Advertising is persuasive communication. Delivering the message is not enough. Advertising is only effective when it has an impact on consumers' attitudes, beliefs, or behaviour - that is persuasion. Virtually all advertising is intended to be persuasive, but persuasion does not always mean the same thing. Some advertisers fight for share of a clearly defined market, others seek to draw new users, to increase frequency of use, to reinforce loyalty among current buyers, or simply to achieve a shift in consumers' attitudes or perceptions.
How does advertising work? We are supposed to learn. Learning is made up of three components: motivation, experience and repetition. Every time we see a commercial on television for a refreshing drink of iced tea, pop, beer or powdered drink mix on a hot summer evening, there is a strong motivation to learn so that our thirst can be satisfied. If the commercial presents the message so that it provides for a strongly perceived experience, learning is more likely to take place. Thus, when Nestea shows a hot and thirsty person drinking iced tea and then falling backward into cooling, refreshing water, the viewer can experience the brand benefit and is more likely to learn it.
But even with good commercials, the experience can only be vicarious and is therefore weak in comparison to being able to have the announcer hand a glass of iced tea through the picture tube to the hot and thirsty viewer. Therefore, if advertisements are to be learned, there is a need for substantial repetition. It should be noted, however, that too much repetition can result in consumer fatigue as the message falls on 'deaf ears'.
In many instances, learning becomes so entrenched that a habit develops and the consumer buys the same brand without being aware of the learning experience that originally led to the purchase. Under such circumstances, it is extremely difficult for advertising to get consumers to switch brands. To counter strongly established buying habits, significant innovation and a heavy level of promotion are usually needed.
What are the purposes of advertising? It can have different aims and work in different ways. Some advertising invites the consumer to make an immediate response, for example by filling in a coupon.
Another type, however, aims to impart information, especially about high-priced goods. Here, you are not expected to respond immediately. You will not, for example, rush to a showroom to buy that new Renault you have just seen advertised in a TV commercial.
A third type of advertising addresses your needs, wants or desires. Such advertising is either designed to sell you a new product or to tell you new news about an old product. Because there is no 'new news' about established brands, the aim of the advertiser in this case is to remind.
What advertising techniques are used? Endorsement, also known as character licensing, is a commonly used technique, in which a person - often famous - speaks on behalf of a product. Hollywood stars are eagerly appearing in commercials in Japan but not in the United States where getting into commercials is often a sign a career is on the way down.
"Paul Newman, for instance, hums in an elevator before letting viewers know that Fuji Bank's credit card is his 'main card'. Arnold Schwarzenegger in excellent Japanese form, slurps a mouthful of steaming Nissin instant noodles." Nobody would discuss the fees paid to specific celebrities, although an executive in Tokyo said well-known American or European actors make between $500,000 and $1 million.
Manufacturers of sports goods often use sports personalities to help sell their products. Typically, a company might expect a personality to: make promotional appearances in person e.g. in-store, at trade fairs or other events; wear a company's product or logo when 'in action' in their sport; appear in advertising and/or mail-order catalogues; personalise products with their signature or photograph. In return a company might offer: fees in the form of e.g. lump sums, retainers, stage payments; free products; bonuses e.g. for winning, setting a new record etc.; royalties on product sales. Endorsement can be very profitable, both for the sporting personalities and for the companies which sign them. Take the case of the famous American basketball player, Michael Jordan, one of the most graceful and charismatic players ever to appear on a basketball court. In one year alone, his endorsement of Nike helped sell one and a half million pairs of shoes - and earned him an estimated $20 million.
Comparative or competitive advertising, also known as knocking copy, is another technique, which was first used in America almost 30 years ago. The idea is that a manufacturer takes some qualities of his product and runs them against those of a competitor. It can be a potent weapon, giving the consumer more information or poking fun at a rival product. According to others, it is only a tactical weapon, and you have to use it in conjunction with a mainline strategy. Do you remember the advert in which rap artist MC Hammer starts to sing Feelings like a dirge after a slug from a can of Coke, before recovering his form when a fan hands him a Pepsi? That is one of the best American examples of this type of advertising wittily used by Pepsi-Cola in its battle with Coca-Cola.
In order for the advertising message to reach the prospect ( i.e. the target consumer ) it needs some communication carrier called advertising media. The different media for advertising include television, radio, newspapers, magazines and direct mail, by which advertisers send letters, brochures and leaflets directly to potential customers. The basic problem of media selection is choosing media that reach the markets or the market segments the advertiser is trying to sell to.
What about the language then? The language in advertisements is very carefully chosen to have special effects. The words will create images as well as convey information and often there will be more than one meaning to some expressions. Cultural knowledge is often important for gaining the full impact.
This is especially true about Pan-European advertising. Why is it that most commercials do not cross borders well? Here is what some specialists say. "Each country has its own rhythms and sensibilities: the northern countries attach more importance to a rational element, while the south is more sensitive to form." There are of course some successful truly international campaigns. The interesting thing is that what they all have in common is that they show real imagination, and they put across a feeling of serenity, fraternity , confidence or beauty, valued in all latitudes.
The last thing to tackle is the question of ethics. Is it ethical to claim that your washing powder washes whiter than white, if it will not withstand any scientific tests. Or that the summer holiday your agency offers guarantees 100% sunny days, if you cannot provide enough meteorological evidence. Or claiming that all your apartments are facing the sea, when it turned out that it was true but you could not see the sea. With the new regulations imposed, claims such as these stand little chance against the new generation of advertising watchdogs.