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Marketing channels: Paid advertising



Advertising comes in many forms and can fit a range of budgets. In this playbook, we have grouped the following types of paid advertising together:

  • Paid ads on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, etc.) and through ad engines such as AdWords and search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Paid endorsements, such as from YouTube influencers
  • Traditional (offline) channel ads, such as on TV, radio and billboards

For regulatory guidelines and best practices on digital advertising, visit the IAB website. The IAB Canada website provides relevant legislation and regulatory information (e.g., laws governing privacy, advertising to children and French language requirements).

What are some of the pros and the cons associated with paid advertising?


  • Digital advertising: Ventures often make the mistake of thinking it takes a lot of investment to deliver effective ads on digital channels. This is not so. With very little spend, you can get in and quickly A/B test ads (e.g., the creative, message and target audience) to see what works and what doesn’t, and then optimize.
  • Analytics: With digital ads, analytics provide instant feedback. You can quickly learn what
  • works and what does not, and immediately respond to optimize your marketing ads
  • Display ads: These have a wide reach. Display ads are primarily used to build awareness and are typically cost less than more targeted Facebook or SEM advertising
  • Search ads: These target those who have actively searched on your keywords, so you know you are reaching an interested audience
  • Social ads: These also reach a targeted audience and, if done well, are effective and shareable and can be used to build awareness of your product. In the case of Facebook ads, Facebook Ads Manager streamlines the process for you to set up an account and create and measure the performance of ads


  • Anonymous traffic: Digital ads may generate traffic, but if they don’t yield sales, you may be attracting the wrong visitors. This is hard to know at first since you can’t actually see the customers
  • Social ads: These have a short shelf life and need to be refreshed often
  • YouTube influencers: You cede some control when you let someone else represent your brand

Can you reach your target customers with advertising?

Think about what you already know about your target customer:

  • How and where you are most likely to reach them? What media do they consume? (If you do not know, conduct some market research to find out.)
  • What demographic are you trying to reach? What do they like or dislike?
  • What are your customers’ interests and challenges? How you can appeal to them?
  • What social media channels do they embrace—or not?
  • Is traditional media (e.g., TV, radio, billboards) a better fit for your market than a digital ad?
  • Is your audience local or in a broader geographical area? If the latter, are there regional, linguistic or cultural nuances you need to consider?

Key growth tactics and strategies

  • Social ads are a great way to build awareness of your product and attract visitors to your website who you can then move down the customer acquisition funnel
  • Keep referring back to your customer discovery data on your target customer. Use this information to inform your tactics and your messaging
  • Consider where your customer is most likely to see your ad (online vs. offline, print vs. TV, LinkedIn vs. Snapchat, etc.). If you’re not sure where to find your customer online or offline, get out there and talk to some of them to get to know them better
  • Optimize your digital ads for mobile (phones, tablets) as well as laptops. Try to deliver a consistent experience across all devices. Keep your messaging to the point with a clear call-to-action and avoid fussy images
  • Keep your copy conversational—remember, you are marketing to humans
  • In addition to the measurable impact of a campaign, your digital advertising can help with:

-Offline advertising: Build in a way to measure response rates. Include a unique URL/tracking code into the ad so you can how many leads/sales it generates

Tools relevant to this channel

  • Data analytics technology can help you leverage customer data to offer relevant, targeted digital ads
  • Offline publications usually have a media kit, which provides details on the demographic the publication serves, as well as circulation numbers