I am going to say something pretty controversial: it is entirely possible to market your products or services effectively—with minimal advertising.
Now as the foundations and pillars of rational marketing thought come crashing down, please let me explain.
According to a recent Associated Press article, "the New Democrat Network has spent just over $3 million to buy air time for campaign ads in battleground states and expects to spend more than $1 million more before Election Day on ads emphasizing Democratic positions on issues such as health care, education and the minimum wage."
In response to this, the Bush campaign has countered with $2.4 million spent airing ads aimed at targeting specific ethnic groups in key states. Totaling the spending between the two factions tabulates into a hefty $6.4 million dollars—all of it spent on advertising within eight weeks!
In another article titled "Ad Wars," in the August 2004 issue of Health Leaders Magazine two leading hospitals in the same community are duking it out with pricey print and broadcast advertising campaigns.
One is an academic center; the other is a community hospital. Both are vying for patients. Unfortunately, the article does not discuss other marketing strategies that the two hospital groups might be using. However, it's likely that a significant portion of their marketing spend is on advertising.
In the 1950s, advertising was one of the ways to best spend marketing dollars. There were few broadcast networks, and most people received their news via radio and newspaper. The marketing professionals of 50 or 60 years ago were as talented as the marketers of today. But it was easier to sell products and services due to less advertising clutter, minimal competition and fewer channels in which to reach the consumer.
Fast forward to the year 2004, where media fragmentation is the norm. There's cable, Web, email, direct marketing and just about every marketing channel under the sun. One company has taken to putting advertisements on the foreheads of students! There is no shortage of ways to reach your target audience.