Advertising is a creative process aimed at developing promotional messages about products, services and ideas. The products of the advertising process are advertisements – in the print, outdoor and interactive media – and commercials on radio and television. The process of creating advertising messages involves many activities as well as personnel. This paper introduces readers to the principles of advertising creative writing. It defines advertising, explains its functions, situates it within the communication process and discusses the principles of copy writing and layout design.
What is Advertising?
Advertising has its root in Latin word ‘Advetere’, which means to draw attention to something. Advertising can be understood from two perspectives: what it is and what it does. From the perspective of what it is, advertising as a profession can be defined as a form of communication through the media about products, services and ideas paid for by an identified sponsor’ (APCON, 2012). Arens, Weigold & Arens, (2008; 2013) define advertising as the structured and composed non-personal communication of information, usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature, about products (goods, services and ideas) by identified sponsors through various media. This definition gives a broad perspectives about what advertising does and how. To understand the concept of advertising better, an analysis of the key terms in the definition is important.
Structured: This means that every advertising message is developed to follow a specific format.
Composed: Advertising messages are packaged using verbal and non-verbal codes and they are arranged to fill specific space and airtime.
Non-personal: Advertising messages are not addressed to specifically known members of the audience. They are directed at a large heterogeneous audience but not at particular individuals.
Communication: Advertising is a communication process. It involves all the elements of communication, namely source or sender, message, medium, channel, noise, receiver and feedback.
Paid for: Every piece of advertising message in print or broadcast media is paid for. The space or airtime where it appears is usually bought and as such, they are not subject to the editors’ discretion about whether to publish them or not.
Persuasive: By nature, advertising is meant to win or convince the audience. Advertising messages are developed using words and elements that can convince or persuade people to buy products. It should be noted that advertising does not force anyone to buy.
Goods, services and ideas: What advertising aims to promote is not restricted to tangible products alone; it includes services (banking, insurance, laundry, maintenance services, etc) and ideas (health, environmental, charity, etc.), social courses, political candidates and so on. Identified sponsor: Since advertising is paid for, the individual, group or organization behind the campaign is usually identified in the message. This is to ensure easy reference and link between the audience and the message.
Various media: Advertising media are the channels or mechanisms through which messages are carried or transmitted to the audience. Advertising media can be generally categorised into two. Above-the-line media are those on which advertising agencies charge commission. They include newspaper, magazine, radio and television. Below-the-line media are the media on which
agencies don’t charge commission and they include billboards, posters, leaflets, branded items, etc. Other classifications are print, broadcast, electronic, outdoor, direct and digital interactive advertising media.
Functions of Advertising
Generally, advertising performs a number of functions which include product identification and differentiation, communication of product information, building of brand values, inducement of product purchase and use, stimulation of product distribution, etc. The following are the basic functions of advertising.
Promotion of cost effectiveness: The awareness that advertising creates enables organisations to be alive to competition. Advertising enables organisations to review their overall operations in a way that will reduce cost so that they can offer products at lesser price.
Provision of information: as a communication function, advertising is designed to create awareness among the audience about the existence, qualities and benefits of products, thereby encouraging choice. It also brings information about existing and new products to guide the consuming public in their selection.
Promotion of good quality: One of the prerequisites of advertising is good quality. The claims an advertisement makes must be credible. Advertising can never make a bad product good. The decision by an organization to use advertising compels it to ensure good quality.
Enhancement of competition and growth: Advertising enhances healthy competition among brands and the organizations that make them. To make a product more acceptable in the market, an eye is kept on its competitor, giving room for improvement and growth in various industries.
Price control: In several advertisements, prices are communicated. This enables the organization to check its middlemen in price fixing and creates an opportunity for good control mechanism. Also, advertising encourages higher production and subsidy in production cost through higher income and subsequently, prices are reduced.
Enhancement of mass production: Because advertising increases demand, it enables producers to expand production capacity to meet market needs. Mass production reduces unit cost, promotes growth and employment.
Promotion of new products and services: Innovation enhanced by competition and increased sales can lead to the need to introduce new products and services.
Improvement of existing products and services: The ever dynamic and competitive business environment can spur producers to improve on the existing products and services.
Improvement in management: The benefit of advertising in the long run is business growth. The immediate benefits derived from advertising can spur business owners and managers to develop improved management practices.
Provision of entertainment: In print, broadcast, outdoor and on the internet, advertising messages contain entertaining elements such as creative colours, beautiful pictures, interesting lyrics, comical visuals, attractive graphics, etc. all of which provide entertainment to the audience. Research has shown that entertaining messages are better retained and this is why many advertisements use this approach. Thus, advertising perform three roles in one: persuasion, entertainment and selling.
Advertising and the Communication Ladder
For advertising to perform its functions, it is expected to move a prospect along a communication ladder called advertising pyramid. The ladder represents the process by which advertising persuades and appeals to peoples mind to act in a particular way. Then communication ladder is represented by the AIDA+C principle. The components of the advertising pyramid are as discussed below.
A-Attention: Every piece of advertising message must attract attention. This is the first task required of advertising to move peoples’ minds from the stage of unawareness to awareness before other goals are attained. To achieve this, advertising messages are designed colourfully and beautifully with the use of big bold graphics, large pictures and attractive colours that can easily catch people’s attention. Hence, a good piece of advertising message must be catchy.
I-Interest: Every advertising copy must stimulate interest. When interest is stimulated, this tends to move the minds of the minds of the people up the communication ladder to the stage of understanding. The interest to listen to a jingle, read a newspaper advert, etc. makes the audience to understand the message contained therein.
D-Desire: Every advertising copy must arouse desire. Understanding of the message should lead to desire to purchase the product, patronize the service or accept the idea being promoted. At the stage of desire, an individual develops affection for the product. He is psychologically prepared to buy or use the product at the next available opportunity.
A-Action: Every successful advertising copy must provoke action. This is the peak of the communication ladder on which advertising objectives are based. The central goal of advertising is to improve sales by inducing purchase of products. The stage of action is the level at which this goal is achieved. An advertising campaign is wasteful if it fails to make people to buy a product, patronize a service or accept an idea.
C-Conviction: Added to the components is conviction – a stage where a consumer gets convinced after using a product or patronizing a service. This happens when the consumer relates the satisfaction he derives to his expectation about the product, which he develops from the claims made in advertising. Advertising succeeds not only by stimulating new purchase but by sustaining patronage, which can occur at the stage of conviction.