What Are Promotional Advertisements? (Plus How They Work)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 22, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When businesses want to create rapid awareness and interest in their product or service, promotional advertisement is often an effective tool for increasing sales and revenue. Unlike other forms of advertising that focus on long-term improvement and brand awareness, promotion is powerful for its short-term benefits to rate of sale and consumer interest. Understanding how promotional advertising works, and how it relates to or differs from other forms of advertisement, is key to implementing promotions at the right time, for the best products, and to the correct consumers.

In this article, we define promotional advertisements, explain the difference between promotion and advertising, describe the channels for promotional marketing, and list the benefits.

What are promotional advertisements?

Promotional advertisements are used in marketing to build awareness of a brand's products or services rapidly. This form of marketing aims to increase the rate of sale and increase revenue through this sales increase. Promotional sales pushes offer substantial short-term increases in commercial activity, while most other forms of advertising services grow market share and develop consumer relationships over longer periods.

Advertising for promotion usually accompanies the instance where a quick increase in consumer exposure and purchase incentive is necessary, such as product launches, clearance campaigns, and rebrands. Promotion campaigns are sometimes recognizable as including sales incentives such as discounts, coupons, competitions, or sales offers.

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Differences between promotions and other advertising

Promotion campaigns can be highly effective, whether used to promote a brand new product or one that requires clearance to make room for new offerings. Aside from the length of time these campaigns usually run or the scope of their effect, there are many other differences between promotions and other forms of advertising. Some of these differences include:

  • Preparation: Typically, promotions are quicker to plan and execute than other forms of marketing with longer-term goals. Promotions often focus on a few products rather than a brand's full range, expediting the campaign planning process.

  • Reach vs. resonance: Most promotions aim for maximum reach, meaning the number of potential consumers a campaign can attract. Some other types of advertising focus on resonance, meaning the impact or memorability of the campaign.

  • Cost of the campaign: Promotions are often easier to target consumers through specific retailers or short-run advertising. This can make promotions more cost-effective by avoiding high marketing costs.

  • Tone of campaigns: Other forms of advertising may use more creativity in creating original, disruptive, and resonant marketing material to communicate brand identity. Promotions, conversely, usually adopt a more consistent tone to direct focus on the offering.

  • Measures of success: After a campaign finishes, the way that marketers assess the success of their advertising campaigns differs when reviewing a promotion. Marketers may focus solely on increases in rates of sale and revenue rather than assessing market share, consumer share-of-mind, or numbers of distribution channels.

Common channels of advertising for promotion

Promotion is a form of advertising, and as such, there are many channels through which marketers can advertise promotional activity. Here are descriptions of some of the advertising channels that marketers use for promotions:


Out-of-home, or OOH, marketing includes any advertising material a consumer may encounter in public and offline. These can include billboards, posters, and signs. Advertising using out-of-home channels doesn't allow for specific demographic targeting, but does allow brands to advertise in specific geographical locations. For instance, a marketer may place a billboard strategically in a location a few blocks away from the retail outlet it's advertising. Here, it may attract the attention of potential customers interested in the promotion and motivate them to visit the nearby store.

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Television and radio commercials

Television and radio commercials are common channels for promotional advertising, as they reach a large audience and can run for a short period. The most common television and radio commercials that advertise promotions are those for retailers such as grocery stores promoting temporary deals. Commercials such as these are limited by time, meaning they're effective for promotions requiring less storytelling and brand information, such as promotions.

Direct mail and e-mail marketing

Direct mail and e-mail marketing allow marketers to target specific demographics by mailing marketing materials directly to consumers or sending e-mails to their devices. This can be a valuable channel for promotional advertising as online and offline retailers often have the home or e-mail addresses of customers who've shopped with them in the past. This means that they've got a collected demographic of consumers who're likely to be attracted to promotional activity, such as discounts or offers.

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Digital marketing

Digital marketing includes social media and web channels, which most consumers encounter through their personal devices. When advertising promotions, using search engine ads and enhancing your website's search engine optimization (SEO) can help bring consumer attention to your promotional offering. An effective way to ensure that your web content ranks highly on the top search engines, SEO targets keywords used by consumers to find specific information, including products and services. With SEO, you can draw traffic to pages where consumers can take advantage of promotion deals.

With social media, advertising promotions can be effective with images or video content. Short-form advertising complements how consumers use social media, which means that the direct nature of promotional advertising makes social media useful for promotion. Social media is also helpful in capturing a consumer's attention and navigating them directly onto a sales platform, such as an online store. Once there, the consumer can access the promotional offering and make a purchase.

Print marketing

Print marketing includes brochures, flyers, and retail catalogues. This form of marketing is helpful for advertising promotions broadly, where targeting a particular demographic may not be essential. One of the benefits of print marketing is that these materials are easy for consumers to keep and reference later or take to retailers to request the featured deal. It's also possible to include any terms and conditions on print materials, such as those for competitions or limited-run deals.

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Paid online advertising

Paid advertising online can include ads on websites, video ads on popular streaming services, and search engine sponsored ads. These can be effective marketing channels for promotion, as many modern algorithms allow advertisers to target specific demographics based on their web searches and the kind of content they consume. For instance, if you're promoting a new product such as a stroller, you can use third-party ad space sellers to place your ads on targeted pages. With this service, your ads appear on web pages for those who use the internet to search for baby and parenting-related products.

Read more: What Are the Types of Advertising Media? (And How They Work)

Benefits of using promotional advertising

There are many benefits to using promotional advertising to increase rates of sales and revenue. Some of these benefits relate to the ability promotions have to generate consumer interest and instigate sales, while others affect the consumer-brand relationship. Here are some of the main advantages of using promotional advertising:

  • Contributes to brand recognition: While promotion doesn't intrinsically lead to brand storytelling, brand voice, or identity, frequent use of promotion can contribute to brand recognition. When consumers frequently encounter a brand, they're more likely to recognize it and seek it out in the marketplace.

  • Improves the perception of value: Consumers may hold a more positive view of a brand's products or services when they perceive them as good value for the price. Promotions often offer consumers a high-value prospect for less money, resulting in a positive impression of the brand.

  • Builds consumer loyalty: Offering promotional deals to select consumers helps you build relationships with them and increase brand loyalty. By rewarding consumers for choosing your products in the past, you can further endear them to the brand.

  • Increases consumer referrals: Making your products more visible and accessible to a larger number of consumers can help increase the frequency of positive consumer referrals. The more consumers you can expose to the benefits of the products or service, the more word-of-mouth advertising may result.

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Promotions and calls-to-action

One of the most crucial elements of promotional advertising is an effective call-to-action (CTA). A call-to-action is a directive statement in marketing materials that encourages consumers to take the desired action. With promotions, it's essential to direct the consumer to take action quickly to receive the benefits of the promotion. This may be an instruction to take advantage of a sale, be one of the first to experience a new product, or benefit from a good deal. A compelling CTA is often what converts potential consumers into paying customers.

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