Advertising explained

Advertising is a marketing activity that can help you to reach out to potential customers and encourage them to buy your products or services.

While advertising is usually a paid promotion done through print, visual or digital channels, there are also free or low cost options.

The purpose of advertising is to market and promote your business to:

  • create awareness
  • communicate information
  • educate your audience
  • enhance sales
  • create demand

Benefits of advertising

A successful advertising campaign can provide a range of benefits for your business and your customers, including:

  • increased sales
  • enhanced brand recognition
  • increased customer reach
  • educating your customers
  • repeat sales
  • competitive advantage

What to include in your advertisements

For your advertising to be successful you need to set yourself apart from your competitors and grab your audience's attention.

You’ll need to identify your target market and focus on connecting with those customers. You can then tailor your message to those who have a need for your product or service.

When creating your ad make sure you:

  • use a powerful headline
  • tailor your message to suit your target audience
  • talk about the benefits
  • have a call-to-action
  • use exciting images
  • use testimonials if relevant
  • always deliver on what you promise

Types of advertising

With a range of media choices, finding the best advertising mix for your business can be challenging. The advertising you choose should depend on:

  • your business
  • your budget
  • the types of media your target audience accesses

If your audience is mainly elderly customers, you should focus your advertising campaign on traditional media such as their local newspaper or radio station. Targeting the younger generation will probably see you engage with things like blogs, apps and social media.

Traditional media

Traditional media sends messages in one direction to a mass audience. It includes:

  • television ads
  • radio advertising
  • print advertising
  • cinema advertising
  • billboards and off-site signs
  • banner ads
  • mail order advertisements
  • cold calling
  • door-to-door sales
  • transit advertising

In the past, traditional advertising was the only way to spread your message. With newer media types, you can also focus your efforts on your ideal buyer and build a community around your product or service.

New media - digital advertising

Digital advertising is a popular form of online advertising for businesses. Digital channels (digital media types) allow you to reach your core customers in creative new ways, allowing customers to engage with you and your brand in a two-way format.

Digital advertising allows you to reach a larger target audience and has the potential to reach customers all over the world. You can:

  • track your customers
  • analyse their buying behaviour
  • customise your message to their preferences

Types of new media are:

  • online advertising – retargeting, banner ads, display ads, keywords, native, video
  • online streaming – radio and television
  • social media advertising
  • mobile app advertising
  • email marketing

While the internet is a powerful medium, you can benefit from using a mix of traditional and new media to reach your target market.

Legal obligations when advertising

You must understand the regulations and laws before you begin advertising your products and services. Knowing the law will help you to avoid the severe penalties that apply to businesses that mislead customers. When advertising and promoting your business, make sure your information is always accurate and truthful.

Misleading and deceptive conduct

When promoting your products or services, make sure any branding, statement, quote or any other representation is not false or misleading.

Component pricing is when the price of a product or service is advertised or displayed in separate parts. For example, when the single price of a car is displayed and additional on road costs are listed separately. If you advertise using component pricing you must also provide the full price inclusive of additional costs in a more prominent way.

Bait advertising

Bait advertising is where a product is advertised at a certain price without a reasonable supply. Bait advertising is illegal if your business sells the product knowing you won’t be able to meet demand.

Bill posting

Bill posting is where a brochure or other promotional material is attached to a piece of public property. Some states have designated bill poster locations and others require a permit. Find out if you need a permit on the Australian Business Licence Information Service (ABLIS) website.


Handing out brochures, flyers or promotional materials on public property typically requires a permit from your state or territory government. You can download a permit form from the ABLIS website. Under state environment protection legislation, it may be illegal to place advertising material on a vehicle.


If you want to use music in your advertising or even play music in your business, you need to get a licence with the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited (APRA) and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society Limited (AMCOS). To find out more visit the APRA-AMCOS website.

Pricing regulations

When you price your products or services or advertise a price, you need to comply with pricing regulations and display the price clearly and accurately. Read more on developing a pricing strategy and displaying prices.


Signage (including 'A' frames, sandwich boards, or permanent signs on buildings, footpaths or roads) is regulated by your state or territory government. Before you erect a sign, you need to apply for a permit. In some circumstances you may also need public liability insurance.

You can download a permit form from your state or territory government through the ABLIS website.


Before you send out advertising material via email, you need to ensure you comply with the Spam Act 2003. Under the Act it's illegal to send unsolicited commercial electronic messages without consent.


Spruiking is where an operator entices walk-in traffic by marketing products or services to passers-by (e.g. when using a microphone). Spruiking is regulated at the state level and may require a permit. Find out if you need a permit on the ABLIS website.

You can find more information about advertising and promoting your business under Australian consumer law on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website.

Advertising therapeutic goods

Advertisements to consumers for therapeutic goods (including medicines, medical devices, diagnostics and digital health technology) are subject to the requirements of the therapeutic goods legislation, including:

The Code sets the requirements advertisers must meet to ensure advertising for therapeutic goods is socially responsible and does not mislead or deceive the consumer.

Advertisements also need to comply with other relevant laws, such as the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Before you advertise therapeutic goods, it is your responsibility to understand the legislative requirements.

Use the Is my product a therapeutic good? decision tool to help you identify whether your product is a therapeutic good and falls under the legislation.

Check out Therapeutic Goods Administration advertising hub.

Watch the SME assist video on Advertising to help you understand the advertising requirements of therapeutic goods.

Read next

Understand more about marketing and your legal obligations.

Follow our steps to marketing your business.