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The Principles and Techniques of Advertising

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What is advertising?

All advertisements offer information, but many also encourage an action often the purchase of a product or service. We are all familiar with the many types of advertising we see and hear every day: in the press, on television, on hoardings or on commercial radio. What each attempts to do is to emphasize to its target audience the clear benefits of its product or service, in the most cost effective way.

We will concentrate here on the activities of advertising agencies since, although companies often run their own advertising campaigns, either because they are too small to want to buy in outside consultancy, or because they are large enough to have their own advertising departments, the principles and techniques of advertising can be more clearly seen through what an agency does.

An Advertising Agency

An agency offers a service to companies wanting to distribute information about their product or service. The agency, using a combination of people with specific skills, will look at the product or service, identify it's most desirable and believable benefits, and devise a campaign to communicate them to the target audience. It will offer the client a proposal which would suggest the best 'media' to use (press, television, radio and so on) and the 'message' that they have decided would be the most successful. Some agencies are full service' agencies: they offer the full range of services, including account management, creative work, media planning, marketing research, sales promotion and public relations. Other agencies may specialize in direct marketing, for example, or marketing research. A brief description of each of these services is given below.

Account Management

This is the overall running of the account (the business with the client), and it can be stressful! You need to be sensitive to the needs of your client, taking the 'brief (description of their objectives and ideas) and explaining it to those inside your company who need to translate that into advertising. You also need to be able to liaise effectively with the agency team working on the account. The client needs regular updates on progress, and will want to know how well the campaign is doing.

The Creative Department

This is where the ideas and plans are translated into visual images and words. There will be various people assigned, often in teams, to various accounts.


Copywriters think up slogans, voice over's and any wording that will go to make up the advertisement. While copy-writing is a skill that can be improved with practice and training, good copywriters have a 'knack' for finding that clever, arresting phrase and for 'hitting the nail on the head' when it comes to stressing the benefits of this type of aftershave or that sort of personal savings account. There is much clever psychology in good advertising copy, copywriters must understand their audiences and be able to supply just the right words in the right way. Examples of copy that has proved almost timeless would be 'Roses grow on you' (for Roses chocolates) or 'Naughty but nice' (for cream cakes). It might seem as if copywriters spend much of their time gazing into space for inspiration, but there is no doubt that excellent copywriters have an enviable skill which can be worth a great deal.

Art Directors

These may begin their careers as graphic artists or designers, with a good grounding in typography and layout. In the agency, they will need to be able to translate a concept quickly into a visual image (to see whether it would work), and then to work that up into more detail. They are often required to produce 'storyboards' which look like cartoon strips: a series of boxes each containing a sketch showing the progress of a film sequence, or an imatic which are the film taken one step further: with the worked up sketches on film with sound.

Agency Producers

These are responsible for the production of a television or film advertisement. This is very much like making a mini film, and if the client is spending a great deal of money (for the launch of a new car, for example), the sum involved has been known to be more than the cost of an entire feature film! The agency producer will invariably be working with an outside film company, and he or she will co ordinate all the production personnel, location, choice of director and so on. In this area of advertising, the agency itself is buying in services from another supplier and has to obtain the best deal possible for its client.

Marketing Research and Planning

These areas are closely connected. Agencies are becoming increasingly involved in the research stage of the advertising process. Sometimes, a client will have carried out extensive research and will present the agency with its findings, so that the agency can ensure that its work focuses on the right type of customer, age group, demographic type and so on. In other instances, the agency will carry out the research and present it to the client as part of the service. The planner has to understand the end user and use research information available in the best way possible. A good planner will have experience of applying research at the right time in the right way, because research often provides facts about what happens now, rather than ideas about how things could be in the future. The planner tries to keep ahead of the client and to supply him/her with up to the minute market information. This all contributes to good client/agency relationships.

The 'media planner' will be the person responsible for booking advertising across the range of media available. He or she will have magazine and newspaper circulation figures and readership profiles, viewer and listener figures and profiles for television and radio programs and will draw up a media plan matching prospects with media within the budget and creative constraints of the campaign. He or she will be making the following sorts of comparison.

  • Wide audiences, which can be targeted geographically.
  • Product can be demonstrated visually and through sound.
  • High cost.
Commercial Radio
  • Easy to target geographical locations.
  • Smaller audiences than television.
  • Only audio so messages may not be so readily retained.
  • Benefit of sound and vision, but smaller audiences and more unpredictable than television.

Depending on location, many people have the opportunity to see (OTS), relatively low costs and reasonable targeting possibilities (inner city versus rural site).

Trade Magazines

Highly targeted, but circulation can be a problem. Unless distributed by subscription, is it really getting to the right people? Editorial facilities with which to integrate advertising content.
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