How Advertising Works

How Advertising works
  • How Advertising Works

    You’re in advertising already.  You’re at the center of the advertising business every day.  That’s because you’re able to buy, or influence others to buy the products that advertising tries to sell.  And advertising has become incredibly creative in finding new ways to reach you.

    You see advertising on television, of course.  You hear it on the radio.  You see it along the highway and on the Internet.  But you’ll also find advertising in places where you might not recognize it.  Enter the word candy in a computer search engine and you’ll find brands of candy and places that sell them.  That’s no accident; companies pay for those positions.  If, while you’re playing a video game, you drive past a road sign with a real brand name on it, chances are good that it was paid for by an advertiser, too.  It’s not there just to make the game seem more realistic!

    Notice the logo on the sneakers worn by your favorite basketball player?  Of course it’s an ad.  It’s a big business creating all these ads.. And you’re a potential customer.  How does it work?  How does it affect you?  Come find out!

    Chapter One
    Going Behind the Ads
    An advertiser is a company with products or services to sell.  An advertising agency is a company that creates the ads that help sell the products of services.  The media is the place where the ads appear, such as television or magazines.  Advertising is created by a combination of companies and people working together to create messages that attract your attention and, hopefully, convince you to…buy.  It’s one of the most interesting and exciting businesses like no other industry.  I think it’s the funniest business in the world!

    Advertising is carefully crafted to reach specific people, at specific times, for specific reasons.  It’s not just flung out in some random way.  It’s carefully targeted by what the message says, by the pictures it shows, and through the media in which it appears.

    In the shows you watch or on the websites you visit, you’re seeing things that you’re able to buy or influence your parents to buy for you- sneakers, cereal, and toys.  An ad targeted toward your parents would look very different from intended for you..  You might see a car advertisement on television, but the car companies don’t intentionally try to reach you because you’re not yet able to drive.  And you probably don’t have a whole lot to say about which brand of car your family will buy.  Television, newspapers, magazines and outdoor billboards are called mass media because they reach a lot of people at once, including some who aren’t really in the target group.

    The Internet Zeroes In Even More
    The Internet lets you choose where you want to go and it also knows a lot about you.  It’s a one-on-one medium- just you and the computer.  When you see a Web banner (that’s the little strip ad at the top or side of the Web page) you’re being singled out as an individual.  You’ve heard of cookies, right?  No, not the kind you eat.  On the Internet, cookies are little electronic footprints that track and remember the sites you visit.  The internet probably knows what you’ve looked at before, maybe even whether you’re a boy or a girl, what sorts of toys and sports you like, even the town you live in.  Based on information like this, an ad can be selected for your very own tastes and placed right before your eyes.

    On Saturday morning television, you might see an ad for a brand of soccer shoe.  But on the Internet an ad can tell you where to get the shoe, how much it costs, whether it comes in your favorite color, that your favorite player wears it and more.  The Internet can offer you the life story of that player, a map to the store, and a look at the commercial for the shoe that’s running on television.  Plus you can send an e-mail to the shoemaker and ask questions.  The Internet is a lot more targeted- and a lot more personal- than a mass medium such as television.

    You’re Bombarded by Advertising!
    A funny thing happens when you’re surrounded by advertising.  You stop noticing it.  The constant bombardment of ads means that advertising agencies need to find clever ways to break through the clutter and get your attention.  That’s where advertising’s creative geniuses come in.  Creativity in advertising has advanced rapidly over the years because so many ads are competing for your attention.  Look at me!  Look over here!  Listen to this!  Pretty soon it’s a blur to you and you may just tune out.

    The Creative Revolution
    Earliest advertising now seems a little corny and basic.  There was a lot less competition for your attention, so proclaiming simple benefits was often enough to make people notice.  But as the number of products for sale grew, advertising claims all began to sound alike.  Just offering “more cleaning power” would not set your soap apart, so advertisers and their advertising agencies had to get more creative.  The intent was to go beyond proclaiming simple benefits and to make people feel good about choosing certain products.  Ad agencies wanted people to feel as if a brand could be a friend.  The theory was, and still is, that people who have an emotional bond with a product will stay loyal to it.  Ask your parents if they prefer a particular brand of laundry detergent, toothpaste or car.  If they do, they’re brand loyal.

    What’s a Benefit?
    A product benefit is the thing that makes it superior to a competing brand.  It might be a specific fact.  A cell phone with a camera has a real benefit over one that doesn’t.  But when other cell phones all include cameras, they all have to find better benefits to set them apart.  A camera phone that “costs less.” “A more powerful lens.”  One that’s “easier to operate.”  These are all product benefits intended to set each brand apart.

    As you can see, it’s an escalating battle, each brand trying to outdo the other.  That’s another reason why many advertisers combine facts with feelings.  Admiring a brand, feeling that it’s “yours” means customers are more loyal and less likely to be swayed when a competitor comes up with a new benefit.  At least that’s the theory.  Think about it in your own life.  Do you feel loyal to certain brands of clothes, toys and foods?  Influencing the way you feel is what advertising agencies try to do.  If they can affect how you feel, they might be able to put that feeling into action.  You might choose to buy their product over another.  And that’s what makes the advertising world go round.

Time Square
Man watching TV
Ivory Soap poster from 1898


  • Establish a purpose for reading and analyze whether or not that purpose was met.


    Ask questions to clarify understanding while reading

    Access prior knowledge


    Identify intent, bias, purpose and evaluate their influence on the reader


Don’t I Know You?

  • Pillsbury Dougboy Advertising agencies sometimes create characters to represent their brands. The power of these images can last for decades. You know these characters. your parents grew up with them too. The Pillsbury Dougboy has been around for over 40 years! The popular Kraft Kool-Aid man first appeared in 1975.

Superbowl Super Price!

  • Football!

    The Superbowl reaches more than 100 million people on Super Sunday.  Advertising costs more than $w million for a 30 second slot.  Advertisers know that you and your parents are probably sitting in the same room, watching the same broadcast.  That’s why they might place an ad for a certain amusement park during the Superbowl broadcast.  Your parents can pay for the vacation and you can influence them to take you, right?  That’s why the ad is there!