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Advertising That Works

Updated on April 28, 2011

By means of advertising, manufacturers tell the public about the things they make in order to try to sell more of them. So many goods are advertised and the advertising is done in so many ways that in a single day it is possible to see and hear hundreds of different advertisements. Shops display their most attractive goods and advertise that their prices are the lowest. Posters in the street proclaim that such and such a brand of toothpaste is best. At night, in a city, electric signs flash out the names of chewing gum or soft drinks. In buses, trains and underground railways there are notices advising people to drink more milk, to wear woolen clothes or to insure themselves with a particular Insurance company.

Even in their homes advertisements continue to reach people if they listen to commercial radio or watch commercial television. Newspapers print many advertisements, including "personal" ones from people who want to sell a car or buy a new house; and many firms, such as the football pools companies, post advertisements to people in letters.

When the government uses advertisements they are generally for spreading ideas, not selling things. "Coughs and sneezes spread diseases," they said once, so "trap your germs in your handkerchief." Advertising can also be used to urge people to drive more carefully, to stop smoking, and to make sure that the doors and windows of their houses are fastened to keep out burglars. These are just a few of the sensible ideas which advertisements can help spread.


The Growth of Advertising

There has always been advertising of some sort. Roman dairies had a sign outside with a goat on it and their schools had a picture of a boy being whipped. These signs were often used because people could not read, and in Great Britain people can still see the red and white pole above some barbers' shops and the three balls which advertise the pawnbroker. The muffin man with his bell has disappeared but the modern ice cream van sometimes has a musical signature tune and there are still "sandwich men" who walk about with a board in front and behind, advertising a restaurant or a lost property office or a fortune teller.

However, although advertising started a very long time ago, it did not become an important business until the 19th century, when the new factories began turning out goods in larger and larger quantities and manufacturers looked for new ways of persuading people to buy them.

Ever since then they have been competing against one another and each manufacturer has been trying to advertise more effectively than his rivals and so sell more goods. From time to time there have been advertising "wars" in which two or three firms spent more and more on advertising to get ahead of their rivals, sometimes also giving things away free to people who bought their product or giving away a small sample of the product itself so that people could try it out.

In the past, the countryside was sometimes spoiled by huge hoardings along the roads and railways, but nowadays this kind of advertising is carefully controlled. Advertisements were not always true, either, but eventually it was made unlawful to use advertisements which claimed, for example, that a certain medicine would cure a disease. In Britain the Trade Descriptions Act exists to protect the consumer (the person who buys a product and at whom advertising is aimed). This act makes it unlawful to give false descriptions of goods and services.

Today advertisements are made as interesting as possible so that many people will read and enjoy them. The money paid by advertisers to the newspapers and magazines which carry their advertisements (tens of millions... hundreds of millions, every year) helps to pay the cost of publishing the papers themselves. The money for the advertisements has of course to be paid by the firms and others who advertise. But the individual manufacturer hopes to be able to make and sell more goods by advertising and this can help to keep down the price of the product.

Some goods have been advertised so well that the name of the manufacturer is often used today instead of the article itself. We all know what is meant when someone says he is "going to hoover the carpet". This kind of use, however, is not always welcomed by the manufacturer who wishes the name to be used for his products alone.

How a New Product is Advertised

Before a new product is put on the market, the manufacturer does some "market research". By asking people all over the country questions about the product (perhaps a different kind of chocolate bar), the manufacturer can find out whether many people are likely to want to buy it. The answers people give also suggest ways of advertising the product.

The manufacturer may have its own advertising department, which will prepare advertising material such as booklets, displays in shops, and so on. But for a large adverting "campaign", the manufacturer usually pays an advertising agency to arrange the advertising. The agency handles advertisements for all sorts of firms . They recommend the manufacturer to "buy space" for its advertisements in newspapers and magazines or on hoardings where posters are displayed in the street.

The advertisements themselves are prepared very carefully. Photographers and artists are called in to design the background setting, and prepare the pictures which will be used. The agency copywriters write the words for the advertisement, and if there are to be television commercials, it is necessary to go to a film studio or to an outdoors location and make a film, with actors, sound effects, scenery and a script.

Everything about the new product must be considered. If it is poorly made, badly packaged, too expensive or sold in only a few shops, then people will not buy it. To make sure people remember the product's name, the copywriters make up slogans-short, snappy sentences which catch the eye. They may also write jingles, set to catchy tunes, for use on television and radio.


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