ADVERTISING a collective term for public announcements designed to promote the sale of specific products or services. Advertising is a form of mass selling employed when the use of direct, person-to-person selling is impractical, impossible, or simply inefficient. It is to be distinguished from other activities intended to persuade the public, such as propaganda, publicity, and public relations. Advertising techniques range in complexity from the publishing of simple notices in the classified-advertising columns of newspapers to integrated marketing communications, involving the concerted use of advertising in newspapers, magazines, television, and radio, as well as direct response, sales promotion, and other communications vehicles in the course of a single campaign. From its unsophisticated beginnings in ancient times, advertising has flourished into a worldwide industry.
In the U.S. alone in the early 1990s, about $138 billion was spent in a single year on advertising to influence the purchase of products and services. Advertising falls into two main categories: consumer advertising, directed to the ultimate purchaser, and trade (or business-to-business) advertising, in which the appeal is made to business users through trade journals and other media. Both consumer and trade advertising employ many specialised types of commercial persuasion.
A relatively minor, but important, form of advertising is institutional (or image) advertising, designed solely to build prestige and public respect for particular items. Each year millions are spent on institutional advertising, which usually mentions products or services only incidentally. Another minor, but increasingly popular, form of advertising is co-operative advertising, in which the manufacturer shares the expense of local television, radio, or newspaper advertising with the retailer who signs the advertisement. National advertisers occasionally share the same space in magazine advertising.
For example, makers of pancake flour, of syrup, and of sausages sometimes jointly advertise this combination as an ideal cold-weather breakfast. Advertising may be local, regional, national, or international in scope. The rates charged for the different levels of advertising vary sharply, particularly in newspapers; varying rates also are set by newspapers for amusement, political, legal, religious, and charitable advertisements. Advertising messages are disseminated through numerous and varied channels or media. In descending order of volume, the major media are newspapers, television, direct mail, radio, magazines, business publications, outdoor advertising, and farm publications. In addition, a significant amount of all advertising is invested in miscellaneous media, such as window displays, free shopping-news publications, calendars, blimps, sky writing by aeroplanes, and even sandwich boards carried by people walking the streets.
A wide range of advertising media has been developed from sources whose potential importance formerly was ignored. Delivery trucks, once plainly painted, now often carry institutional or product messages, as do many shipping cartons. Some packages carry advertising for products other than those contained in them. Wrapping paper and shopping bags bearing advertisements are used widely by retail stores. Direct advertising includes all forms of sales appeals mailed, delivered, or exhibited directly to the prospective buyer of an advertised product or service, without use of any indirect medium, such as newspapers or television. Direct advertising logically may be divided into three broad classifications, namely, direct mail, mail order, and un-mailed advertising. All forms of sales appeals (except mail-order appeals) that are sent through the mails are considered direct-mail advertising.
The chief function of direct-mail advertising is to familiarise prospective buyers with a products name, its maker, its merits, and its local distributors. A direct-mail appeal is designed to support the sales activities of retailers by encouraging the continued patronage of old and new customers. When no personal selling is involved, other methods are needed to induce people to send in orders by mail. In addition to newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, special devices such as single-product folders or multi-product catalogues are used in mail-order advertising. Mail-order promotions are designed to accomplish a complete selling job without salespeople. Used for the same broad purposes as direct-mail advertising, un-mailed direct advertising includes all forms of indoor advertising displays and all printed sales appeals distributed from door to door, handed to customers in stores, included in packages of merchandise, or conveyed in some other manner directly to the recipient.
With each medium competing keenly for its share of the business, advertising agencies continued to develop new techniques for displaying and selling wares and services. Among these techniques were vastly improved printing and reproduction methods in the graphic field, adapted to magazine advertisements and to direct-mail enclosures; the use of colour in newspaper advertisements and in television; and outdoor signboards more attractively designed and efficiently lighted. Many subtly effective improvements are suggested by advertising research. The question of what motivates a consumer to buy challenges the imagination and ingenuity of the seller and presses research specialists forward into new fields of investigation. Motivational research, for example, attempts to probe the unconscious impulses that motivate buying decisions; advertising agencies then utilise these findings to influence the consumer and to attempt to break down sales resistance. Critical observers outside the advertising industry have assailed the motivational approach as unreliable and as unfair to the consumer, who should not, they feel, be subjected to such indirect sales attacks. Many researchers, however, regard motivational inquiry as only a means to delve deeper into the psychological springs of behaviour than did earlier investigations.
Through careful questioning and investigation it is often possible for an advertiser to trace a sale and learn what actually motivated the consumer to buy a product. Workers in motivational research try to explore these influences Price appeal probably motivates more decisions to buy than any other appeal, and the magic words sale and bargain are directed at consumers with great frequency. Closely allied to these plain and simple discount offers are the “something for nothing” lures, such as “buy one get one free,” “send for free sample,” and “trial offer at half price,” and the big-money contest, for example, “finish this sentence and win 1000 in cash, an automobile, or a trip to Bermuda for two, No money down is also a successful inducement. Modern advertising employs an astonishing variety of persuaders. Among these are humorous and entertaining television and radio commercials, appeals to the sense of smell by the use of perfumed ink on paper, endorsements of products by celebrities, appeals to parents to give their children a better life and future, appeals to children to “ask mummy” to buy certain breakfast cereals, and the controversial use of “scare copy.” Because fear is a principal human frailty, this last-mentioned motivation is applied to the advertising of thousands of products, sometimes boldly, sometimes subtly.
Fear of poverty, sickness, and loss of social standing, and the spectre of possible disasters, great and small, sometimes move previously unexcitable consumers to buy anything from insurance and fire extinguishers to cosmetics and vitamins. Advertising also supplies most of the operating funds of the principal communications media. According to an authoritative survey, the radio and broadcast television industry depends on advertising for all its revenue. Cable television carries both consumer-paid and advertising-supported programming. Newspapers derive some 76 percent of their incomes from advertising, and national magazines, about 63 percent. Another aspect of modern advertising is the Internet.
In the last three years the World Wide Web has become a focal point for people who enjoy shopping and bargains. They can now buy things from all over the world and have them shipped to your door within 24 hours all courtesy of a piece of plastic!