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Advertising Costs: What It Is And How It Works

Is advertising a fixed cost? While it is possible to have advertising as a fixed cost, but it depends on a variety of factors.

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Team CrossVal

Published on 16 Oct 2023

is advertising a fixed cost

In the world of business, advertising plays a crucial role in promoting products, services, and brands. However, determining the cost of advertising can often be a complex and nebulous process. One common question that arises is whether advertising is a fixed cost. In this article, we will explore the concept of advertising costs and delve into the structure of these expenses to gain a better understanding of whether they can be classified as fixed or variable costs.

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The Nature of Advertising Costs

Advertising costs encompass all expenses associated with marketing a company’s brand, product, or service through various media outlets. These expenses can include print ads, radio or TV broadcast time, online advertising, and direct mail campaigns. The goal of advertising is to reach a target audience and persuade them to take a desired action, such as making a purchase or engaging with the brand.

Categorizing Advertising Costs

When it comes to accounting for advertising expenses, they are typically categorized as sales, general, and administrative (SG&A) expenses on a company’s income statement. However, the classification of advertising costs as fixed or variable depends on the specific circumstances and approach of the company.

Read more: The Battle of the Costs: Variable Cost Vs Fixed Cost

Fixed Advertising Costs

Fixed costs are expenses that remain constant regardless of the level of production or sales. In the context of advertising, fixed costs would refer to expenses that do not change with the amount of advertising undertaken by a company. However, it is important to note that truly fixed advertising costs are relatively rare.

One example of a fixed advertising cost could be the lease or rental fee for a billboard. Once the agreement is in place, the cost remains the same regardless of how many people see the advertisement or respond to it. Similarly, the cost of creating and producing a television commercial can be considered a fixed cost if the company pays a flat fee to a production company.

Variable Advertising Costs

Variable costs, on the other hand, fluctuate in direct proportion to changes in production or sales levels. In the context of advertising, variable costs would refer to expenses that increase or decrease depending on the amount of advertising undertaken by a company.

One example of a variable advertising cost is the cost of pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising. With PPC, companies pay for each click their ads receive. The more clicks the ad generates, the higher the advertising cost. Similarly, the cost of running a radio or TV ad is typically based on the number of times the ad is broadcasted or the length of airtime purchased.

Advertising Budget Allocation

Determining an advertising budget is an important aspect of planning a company’s marketing efforts. There are several approaches to allocating an advertising budget, and each approach has its own advantages and considerations.

Set Advertising Budget

Many smaller companies opt for a set advertising budget. This means that a specific amount of money is allocated for advertising expenses throughout the calendar year. The budget is then divided among various advertising formats, such as print, online, or radio ads. While this approach may not allow for significant growth in advertising efforts, it provides smaller companies with a predictable and manageable advertising expense.

Percentage of Sales

Another approach to determining an advertising budget is to allocate a percentage of sales towards advertising expenses. This can be based on the previous year’s sales or on projected sales for the upcoming year. The percentage allocated for advertising expenses can vary but is typically around 10% of the sales amount. This method ensures that the advertising budget is directly tied to the company’s revenue and allows for flexibility as sales fluctuate.

Competitor-Based Costing

In some cases, companies may choose to allocate their advertising budget based on what their competitors are doing. This approach involves monitoring the advertising activities of competitors and matching their spending and advertising avenues. While this method can be costly, it can also help companies stay competitive in the market and potentially lead to increased revenue.

Ad Spend by Outcome

An increasingly popular approach to advertising budget allocation is to base it on the outcome of the advertising efforts. This method focuses on the return on investment (ROI) and allows companies to allocate more resources to advertising channels that generate positive results. For example, companies may choose to invest more in online advertising if it consistently leads to higher conversions and sales. This approach is particularly beneficial for smaller companies with limited advertising budgets, as it allows them to optimize their spending based on the effectiveness of different advertising channels.

Read more: How to Calculate Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)


In conclusion, while advertising costs can vary depending on the specific circumstances and strategies of a company, it is rare for advertising costs to be classified as fixed. In most cases, advertising costs are considered variable expenses that fluctuate based on the level of advertising undertaken. Companies have various approaches to allocating their advertising budgets, ranging from set budgets to percentage-based allocations and competitor-based costing. By analyzing the cost structure of advertising expenses and adopting a strategic approach to budget allocation, companies can optimize their advertising efforts and achieve the desired results.

Read more: Cost Accounting vs Financial Accounting – What You Need to Know


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