Advertising coverage is a term used to describe the expected number of people who will be exposed to a given advertisement. Expected coverage is an important part in deciding how and where to display advertisements, and there are many different factors that affect the degree of advertising coverage. In some cases, advertisers just want as many people as possible to see their advertisements, so the number of overall potential viewers is one of the most important concerns. In other cases, advertisers market products and services to specific people, so it is necessary for them to place advertisements where the target audience will be likely to see them.
One of the major determinants of advertising coverage is the media vehicle used to display the advertisement. Advertisers have a substantial number of ways to transmit advertising messages. For instance, billboards are effective on well-traveled roads; television advertisements are usually seen by large audiences, particularly when shown during popular television shows; and magazine advertisements can be effective at targeting particular audiences. Advertisements placed on Internet sites can also receive significant advertising coverage, again targeted to specific demographics.
Some advertisers use novel or artistic ways to inform people about their products and services. Advertisers may, for instance, hire planes to leave smoke trails in the sky that contain some message about a product, or they might leave cryptic messages on signs throughout a city that arouse the viewers' curiosity. Many such advertisements occur in one time and place, so the direct advertising coverage is limited to those present at a particular place during a given time. If people find such advertising methods or even more traditional advertising methods to be sufficiently interesting, they may tell others about it. By doing so, they increase the advertising coverage indirectly.
The Internet provides a number of interesting opportunities for targeted advertising that can reach many people. Viral marketing, for instance, is an advertising method that uses online social networks to distribute advertisements. The aim of viral advertising is to get people to share the advertisements, which are usually humorous or otherwise engaging, with their friends and others in their social networks, thereby greatly increasing advertising coverage. Some advertising services on the Internet are also able to choose which advertisements to display based on a user's Internet browsing history. This allows for a high level of advertising coverage that is targeted to specific viewers.