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Advertising Strategies: Choosing Your Media

By Gary Naples

This article offers useful information for understanding and using different types of media to get your message out. In addition to the helpful hints and pointers for advertising your parts store, the underlying all-important message of these articles is that advertising is an equally important aspect of your business. It ranks right up there with every other management function of the parts store. That is, of course, if you want true success in your business.
Ewin Artzt, the CEO of Proctor & Gamble, in an article called Grooming the Next Generation of Management wrote, "No company that markets products or services to the consumer can remain a leader in its field without a deep-seated commitment to advertising." His wisdom applies to the big and the small businesses alike. The best people, the best facility, the best inventory control system and the best-stocked inventory around have little significance or consequence to anyone if customers don't know about it.

By now you may understand the concept of marketing and advertising (see Counterman's previous articles on advertising by Gary Naples - The Savvy Store: Improve Your Store Marketing, May; and The Savvy Store: Advertising Dollars & Sense, June). You may also have an advertising budget together. The next step is choosing the most effective media or media mix that will get your company's message out to existing and potential customers. The most common media choices you might consider are: newspaper; radio and television; and direct mail.


Most businesses will agree that for product sales, you can't beat newspaper advertising. Newspaper readers, when looking to purchase everything from cars to shoes, will check out a newspaper for advertised prices and other incentives. In addition, newspapers reach the majority of the local population. A local newspaper will reach your local population better than any other type of advertising media.

Newspapers also provide the perfect opportunity to use co-op advertising dollars because most vendors supply ready-made ad slicks for use. All you have to do is determine the budget and add your address line and other information, and your newspaper rep takes it from there.

Advertising costs for newspapers are determined by a rate card, which all newspapers have. Rates are priced per column inch (one column width of the newspaper x one inch deep). This rate card will also give you information on space deadlines (the date that they must have the ad or advertising copy in advance of publication), cancellation policies, area of coverage and circulation data. The circulation and geographic coverage information is vital marketing information.

For advertising costs, you will find an open rate, which is the highest local rate the newspaper will charge for an ad to run without contract. Contract rates vary and offer discounts off the open rate because you are guaranteeing the newspaper a certain amount of advertising within a specified period of time. Although contracts can be appealing because of reduced costs, be aware that most newspapers will expect the amount of advertising space or dollars you have promised. Failure to fulfill the contract for any reason allows the newspaper to short-rate your contract. This means that in the event that you are unable to provide the amount of advertising you signed for, the newspaper is within its rights to charge you the difference between what you have used and what you actually earned.

For example, say you have decided to sign a contract for 250 inches of space with your local newspaper because you have determined that your budget will allow you those dollars for the year's advertising. Last year you used 265 inches. The 250-inch contract rate is $35 per column inch or $8,750 for the year. The next lower rate is 100 inches for $38 per column inch or a total of $3,800 for the year. Now let's say that the previous year, you exceeded 250 inches because co-op opportunities were exceptional and the newspaper offered special advertising opportunities that were one-time-only events. If you are not matching the previous year's commitments inch for inch with a suitable margin for cancellations of advertising (perhaps due to a shortage of goods or inclement weather forecast around a major sales period), then you stand a very good chance of not meeting your contract for the year. If you reach only 238 inches, the newspaper will charge you anyway for the difference in the dollar commitment.

If you do decide to advertise in the newspaper and contemplate a contract, it is most important to remember that if you missed your contract commitment, you owe the newspaper - which is not a wise way to use your advertising dollars. Careful planning and tracking of your commitments lessens the risk of running into budgeting trouble.

Radio and Television

Most radio stations appeal to a specific segment of the population; similarly, television programs are geared to preselected audiences. In keeping with your marketing activities, you should attain media kits from the stations that cover your market area. These kits will give you the specifics on the areas that the stations cover. Radio stations' kits will tell you their music format, which should indicate the audience listening to the station. Most radio stations will also differentiate themselves from their competition by trumpeting their ratings according to an independent survey group, such as "ARBITRON." Television ratings however, are surveyed and reported through "Nielson."

If you are deciding to advertise on a particular radio station, the key question to ask is who is the audience? The cost of the spot (the radio commercial) is based on the station's ratings. It is fair to assume that if a particular radio station charges a higher rate for a 60-second commercial, its ratings are higher in a certain market for a larger part of the day. Most commercials are 60-seconds in length. This is because it will usually take that amount of time to state your message clearly and include important selling and address information. Thirty-second radio commercials can be produced, but most are priced at nearly 75 percent of the cost of a 60-second commercial. The wise budgeter will use the 60 seconds to his or her advantage.

The advantage radio has over newspaper is that it is an excellent medium for portraying personality. A friendly announcer's voice can develop a rapport with your customer the way no other medium can - except television.

Television spots not only develop rapport with the audience but also have the advantage of color and sight combined with sound. Today's television technology allows for the creation of some of the most exciting advertising the world has seen. However, this technology is expensive. Production costs for television spots vary according to what the advertiser wants - the more elaborate, the higher the production cost. You may have the advantage of co-op advertising on your side in this regard. Vendors may be able to supply you with terrific spots as part of a co-op program.

In general, radio is the dominant daytime medium, whereas television dominates the evening hours. It is worth noting that radio has been shown to be quite effective in building store traffic when used in conjunction with newspaper advertising.

Direct Mail

Newspaper, radio and television advertisements cover a wide market. Direct mail, on the other hand, goes directly to your intended customers. This form of advertising is very selective. You can choose prospects from in-house lists developed over time, you can purchase lists from list companies or you can use vendor-supplied lists. These lists can be as specific as you choose and as large or small, as you need.

If you are planning to develop your own direct mail program, for budgeting purposes, here are several factors to consider:


  • The cost of the mailing piece in total (envelopes, enclosures, etc.)
  • The cost of the mailing labels (if purchased from an outside source.)
  • The cost of a mailing permit from your local post office. (Most bulk mailings use a permit, which may reduce the postage fees on your mailing if it is presorted by zip codes. You should contact your local post office for specific information.)
  • The total postage fee, including the cost of labor used to sort out your mailing before taking it to the post office. (Most companies use mail management firms to handle their mailings.)

So, should you use newspaper, radio, television or direct mail advertising? Your budget will determine if you can plan a media mix that includes all or some of the media types. In any case, the success of any type of advertisement depends on three things: careful planning based on research; competent execution; and close coordination of sales and budgeting

Remember advertising is an important and essential part of marketing if you want your parts store to be prosperous and successful. As Jeff Richards, chairman of the University of Texas Advertising Department said, "Advertising is totally unnecessary - unless you hope to make money."

Writer Gary J. Naples provides automotive parts consulting and training services through Freelance Associates, Inc. Gary is the author of two books on automotive parts management published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International): By the Numbers: Principles of Automotive Parts Management and Beyond the Numbers: Managing the Assets of an Automobile Parts Business. His books are used for training and reference by thousands of automotive industry-related individuals and businesses worldwide. He is also a member of SAE and a Scholar Member of the Round Table Group.

Gary's books can be purchased directly from the publisher online at, or by calling 724-776-4841. Gary can be reached at 570-824-1528 or email at

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