Publicity Versus Standard Advertising Ideas

The question of publicity versus standard advertising is a good one. Answering it raises further questions about which is more effective, and which kinds of audiences are best suited to each. Is the generic and randomly targeted nature of publicity enough to bring in potential customers, or does the targeted nature of advertising provide substantial advantage in a saturated market with little attention span? Solving the question of publicity versus advertising isn’t an easy task, but looking at an example might get one a little closer to the correct answer.

The recent IBM publicity stunt that involved the Watson computer in the famous game-show Jeopardy is a perfect example.

Instead of spending millions of dollars on a widespread advertising campaign to targeted markets, IBM used an asset they already had, the Watson computer, and put it in a national spotlight. By entering it onto Jeopardy, IBM reached a huge audience at a fraction of the cost of standard advertising. Whereas some publicity stunts fail to achieve the brand recognition they’re seeking, this particular move earned IBM a plethora of coverage in the press alongside the usual Jeopardy viewing audience. They reached a huge portion of the consumer market at once.

One just has to ask whether they controlled the message and audience to a degree that brought in more business and built a positive brand identity. In this particular case, the answer is probably yes. IBM still managed to target an audience that was aligned with their values and business model. Instead of reaching a random group, IBM was able to reach an intellectual and technologically adept subset of viewers. That is exactly the type of individual who buys IBM computers, and precisely the group they would be targeting with advertising in the first place. While other publicity stunts may fail to reach the right groups, IBM executed this plan perfectly.

Publicity can be considerably more effective than standard advertising ideas if handled correctly. Taking the proper considerations and planning publicity stunts ahead of time will result in more money saved and more potential customers reached. While both forms of advertising ideas have their place, publicity may be the most effective option most of the time.

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Expert Advice Column

Advertising in Sound Bites

Fame isn’t just for American Idol singers, Lady Gaga, and CEO's. Publicity coverage is available to anyone who has the right idea at the right time for the right audience— and can deliver it in the right way.

The last part is key. And it’s where most people fail.


Media coach, marketing strategist and author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul, Susan Harrow has been working with both famous and unknowns for over 20 years. She claims to have the secret sauce that can turn anyone into a media darling virtually overnight.

It’s called sound bites.


Click here for information on Susan's Sound Bites Course and tips on getting publicity
for your business (a.k.a Free Advertising).


Radio Publicity Guru

If you are looking for information about how to get on radio talk shows, then you should start at Alex Carroll's web site, get his free list of top radio talk shows, and discover if radio could be the right way for you to get your message out.