Book Reviews


Advertising without an Agency

Author: Kathy J. Kobliski
Publisher Entrepreneur Press
Publication Date: July 2001

Reviewer:Joel Klebanoff
Joel Klebanoff, is a copywriter and marketing communications consultant specializing in the information technology industry. He is president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc.

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Advertising Without an Agency caters to a well-defined audience. The first order of business here is to identify those people who will not find value in the book so they can go off and do other things.

If your interest is primarily academic and you do not plan to do any advertising yourself, this book is not for you. It is very light on theory and very heavy on implementation. In addition, it lacks the rigor and depth of an academic text. Advertising Without an Agency contains about 140 pages compared to the 500 or so pages of the assigned text when I took advertising in university. (Yes, there was advertising back then, but the primary medium was stone tablet.)

If you are already well-versed in all forms of advertising, you will find little new here. However, if you have been doing advertising in a haphazard and ad hoc manner, this book could help you to add some structure and improve the results of your advertising.

Finally, if you work for a large company that uses an ad agency or agencies, you probably won't be doing the kinds of work that the book describes.

The title unduly omits one potential audience. If yours is a small company with a budget that allows you to employ an ad agency (yes, they do provide considerable value), but you are new to advertising, then you may still want to buy the book. Every profession has its own methodologies and its own jargon. Advertising is no different. If you understand the agency's language and their ways of doing things, the two of you are more likely to come to a common understanding that best meets your business needs. This book can help give you the necessary knowledge of the advertising process and lingo.

Advertising Without an Agency is very much a down-to-business sort of book. It covers all of the traditional media. A series of worksheets -- one or more for each medium -- will help you to make the media buys that will deliver the best results for your advertising budget. A glossary provides a quick reference for many unfamiliar advertising terms, all of which are also covered well throughout the book.

This book does not waste your time. It is all business, with little fluff. (Approximately three pages filled with matrices of just "X"s to represent available radio and television advertising spots do not add much value, but that's a minor complaint.)

Introductory chapters describe how to define your target markets and pick the best media and media outlets for your advertising. There are suggestions on how to make your advertising budget go further, such as taking advantage of co-op advertising dollars available from your suppliers and attempting to negotiate partial payment in trade for some of your advertising. You will also find some tips that go beyond advertising, such as looking for product/service extensions to build your business and get the highest possible value out of your advertising dollars.

There are then chapters that examine each of the advertising media -- radio, television, print, direct mail, outdoor, and transit. In each chapter you will find descriptions of the available advertising formats and typical contracts, as well as discussions of purchasing, audience and style issues for the subject media.

Given the book's title, most readers will not be using an ad agency. They will, therefore, have to work directly with the sales representatives from the media outlets. The book offers suggestions on how to get the most out of these relationships, including what to ask and what to demand.


Depending on your nature, you may tend to view the book's worksheets as mental exercises. Don't. In most cities of any significant size, there are a number of advertising media choices. It's impossible to keep them all in your head. The problem is compounded if your target market includes more than one city.  

In addition, unless you make a conscious effort to do otherwise, there is a tendency to make advertising decisions subjectively -- "oh, that station seems to play the sorts of music my customers would like". However a rational examination of the hard numbers almost always provides better results. By using the worksheets rigorously, your biases are less likely to get the better of your judgement.

If I have one serious complaint about the book it is that, despite being published recently enough (1998) to consider it, there is scant mention of Internet advertising. The Internet appears to have been an afterthought. It is dicussed in the closing chapter in a collection of odds and ends not covered elsewhere. The less than two pages on the Internet barely mention advertising opportunities, but rather discuss using the Internet as an information source and, in very general terms, how to set up a Web site.

While rumors of the death of traditional advertising are greatly exagerated and there is considerable debate as to the value of the various forms of Internet advertising, it is something that should be considered when looking at how to allocate your advertising dollars. Then again, most of the books on Internet advertising pretend that the traditional media no longer exist. (Truth in advertising: As evidenced by the fact that this review carries an ad, this reviewer does have a vested interest in Internet advertising.)

You will, therefore, probably need a couple of books on your bookshelf to cover both the Internet and traditional media. If you fit the book's audience profile -- a small company owner or manager who needs to learn how to plan and conduct advertising -- Advertising Without an Agency is a good choice for the latter.