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Human Development - Advertising

Advertising methods

Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Advertising has become so important that most newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, and now also web sites, could not exist without it. Advertising provides the single biggest income for all of these media if not the only one.

Especially the internet has become an advertising feeding frenzy with pop-ups, junk mail, spy ware and other intrusive advertising appearing and installing itself on your computer. This kind of saturation advertising may be getting the wrong message across and many people have started to completely avoid web sites that use these advertising methods and practices. And rightly so.

Few things are as annoying when you are surfing the web for information than ads popping up unasked, home pages being forced on you, adware or even malware being installed to track your internet movements or to gather personal information, and so on. (See also Internet Advertising.)

The worst thing about advertising however, is when it takes advantage of a gullible audience. In developing countries, where millions of people have just gotten their first television, advertising is considered god's honest truth.

Products and advertising methods and messages which have been or are banned in developed nations are been exploited to their full potential by multinationals who have no qualms about using one set of advertising standards in one country and another set in other countries.

Skin whitening products in India and Southeast Asia, for example, are being displayed using the saturation method. Not a single day or nighttime soap or program targeted to women is without them. Considering the fact that most of the women they are targeted do not have a white skin, one can only wonder what the real message here is.

Skin whiteners were banned in the United States and other countries because they used ingredients which could cause skin cancer. While this health aspect may or not may be the case with modern skin whiteners the simple question remains: why would you want to whiten the skin of your face (not your body apparently) when you are naturally brown or black skinned. Oh, it's fashionable? Women, or men for that matter, who have white faces and otherwise brown bodies are a clear indication of fashion victims. Sorry, boys and girls, but get real, please. If you want good skin, fine. But walking around with a ghost face?

Truth in advertising

A collection of vintage cigarette advertisements from the 1940's - Chickenhead
Frequently Asked Advertising questions, A guide for small businesses - Federal Trade Commission (USA)
False advertising, a gallery of parody, Organique.
Consumer law - Advertising, Legal Information Network
Truth in advertising, breaking the spell of consumerism - The Sun Magazine
Banner ads we'd like to see - Valley of the Geeks


Truth here is that the influence of Chinese culture, where women avoid the sun at all costs in order to remain as white as possible, is a very strong influence in South and Southeast Asia. It compares with the American 1950-1960's cultural misunderstanding that you are worth more if you were white rather than black skinned.

Advertisers may simply take advantage of culture or fashion trends but encouraging people to be something they are clearly not is something the advertising standards organisations should have been aware of and immediately have put an end to. Surely that is not infringing on freedom of speech or expression?

Printed matter

There are about eight principle ways of advertising methods, any or all of which we are familiar and faced with any day or everyday during our lives.

Printed advertising is one of the oldest methods of advertising. Whether on wood, stone, metal or paper, messages to announce an upcoming event, the sale of a good or the presence of a shop, printing this advertising message on one or another medium has been around a long time.

While word of mouth constitutes some of the best advertising methods, in a crowded shopping street it would be better to have something visual, like a shop sign, to look at rather than someone yelling at each shop's doorway. And so we end up with streets where all you can see is neon signs.

Printed advertising as we know it today, in newspapers, magazines, brochures and posters, has been around since the 18th century. It is still the most widely used advertising method today.

But printed matter is easily doctored. With a simple home computer and a publishing program you can print any flyer, poster or brochure you like, making any kind of statement, true or false. It is extremely easy to print misleading advertisements.

Newspapers and magazines that depend on advertisers for their main income are not always too fussy about whether their advertisers are truthful in their advertisements or not. According to the box every product is perfect in every way and it is very difficult to have any but token control over this.

Electronic advertising methods

Television and radio, and the internet, are modern electronic advertising methods. They each have their merits and their detractors.

Television is the most powerful advertising method as it can combine visual and audio advertising messages in an endless variety.

But as all advertising, so television advertising is subject to strict controls. And even though standards organisations do their best to make sure television advertising is as it should be, the level of psychological sophistication used makes it often difficult to spot the hidden messages and subtle meanings commercials really display. (See Advertising Practices.)

Video advertising has taken on new possibilities with the LCD displays. Whereas before only printed advertising was possible in public transport and other places, an LCD screen is now placed, offering the full advertising benefits of television and print combined.

These displays are also known as Electronic Display Networks, Dynamic Digital Signage, Narrowcasting, Captive Audience Networks, Kiosks, Point-of-Purchase Displays, Digital In-Store Merchandising, Out-of-Home Media Networks, Place-based Advertising, Display Marketing, Retail Digital Media Networks, Datacasting, Electronic Billboards, and The Outernet.

Television and radio commercials

MacDonald & Associates - Vintage television commercials archive from the 1950's through to the 1970's includes over 600 classic television commercials.

Sure to come in the near future are holographic advertising displays. You may have seen them already in science fiction films.

Technology is a boon to advertising, devising ever new ways to bring a message across. Especially in developing countries, that have not developed a standards organisation, advertising options are being milked for all its worth.

Market research and advertising

Market research goes before advertising. It is the market research company that sounds out the product or service's target market to find out how consumers will react to a specific product or service or whether it's even viable for producing.

With the help of the advertising agency the market research company then devises an advertising method to best bring this product to market. This includes any or all of the advertising methods in combination with the "look and feel" of the actual product itself.

Brand awareness in advertising. "I believe."

Brand awareness is one of the main objectives of advertising. People need to recognize and remember a name or logo. There is nothing wrong with this - you have a good product for a good price and people will remember.

But it's not as simple as that unfortunately. A great deal of advertising money is spent on promoting products that do not give good value for money. You are just being made believe this is so. And that's not good.

We would like to believe that advertising messages contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth because we do need many of these products in our daily lives. Other products we may not need but simply want. And it makes life a lot easier if we could believe the advertising about these products.

Unfortunately, we often cannot. There isn't a product or service in the world that is going to advertise itself as mediocre or bad and it is up to us to decide, or not, to believe advertising at face value and to trust in a brand name.


Value for money - a consumer's prerogative

We are bombarded constantly with advertising; on the streets and roads, in the shops, through television and radio, in our education and other systems. In a materialistic society such as ours it is impossible to avoid or ignore the power and need of advertising.

However, we do want value for our hard earned money! Real value in the quality of the product or service. We don't really care about the box, we want the contents. But the packaging is there to convince us that what is in the box is what we want - and especially from this particular manufacturer.

Internet advertising has a different box than what we are used to. It's a new medium, less than ten years old in its mass use. In layout and setup it resembles a newspaper or magazine the most.

But it's neither, and both. On the net it is possible to combine the three major media of advertising: video (television), audio (radio) and printed press (web pages) into one. This makes it highly desirable as an advertising medium.

It is not surprising therefore, that many web sites are overloaded with multimedia content. Flashing lights and banners, small and large poster ads, aditorials and text messages, film clips and sound. An all singing and dancing Christmas tree, with the same old message: "Buy me."


Time honored and traditional advertising methods

One of the oldest advertising methods is word of mouth. A recommendation from a trusted person about a certain product or service is almost guaranteed to provide the seller with a new customer. And so forth. People love to talk and news about an exciting new product or service quickly spreads around.

Advertising agencies will always focus on the credibility aspect of any advertising product they create. Believing that a certain brand delivers a good quality product at a good price is a paramount message to whomever the advertising message is targeted at.

False advertising

False advertising examples

False statement in the assembly of a  Fiesta home barbecue.
The package states it takes an easy 15 minutes, whereas it took well over 2 hours with some difficulty!
Examples of the more widely used false advertising methods, Nassau County, NY, District Attorney Office
Monsanto uses false advertising to promote GMO's in Brazil, Organic Consumers Association
Conference on false advertising keynote remarks, Federal Trade Commission (USA)
Caught in the Act - Greenpeace false advertising, EnviroTruth


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