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What is Scatter Advertising?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: May 16, 2024

Scatter advertising is a marketing and publicity approach that involves making use of promotional outlets on an as-needed basis rather than as a part of a structured and focused advertising campaign. Generally, sit is not necessarily focused on reaching a particular demographic, but casts a wide net in the hopes of reaching the right people at the right time. It is not unusual for businesses and other organizations to make use of this type of advertising as a complement to their main advertising efforts.

One good example of the use of scatter advertising has to do with the use of TV advertising. Much of the costs associated with running a cable or broadcast network is covered by ad revenue. Sponsors who want to reach specific demographics will make arrangements to run ads in conjunction with programming or the time of day that is most likely to put their products in front of their target audiences. This means that much of the advertising done on television is intentional, focused and considered to be targeted rather than scattered.

However, a sponsor may also choose to occasionally buy airtime in time slots that are outside of their targeted television advertising. The airtime is usually less desirable areas in the programming schedule that have not already been committed long term to other sponsors. Because the spots are not necessarily aimed at reaching the core audience, the effort is referred to as scatter advertising; it may reach potential customers in the most desirable demographic or it may reach a niche market that is more or less untapped by the business up to this point.

While scatter-style advertising usually does not result in sales that rival a targeted advertising approach, the method has proven to be profitable. In some instances, its use opens up access to a whole new market sector that the business never dreamed would respond so favorably to their products. At other times, scatter marketing identifies a niche market that will never be huge, but is worthy of attention in the overall marketing strategy.

Sometimes referred to as leftover advertising, scatter advertising does hold the potential to enhance targeted promotion campaigns and provide inspiration for future advertising approaches. Since it often employs the use of airtime that television networks and stations have trouble filling with commercials, the cost for engaging in scatter advertising is often significantly less than other forms of promotions.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By golf07 — On Apr 28, 2012

My son is going to school and plans to work in advertising when he graduates. He has studied and researched many types of advertising methods. Most successful companies will use a combination of different kinds of advertising.

When they are starting out, they may only be able to afford scatter advertising. If they use focus advertising, they may only be able to afford it once or twice a year instead of on an ongoing basis.

Once business is going good, they may find their advertising budget is larger and they can use focus advertising more often.

You just never know where and how you may find new customers. Both of them certainly have a place in helping a business thrive and be successful.

While it is always helpful to know who your target audience is, you also need to be open to reach other people you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

By John57 — On Apr 27, 2012

I think many direct mail campaigns would be a form of scatter advertising. If there is a new business in one local area, they would probably target homes within a certain radius of their business.

The only demographic for that advertising might be how close they lived to the place of business. If this place of business was a very common place like a restaurant or grocery store, most people within that area may be interested in knowing about the new business.

If the business that opened up was more specific, such as an Asian supermarket, I can see where the owners would be more apt to use focus advertising.

By SarahSon — On Apr 27, 2012

I see a lot of scatter advertising on the internet. For example, when I log in to my email account, there are always random ads that don't seem to be for any particular demographic.

I know that advertising on the internet is not nearly expensive as advertising on TV, but the same principles would apply. With scatter advertising, you would not pay as much money and hope to get a few customers here and there.

You would pay more for focused advertising that concentrates on certain specific demographics. You would probably get a better rate of return on your money, but you would also pay much more for that type of advertising.

The internet advertising agencies would know the website statistics and some of them would be prime space for placing ads on.

By Mykol — On Apr 26, 2012

I always find it interesting which advertisements are on during crucial viewing times. Those commercials you see during prime time in the evening and during the news hour would cost a lot of money.

Also, the advertisements seen during very popular day time talk shows would be considered focused advertising.

We don't have satellite or cable, and have one channel that has a lot of old TV shows on it. The scattered advertising you see on this channel is a lot different than what you see on the regular TV channels.

You can tell it is lower budget and would not cost as much money for a company to pay for. I realize that a successful advertising strategy depends on many factors, and if you don't have a big advertising budget, scatter advertising would be a good way to start out.

By lighth0se33 — On Apr 25, 2012

I have often seen ads during daytime television that I never see at night. I have always wondered why this was, and this article clears that up for me.

I suppose not a whole lot of people are at home during the day watching TV. The majority are at 9 to 5 jobs, unlike me. I am one of the few who gets to see these ads.

Scatter advertising can work, though. Just last month, I saw an ad for a clothing store that I never knew existed in my town, and I went there and bought three new outfits. It is now one of my favorite stores.

By orangey03 — On Apr 24, 2012

A lot of people do scatter advertising in newspapers, as well. I work as a graphic designer at a paper, and we have clients who like to run a small ad once every few weeks in hopes of catching the eyes of new customers.

Though most clients buy package deals and big ads when they want to attract attention, some smaller businesses just can't afford to do that. We might have a gift shop run a small 1 column by two inch ad on a Tuesday and not buy another ad for a month, but the shop could see results from even this small effort.

I think that as long as a business can fit their basic information into an ad space, it could be effective. Some of our readers might not even know that the business existed, and they could discover it this way.

By StarJo — On Apr 24, 2012

@seag47 – Scatter advertising did help my business, and it is definitely worth trying. I sell handmade jewelry with my best friend and business partner, and we were very surprised at the new market that our advertising gave us.

We thought that our target market was teenagers and twenty-somethings. We make costume jewelry, so we didn't expect older people to care anything about it.

After buying an advertising slot during mid-morning, we started to see a lot of grandmothers coming into our store. Apparently, they thought the jewelry would make great gifts for their grandchildren!

So, scatter advertising could offer you some surprising results. It definitely can't hurt, and the good it could do makes it worth the price.

By seag47 — On Apr 23, 2012

The fashionable clothing store that I own has seen a loss in business lately, and I've been considering doing some scatter advertising. I don't have a big budget, but I need to do something fast, before things get worse.

I know I can't afford an advertising spot during prime time, and I'm hoping that if I buy the cheapest slots available, I will snag a few more customers. I feel like I'm tossing out a line in the middle of a huge lake, but I've got to try.

Has anyone here seen good results from scatter advertising? I would love a ray of hope, if anyone can offer it to me.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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