Answering what is advertising looks at the characteristics of this sales and marketing activity along with advantages and disadvantages as well as current trends that are changing how we advertise. To answer what is advertising can be done quite simply as follows: advertising is any activity which seeks to make others aware of something, i.e to publicize it. Outside of sales and marketing, the term “advertise” means to say or display any given fact to one or many others. For instance, a peacock will advertise its male prowess using its plumes and we advertise we are married by wearing rings. In its most basic form, advertising is simply to make a certain fact known and it does not have to be a promotional effort, although this is what the term has become synonymous with.
In the world of organizational communications, advertising may be persuasive or informational and so the goal, once again, is not necessarily to convince others to act on the information you are providing. That being said, this is the aspect of advertising that I will focus on - this being a sales and marketing website! - and I will look at what is advertising in terms of its defining characteristics and goals as well as the advantages and disadvantages of advertising. I will also talk about trends in marketing and answer the question of whether advertising is really a dying form of communication. My goal in this discussion is to get you thinking about your own advertising strategy while keeping in mind the golden rule which is that a successful advertisement is one that captures your customer's attention!
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Although there are many ways to advertise for free, at its core the answer to what is advertising is that it is a form of paid communications. As a seller, you pay for the use of a specific media channel on which you promote your good(s) or service(s). Advertising media includes everything from traditional TV, radio and print advertising to direct mail, outdoor and online advertising. Word-of-Mouth is called “advertising” as well even though it is not something you pay for, generally speaking. However, it does share the characteristic that the advertising platform or channel is not controlled by the advertiser (unlike signs or in-store advertising, for example).
Another defining characteristic of traditional advertising is that it has been one-way. Sales and marketing in general has become more interactive in modern times and the most recent example of this is social media marketing which has turned business communication into a many-to-many dialog. Nevertheless, most of what is considered advertising today is still a one-way communication from seller to buyer and forms an essential part of business communications. Advertising at its most basic is simply message plus media...
The question of what kind of advertising is best suited for your business is a completely different discussion and for now I simply want to focus on concepts to get you thinking about different ways to tweak your own advertising strategy. While you may not develop the jingles, catchy slogans, and celebrity endorsements of big budget advertising, think about the following (self-explanatory) concepts in choosing the right kind of ads for your own business: audience, reach, life span and exposure. Remember that the most important thing about your ad is the headline or first few seconds after which you will either have someone's attention or not. Also, a key sales and marketing maxim applies that it takes an average of seven impressions in order for your message to compel someone to act.
What is Advertising? Goals
If you ask most people what is advertising, they will answer something along the lines of, “a message designed to get you to buy something.” This definition actually incorporates a fundamental goal of advertising in sales and marketing which is to motivate your customer to take action. While there can be other goals of advertising such as image enhancement (PR), advocacy - Got Milk? -, and public service announcements, the vast majority of advertising is done with the primary goal of getting people to act and most often this action is tied into creating a sale.
Advertising in sales and marketing is about progressing your customer along the sales proceess and taking them from being unaware of your product to a purchase. It is important to also be cognizant of this process from the point of view of the customer in studying what is advertising and so another way of looking at the sales process is that you are getting the customer to recognize a need or want and then taking them through the psychological process of figuring out the best product or service to meet his or her requirement (which is hopefully yours!).
A key goal of advertising is speaking to your customer in their language for which it is necessary to know your customer, communicate to them in a way that addresses their needs and positions your product(s) or service(s) as the optimal solution to these needs. It is also necessary to choose the message and medium that effectively targets your customers so that you are saying the right thing to the right people. Advertising must appeal to the logical as well as the emotional reasons that people buy and probably more so the later as per the saying that, “people make emotional decisions based on reason.”.
What is Advertising? Advantages and Disadvantages
The main advantage of advertising is that it reaches a vast audience and the main disadvantage is that you do not control the medium you use or even your message once it has been disseminated. If you think about it, advertising is an indispensable part of our world and is the only way billions of people find out about products, services, events, ideas and other valuable information that they would otherwise be ignorant of. Most consumers will tell you that advertising is, indeed, very important but at the same time traditional advertising has been losing its power for many years and today the majority of consumers will also tell you that they think more negatively about advertising than before and that they are bombarded by too many sales and marketing messages, a lot of which are simply irrelevant to them.
Putting aside the practice of false, misleading or deceptive advertising, the cost of advertising and sheer variety of advertising channels today is another major disadvantage for many businesses. That being said, your work as a sales and marketing professional is to put in the work to analyze your marketing and figure out the best ways to reach the most people. While the variety of advertising options available to you can seem overwhelming, it means that what is advertising now includes a lot of low-cost option that were not available to companies of the past. By studying your customer, your organizational strengths and weaknesses and your market, it is possible to use creativity instead of lots of time and money in order to increase your bottom line results.
What is Advertising? Trends
Regardless of the “doom and gloom” analysis about the death of traditional advertising, we can be pretty sure that it will not, as some predict, completely disappear. Television advertising suffers the brunt of criticism from consumers and marketers alike in that network ratings have been dropping for years as people find new forms of entertainment online and that switching TV channels or using digital video recorders to avoid ads is such a common practice that the effectiveness of advertising is all but lost. However, many of these naysayers overlook ingenious new ways of TV advertising such as product placement and the simple fact that good advertising is still very enjoyable and still works.
Can you imagine driving down the road without seeing any billboards? No matter how much you dislike certain ads, I am sure you will agree with me that the world would be a very different place without ads... in a bad way! Saying that we are coming to a point where traditional advertising will become obsolete is the same kind of thinking that has been saying for years that books are going away too. It is true that wireless reading devices, and other personal digital electronic devices are becoming more popular and provide a lot that books cannot, but books continue to remain an integral part of our world and that shows no signs of changing.
Rather than talking about the death of advertising, we should focus our energies on how it is changing through the use of the Internet, social media and other trends that are shaping our world. My own personal view is that while traditional forms of advertising may become less important, they still will not disappear altogether. There is not a single form of advertising that has become extinct throughout the ages, except in cases where a communication medium has become technologically obsolete. The earliest forms of advertising were flyers which are not only still being used, but being used more than ever. Let us instead look to newer forms of advertising in answering the question of what is advertising and think about how the fundamental concepts of advertising are being redefined today.
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