they’re not the same demand period as your key period. You don’t have to be with your foot on the pedal quite as aggressively through those time blocks. The intensity is not as critical as your primary periods.  Then the lightest months for some advertisers, often the summer window, June through August, when people are at last vacationing, or not really thinking of work because the outdoor beckons, those might be your lighter periods.

Quote from Albert Lasker

Bear in mind, this is only one of many deployment strategies I’ve discovered. I’ve had the great good fortune of working with both large and small ad agencies and working with some advertisers who had very modest budgets, and others who have very deep pockets.  You don’t have to spend more than your competition. Certainly it helps to increase your media exposure when you have multiple opportunities there. However, you just have to spend smarter, at the right times. So take the time to map out on a calendar what your key sales periods are and maybe those are Spring & Fall. Maybe, it’s just pre-Christmas, but take the time to find out. Eliminate as much guess-work as possible. Start knowing. It will cost you the same whether it works or not. Do everything you can to make sure your spend ‘works’ at every level.

Please keep some spending out there, you don’t want to lose all of the equity and all of the awareness that you’ve built up through your spring periods. Remember you want to have some ongoing presence, however modest, just to make sure that your key audience knows that you’re still in there pitching. Your lightest months can simply be a sustaining presence. 

Genuinely this is probably the single biggest advertising tip I can give you. Importantly, Plan and Buy early.  Planning months in advance, you will save yourself an enormous amount of grief.  No less critical, you will save an enormous amount of money by booking early. I can’t stress that enough. You can save from 30% to 60% or more by buying EARLY.  IE: If you want a radio campaign in October, buy the time in February!! So take the time to Plan Your Campaign Timing Carefully and Spend Smarter.

About the Author: Dennis Kelly is an advertising expert with 30 years of wisdom to share for Office Today readers and is the author of two books “Nine Secrets To Improve Your Advertising” and “57 Media Spikes”. CLICK HERE to learn more. Office Today Readers receive a FREE 30 Minute consultation with Dennis to discuss what your next media moves should be. Send an e-mail with OFFICE TODAY CONSULTATION in subject line and the best times to chat. Email