Every year, the American Advertising Federation gives out its ADDY Awards to honor “the true spirit of creative excellence in advertising.” What does that have to do with you? Well, it highlights one of the most important by-products of advertising, the fact that pretty much all advertising is available for pretty much everyone to see.

Now, that’s obviously an exaggeration, because no one sees all of the advertising in the world, but you do see a lot of it, right? You see it on TV, hear it on the radio, see it in magazines and newspapers and on billboards and in your mailbox and on the Internet. Advertising is everywhere, and some of it is brilliant — and expensive!

Think about that for a moment. Think about how much money some companies spend on their advertising, especially on the creative side. There are companies that pay ad agencies millions of dollars for their creativity, and then they show all of us what they paid for.

The point of all of this is that you should be paying attention to all of the advertising that you see. Ask yourself, would something like this work for me? Can I adapt this “look” to my own advertising? Should I consider the same media, or the same publication? They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We say that imitation can be the starting point for very effective advertising on a limited budget.