What Should a Business Choose: Horizontal Vs Vertical Ad Strategy?

Reading time: 6 minutes

If you haven’t thought about which advertising strategy is best for your website — as in vertical or horizontal advertising — then you need to start. Yesterday.

The competition out there is aggressive, and it’s only growing more fierce as the days go by. That’s why a well-chosen ad campaign[2] strategy is your best bet in keeping up with the competition and garnering success. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all type of advertising plan, which is why you need to figure out whether you’d benefit more from using vertical ads, horizontal ads, or a strategic mixture of both.

In this article, we’re going to discuss everything businesses need to know about horizontal and vertical ad strategies. Including how to choose the right ad strategy for your next campaign.

Keep reading to learn more.

What Exactly Is Vertical Advertising?

Vertical advertising is an ad strategy that businesses can use to target a specific audience. This means the audience that fits into the vertical ad strategy should have similar interests, needs, demands, and other details in common.

More importantly, rather than appealing to a general set of customer bases, a vertical ad strategy will appeal to the distinct population that falls within a definitive niche. For example, stay-at-home moms, insurance, medical publishing, health care, and so on.

When, Why, and How to Use Vertical Advertising

Let’s get specific about applying a vertical ad strategy regarding the when, the why, and the how of it all:

When to Apply it

A vertical ad strategy is most beneficial when it comes to offering products or services that fit into that specific customer niche. Therefore, it should be applied as directly as possible.

For example, if you’re in the business of hosting wine-tasting events locally, you’ll want to apply your vertical ad strategy to target audiences such as vineyards, wineries, farm-to-table restaurants, bars, and even liquor stores or wine shops in the area.

Advertising to more general demographics will only cost you more time and money per acquisition while bringing in weak conversions. In other words, it won’t do you any good to advertise your wine tasting events hosted by you to audiences that cannot accommodate wine tasting events, to begin with.

Why You’d Want to Apply it 

You may be wondering if vertical ad strategies are so niche-oriented, why try them in the first place?

However, potential customers within your specific industry are going to want to read up on the related content that’s most relevant to their business interests and needs. For example, restaurant and bar owners with extensive wine lists are going to want to attend one of your wine tastings events or have you host one in their establishment for a special occasion or for even for employee training. 

Generally speaking, the people who vertical ads apply to are also the type of people who are interested in obtaining knowledge regarding your content, whether it’s digital or printed. What’s more, the competition is significantly lower, allowing you to build better customer relations which is critical for business-to-business sales.

Therefore, when it comes to targeting[3] a specific market relevant to your niche, vertical advertising becomes a necessity.

How to Apply it

Vertical advertising is a strategy that puts the customer at its very center. Therefore, it’s extremely important to understand your demographic’s needs and demands by researching those needs and demands. 

In keeping with the wine tasting example, let’s say your company wants to appeal most to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. In this case, you’ll want to assess what each of these businesses are looking for in regards to their wine selections — starting with what they’re already stocking the shelves with, what’s selling successfully, and what isn’t.

You’ll need to take into account all of the possible data, including their customer data, to study and analyze their buying and selling trends. Once you’ve evaluated all the data, you can start creating advertising copy that will directly appeal to these businesses’ needs and desires. 

You’ll also want to take into consideration the type of media you’ll use to attract the right attention — and where you’ll put it. After all, displaying vertical ads requires proper planning to ensure that you’re getting the right message in front of the right eyes.

Once you have the design down and know where your target audience will be looking, you can choose the websites or publications that will provide the best coverage for your vertical ads. This could include niche websites or blogs, digital magazines, trade events, and more. 

What Exactly Is Horizontal Advertising?

Unlike vertical advertising, horizontal advertising can appeal to various markets and industries.

For example, if you’re an office supply company, then you can produce ads for a multitude of industries, including government offices, educational organizations, healthcare, and all kinds of offices. You can even appeal to students and people who work from home. 

Overall, horizontal advertising appeals to customer groups that share similar characteristics, interests, and needs, but fall into a range of industries.  

When, Why, and How to Use Horizontal Advertising

Horizontal is an advertising strategy that can appeal to a very broad audience — and multiple audiences — at once. You’ve probably also heard that broad is bad. However, the beauty is in the potential diversity and how creative[4] you can get with that diversity.

So, when it comes to putting out horizontal ads, here’s what you need to know in terms of how to apply it properly:

Where to Apply it

Since horizontal ads will appeal to an entire range of potential customers, you’ll want to design an ad strategy that can reach throughout that entire range. This means you’ll want to apply in a cross-channel manner since your audiences will undoubtedly be widespread. 

This means figuring out where your different audiences “hang out” and meeting them there with your ads.

How to Apply it

Designing a successful horizontal ad strategy means focusing on the various aspects of what you’re selling as well as the various aspects of your audiences’ needs. 

Therefore, if you’re in the business of selling office supplies, you’ll want to highlight each product’s features that will appeal to each distinct audience. This way, you’ll be advertising directly to each audience based on what their needs are. It could be healthcare centers requiring prescription slips or filing folders, educational organizations requiring various supplies, stationery for small businesses, and so on.

Since horizontal advertising requires cross-channel advertising, you’ll need to figure out which networks each of your audiences utilize most. For example, a hotel chain in need of new stationery may be keeping up with social media the most to read reviews to see how they can improve on their customer service. Therefore, the best way to reach them is to display ads[1] on social media channels and any travel websites they frequent.

Horizontal vs Vertical Marketing: How to Choose Between the Two

Now that you understand the difference between horizontal and vertical advertising, it all comes down to choosing whether horizontal ads or vertical ads will serve your business best during the next marketing campaign. What’s more, choosing between the two ad strategies is only half the battle. The next crucial step would be to ensure you’re using your chosen strategy effectively.

As previously mentioned, vertical ads serve niche-specific businesses best whereas horizontal ads bode better for more general businesses. However, that doesn’t mean you can only choose one or the other. 

For instance, if you have expertise in a narrower field, despite being a business with a broad audience, you can use that to your advantage to appeal to more niche-related customer bases using vertical advertising. As a niche-oriented business, you can also market your offerings to businesses or customers within related niches to see who catches on by using horizontal ads.

Ultimately, your choice will come down to the specific products or services you’re selling and who may need them.

For example, as a business that hosts wine tasting events for other businesses, you may be able to broaden your horizons by offering wine tastings for private parties, like birthdays or other milestone events. Adversely, as an office supply business, you can always winnow down your audience by selecting who may need certain products the most — like small local businesses.

The Takeaway

Both vertical and horizontal advertising strategies come with their own unique advantages and other specific requirements. However, once you figure out your own advertising needs and identify the target audiences within your reach, you’ll be able to use either strategy to get your message out to the right customers — yielding a higher ROI and more user engagement. 

Terms
1. display ads. Display ads are a term used for traditional banner advertisements that serve on mobile or desktop web pages. Like video ads, many variations, types, and sizes exist.
2. campaign. A set of bidding instructions that at a minimum includes a bid price for inventory. Most campaigns also include criteria such as a specific start and end date, daily or overall budgets, frequency restrictions, and targeting based on user or inventory data.
3. targeting. Choosing to serve ads to a particular segment as well as when, where, and how often to serve ads.
4. creative. A creative often refers to the image, gif or file used to display the ad. Often creatives need to be uploaded whereby a code snippet for that creative will be generated.

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