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Human Development - Advertising

Introduction to advertising

High quality, low price.

Advertising wares and services started with the first person wanting someone else to "buy" its product or service in return for something else and found a way of making this known. He or she advertised for it in any number of possible ways; by proclaiming it, by showing it, by giving it away, by telling others, etc.

Yes, and we all know what the "oldest profession" in the world is, and, yes, that too is advertised clearly, usually by showing as much of the wares as possible. An odd example? Not really, prostitutes show clearly what they have to offer and don't we all like truth in advertising?

When we fast forward through history we see that nothing much has changed. New advertising methods have been devised (see Advertising methods) but the original concept remains unchanged. We still need to advertise our products or services by making them known. And we still need to use the old methods.

From market salesmen and women, to road signs, showrooms and shop windows to mail, radio, television and the internet, we need to advertise in one way or another or we do not sell as much as we need or want. Without some form of advertising we would not reach our intended audience and customers at all.

Lower advertising needs


Markets, shopping streets, points of high traffic such as stations and town squares have the advantage that customers are often passers by, pedestrians, cyclists or motorists. And people purposefully come to these places for shopping or other services such as transport, making it that much easier to sell your products.

But no shopping street guarantees good sales if your competition is next door or close to you selling the same products or services at a cheaper price. And especially when this competition consists of chain stores and franchise outlets of much bigger firms does it become obvious that their advertising has been effective enough to outsell the smaller merchant on a local level.

Businesses that do not have market stalls or shop windows, or are in locations where traffic provides customers, have to find alternative means to advertise their products and services. The printed press in the form of (local) magazines, radio or leaflets are often the next choice.

Word of mouth has always been an effective advertising method (see Advertising Methods) and it remains one of the prime concerns for advertising agencies that a brand name - representing a product - gets and maintains a good reputation and that people talk about it positively.

Advertising definitions

The techniques and practices used to bring products, services, opinions, or causes to public notice for the purpose of persuading the public to respond in a certain way toward what is advertised.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
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For smaller shops and merchants word of mouth is often their best advertising method as they do not have the funds to launch and maintain advertising campaigns. All that is needed to start this advertising campaign is to offer a good product for a good price (!). Their market is often local and a good reputation locally serves them best.

Higher advertising needs

Money talks

Big companies, on the other hand, who want to sell on a larger scale, need to spend vast amounts on advertising to make their products known. An average of 20% of net sales is spent on promotional budgets, for example, much more than the small local business.

It is necessary for large companies to advertise on a large scale because they manufacture goods in large quantities, employing thousands of people, and unless they spend enough time and money in making their products known and selling them in sufficient numbers, they will quickly run up insurmountable costs and fold.

Small or large, keeping the truth in advertising is a principle few manufacturers and merchants adhere to. But a small, local shop, does not reach millions of people young and old, a big company does. As such, "stretching the truth" is a far more sophisticated art with bigger companies than small ones. (See Advertising methods.)

In the current global business climate marketing your products is of paramount importance. And as long as this remains a fair and true process there is no problem. Consumers get what they want and manufacturers retain their profitability. But we all know that even though "true and fair" are often used in advertising messages they seldom are. If some of these companies had their way we would all be buying crap in a box at an extortionate price. And that is putting it mildly.

Positive and negative effects of advertising

Positive effects

The positive side of advertising is that it makes you aware that a product or service is available. New and improved products are developed all the time and we can't be expected to keep track of these developments ourselves. So its manufacturer helps us in our lack of awareness and tells us: "Our new and improved product is now even better! Go out and buy it!"

This happy message really pleases the consumer in us and if the product is one that we use we are pleased that it has now been improved (again) and is even better. Even though the message is the same as it was the last time it was improved, chances are, if we were using it before, that we will continue to use it and that we react positively to the latest improvement. So far so good. When a good product is improved it does become a better product, right?

The ad will tell us in a variety of ways that it is any or all of the following:

- better than the competitor's product
- cheaper than the competitor's product
- easier to use than the competitor's product
- has more prestige value than any similar product
- lasts longer the competitor's product
- it's made of superior parts or ingredients
- it's healthier for you
- it's wholly organic
- it's stronger, faster acting, larger, shorter, ...
- etc. etc. and so forth.

So we are grateful for advertisements because they keep us up to date on the improvement of existing products and the creation of new ones. This is all very good.

Unfortunately many advertisements, despite rigorous guidelines, rules, laws and consumer magazines and organisations, tell us a product or service is good only to find out after purchase that it is not good at all. And sometimes we get mad because we feel we have been taken. And this is definitely not good.

Before, in those good old days (when everybody complained anyway), we got to recognize certain brands and products as good quality and we stuck by them. Reputation is important, as we have mentioned before, and when a company sticks to its original success formula we can trust them and continue to use their products or services without having to worry about it too much. And that is good because in our busy modern lives we have plenty to worry about already.

Negative effects

The negative side of an ad is that it is not usually a neutral and objective statement. The ad is made by the product's manufacturer and that already tells us that it will never be objective. According to the box every product is the best after all.

No one can deny that an unbelievable quantity of bad products are for sale. Depending on the power of the manufacturer it can be blatantly obvious that we are dealing with a bad or substandard product. It looks bad. But if the manufacturer has a lot of power, the ad is so sophisticated in its execution that we are wholly convinced we are dealing with a genuinely great product.

In retrospect, after the sale in other words, we can find out that the ad failed to let us know any or all of the following:

- it's made of substandard materials
- it tastes bad
- it's badly made
- it's made from leftovers and rejected materials
- it's made by someone undergoing forced labor
- it's far too expensive and should cost 10% of what it does because it is made much much cheaper somewhere else
- some of its ingredients or additives such as preservatives, colorings, etc. have been banned in your country for at least 30 years because of their carcinogenic effects (cancer inducing)
- there's really nothing in the product that is in the least bit beneficial to your physical or mental health
- it could be dangerous to your children
- it's made up of animal byproducts
- they are destroying a rain forest to produce it
- it's been designed exclusively to use all those other bits and pieces they would otherwise be stuck with
- it would kill any insect better than any spray if you would feed it to them instead of eating it yourself
- it's made from organic materials, not mentioning that those organics are animal byproducts and leftovers, biomaterial even an experimental laboratory would label bio-hazard
- etc. etc. and so forth.

The list is quite endless once you get going and the reality of it quite depressing. The only thing we can do is learn from our failures, i.e. never ever buy that product or anything else made by that company, or use that service again, until we are absolutely sure it is now really worth our hard earned money and time.

Sheep, sheep dogs, wolves and wolves in sheep's clothing

The sheep

So the advertisers are the wolves and we, as consumers, are the sheep.

And as we graze our grass and other juicy plant bits peacefully we trust that they will taste good and keep us healthy. That they won't contain elements that make us sick or unhappy. That they make our coats shiny and strong so that we can produce top quality wool and meat and that they were worth walking the distance for. In short, that it makes us happy and feel good about ourselves for eating this grass in this meadow.

As long as this trust is not betrayed our meadow is one of peace, health and happiness and we won't complain. However, when this trust is betrayed we become unhealthy and unhappy and produce inferior wool and meat. We can even die when not protected from predators like the wolf.

Sheep dogs

Sheep dogs make sure that us sheep go to our proper grazing and that we do not stray too far from the herd. They will protect us and our children from predators like the wolf and other sheep that are wolf in sheep's clothing.

It is their job to make sure we can feed in peace and happiness and help us find our way again at the end of the day to the safety and warmth of our barns. We depend on the sheep dogs and they too have our trust.

Sheep dogs are trained to protect us, and even though they may nip at our hoofs once in a while because we want to stray to get the greener grass on the other side, in general we welcome them for their protection and benefits.


Wolves are very smart creatures. They are organised and well aware of their intentions regarding sheep. They know sheep are generally dumb and will panic when they notice wolves. This panic is good as it will cause the sheep to abandon caution and flee or remain frozen in fear. Either reaction is good for the wolf.


When in flight the sheep will easily wander off, get into an accident and will forget about safety, protection and all those other things which would keep it alive, happy and healthy, even in the face of temporary adversity. While one wolf keeps the sheep dog busy another, with a bit or some effort, will eventually catch and kill a sheep. A good day's work as far as the wolves are concerned.

When frozen in fear sheep make even easier prey. Unable to think about anything at all it just remains exactly as it is, where it is, accepting any fate coming its way. Ready to be consumed. Where o where is the sheep dog when you need it?

Wolves in sheep's clothing

The smartest of the wolves however, don't try to scare their prey. Nor do they want to attract the attention of the sheep dog. So they dress up as sheep so that neither the sheep nor the dog has any idea of what is going on until it is too late. All the sheep dog can do is bark and all the other sheep can do is be thankful that it wasn't them (until next time, anyway) and return to their grazing. After all, they are sheep, and forget easily.

Wolf in sheep's clothing - introduction to advertising. Links999.

But as long as consumers are considered sheep, and unfortunately many of us are, the advertiser will remain the wolf and we will fall victim to the advertisement's message in one form or another regardless of the sheep dog's best efforts. Perhaps it is best not to rely on the sheep dog too much and not to assume that just because it looks like a sheep it always is a sheep. A little awareness can go a long way in life.

You decide for yourself.


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