We are surrounded by advertising-on television, radio, the Internet, as well as on roadside hoardings and in printed media. Most of it is more sophisticated than we realize-almost every professionally produced advertisement is a carefully constructed mixture of words, images, and symbols, chosen with the aid of experts in consumer psychology. Advertisements, whatever their medium or format, have two purposes. One of which is to inform us of the availability of a product or service, or to give details of an event, and the other is to persuade us, usually to buy something, or to support a cause.
Advertising techniques range in complexity from the publishing of simple, straightforward notices in the classified advertisement columns of newspapers to the concerted use of newspapers, magazines, television, radio, direct mail, and other communications media in the course of a single advertising campaign. One fundamental technique, and still basic in the most modern procedures, is repetition. A typical national advertiser captures the attention of prospective customers by repeated appeals to buy. It is not unusual for a person to encounter advertisements for the same product in national and local newspapers, radio, and television, to receive additional reminders in various consumer magazines, and to be confronted with a poster, counter card, or display on entering a shop.
Another basic persuader is the product name. Manufacturers have spent millions to establish their products as symbols of reliability and value. Once consumers gain confidence in it, the owner can use the product name and logo as a persuader, that is, as a device to reassure customers that all products bearing this symbol are reliable. The product name and logo are especially useful when the manufacturer introduces a new item to an existing line of goods.
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 two and get a third free”, “send for free sample”, and “trial offer at half price”. Substantial cash prizes are frequent inducements, as are “buy now, pay later” offers.
Modern advertising employs an astonishing variety of persuaders. Among these are softer-selling, often 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 parents to buy certain breakfast cereals, and the controversial use of “scare copy”. Because fear is a principal human frailty, this motivation is applied to the advertising of thousands of commodities, sometimes boldly, sometimes subtly. Fear of poverty, sickness, loss of social standing, and the spectre of possible disasters, great and small, sometimes moves previously unexcitable consumers to buy anything from insurance and fire extinguishers to cosmetics and vitamin capsules.
Adverts need to do lots of things. They need to attract attention, using visual images, colour, movement, sound, text or a familiar brand-name or logo. Once the advert has captured the attention of the reader, it then needs to hold the attention and keep the reader interested. This could be done by telling a story; showing characters with whom you find it easy to identify; or who are role-models; introducing a celebrity; offering attractive photographs; or artwork; using a slogan or catch-phrase; showing large blocks of text; focusing on the technical details of the product; showing the product in use in an attractive setting; making you laugh or engaging your sympathy. A lot of adverts also interest you by stressing the benefits that will follow a purchase, for example, more time, less stress, greater security ect.