What is advertising? Definition, purpose, current trends

Advertisement is everywhere around us. It is almost impossible to escape it, especially in the digital era. Synonymous with promotion, creativity, or great failure, it answers to very specific rules that must be perfectly mastered in order to draw the best out of it and achieve a successful advertising campaign. Discover the advertising universe backstage and all its challenges. 

Article Summary: What is advertising?

  1. Advertisement: definition
  2. What are the goals: what is the purpose of advertising for a company? 
  3. What are the different types of promotion?  
  4. How does advertising influence consumers?
  5. What kind of advertisement works best?
  6. How to successfully create an ad campaign?

Advertisement: definition 

In the communication field, the definition of the term advertising is plural, as are the goals that it allows to reach. Generally speaking, it refers to all the means of communication implemented by a company, a brand, or an organization, in order to make a brand or a product known to a target, to incite it to purchase or to use a service. The advertising communication strategy can be deployed on different supports or in many environments:

Advertising synonyms and lexical field

A complex notion means many ways to name it. Indeed, advertising is not the only term that can be used to talk about this commercial and creative discipline. Here is an extract gathering some synonyms, words with a similar meaning, as well as terms from the advertising lexical field in English, but also in French:

  • publicity
  • advertisement
  • ad
  • advert
  • advertising
  • announcement
  • notice
  • promotion
  • endorsement
  • flyer
  • commercial
  • broadcast

French expressions :

  • campagne
  • campagne de communication
  • action de communication
  • action publicitaire
  • message publicitaire
  • pub
  • promotion
  • promotion publicitaire
  • réclame 
  • annonce
  • annonce publicitaire
  • flash publicitaire
  • spot
  • spot publicitaire
  • prospectus 
  • affiche
  • affichage
  • affiche publicitaire
  • affichage publicitaire
  • diffusion 
  • encart
  • encart publicitaire
  • lancement
  • matraquage
  • notoriété
  • stratégie publicitaire
  • stratégie de communication
  • stratégie marketing
  • marketing
  • renommée
  • slogan
  • slogan publicitaire

What are the goals: what is the purpose of advertising for a company? 

As we said above, the purpose of advertising for a company is to attract the attention of its customers on its brand, products, or the services it offers. In this perspective, it is necessary for a company to accustom its target with it: the act of purchase will be greatly encouraged. 

Yes, one of the main goals of advertising is to encourage the consumer to buy a product or a service, by convincing him that it meets his expectations, much better than what the competition offers. Creating a need in the consumer is one of the ways used to achieve a commercial goal. 

The objective of advertising can also be to maintain the customers already won by creating a sense of loyalty. There is nothing like developing a sense of belonging among its customers (and Apple understood this very early).

In short, advertising can play on three stages of communication, allowing to influence the client’s behavior or the purchase:

  • Cognitive: to introduce the company, the brand, or the product 
  • Affective: to make people like the product or the brand
  • Conative: to push the target to act/buy

It is important to keep in mind that an advertisement goal must be clearly defined and quantified. For example, one might want a communication campaign to increase brand awareness by 40% among consumers aged 25 to 49. The intention is clear, which makes it easier to measure the effectiveness of the advertising.

Brand notoriety

Brand notoriety is most often measured by counting the percentage of people who are aware of the brand's existence and the economic category to which it belongs or the products/services it offers. Example: "I know Nike, I know that this brand sells sports gear".

This indicator is divided into three categories:

  • Assisted notoriety: percentage of individuals who recognize a brand in a list presented to them
  • Spontaneous notoriety: percentage of people who answer a question with the name of a brand (What shampoo brands do you know?)
  • Top of mind: people who spontaneously quote a brand without being asked a question

Brand notoriety should not be confused with brand image.

Brand image

The brand image gathers the representations and ideas that an individual associates with a product or a brand. This perception can be based on objective as well as subjective criteria. And advertising contributes greatly to it. Hence, the need to take care of its advertising actions, in order to convey an image that corresponds to the brand.

What are the different types of promotions? 

There is no lack of medium when it comes to advertising. Indeed, promotional campaigns can be communicated through numerous mediums, a number that is only increasing with the advent of the internet and social networks. In general, there are 3 types of advertising:

  • ATL : Above the line
  • BTL : Below the line
  • TTL : Through the line

ATL : "Above the line" or "média" (in French)

Advertising promotions, called "above the line", are campaigns conducted on a macro scale: national or regional. 

Most of the advertising media used fall into the category of "traditional media": posters, print media, cinema, radio, and television. This is called média advertising in French (in opposition to hors média advertising or "below the line").

Digital advertising is now added to media advertising by integrating the ATL category. 

We can thus distinguish two sub-categories among the media ads:

  • offline ads
  • online ads

BTL: "Below the line" or "hors média" (in French)

“Below the line" advertising includes all campaigns that are intended to be off-media: which means that they do not use communication mediums such as the press, television, cinema, radio, or internet.

Non-media communication techniques include more targeted actions on a micro scale: distribution of flyers, point-of-sale advertising, trade shows, sponsorship, press relations, events.

TTL : “Through the line

Marketing "through the line" or "across the line" refers to the combination of "above the line" and "below the line" advertising. The brand multiplies the points of encounter with its target as well as the nature of this encounter: broadcasting a television commercial while distributing flyers in public places. 

This hybrid advertising allows companies to leave a stronger impression on consumers who will have been approached by an advertising message many times during their day.

>>> See our article on the effectiveness of TV as a complement to other media

The different natures of an advertising message

Advertising can also be defined according to the nature of the advertising message that it intends to transmit to the consumer. 5 forms of advertising are distinguished:

  • Informative advertising: it allows presenting the product to the consumer, to inform him of its existence, to show him its qualities and its characteristics. This format is relevant at the beginning of a product's production.
  • Persuasive advertising: it aims at convincing the consumer of the qualities of a product by putting forward rational arguments, the goal being that he prefers it to a competitor’s product. 
  • Mechanistic advertising: by repeating a simple message or an effective slogan, advertising tries to incite the consumer into a habit, a reflex, an automatic purchase.
  • Suggestive advertising: this is a more psychological approach that relies on the mechanisms of the unconscious and the influence of images on it, in order to provoke pleasure, desire, fantasy, identification... 
  • Projective advertising: this advertising confirms that the consumer belongs to a group or that the promoted product allows access to the social group that they wishes to join.

How does advertising influence consumers?

Advertising is developed with the aim of influencing the consumer towards the brand, product, or service mentioned in the campaign: to increase awareness, to develop the image, to incite to purchase, etc. However, it is difficult to evaluate the real impact that an advertisement can have on a consumer, or at least to isolate its influence on sales from other actions or hazards: market fluctuations, competitors' influences, etc.

What is certain is that the impulses caused by advertising campaigns are very limited if they are only conducted in the short term. Advertising is only effective if the investment is made in the mid to long term. 

Measuring the impact of an advertisement

The influence or impact of advertising can be measured :

  • spontaneously, by asking a sample of individuals if they have seen advertisements for a product and what message the ad was promoting. The results of this type of survey are the most relevant, as it determines the percentage of the population that can spontaneously recall an advertisement and its message and associate a brand with it.
  • with assistance: by showing the ad in question without indicating the brand and asking individuals if they have seen this campaign before, in which media, and for which brand.

In order to obtain more precise data on the effects of an advertising campaign, other scores can be evaluated: 

  • the attribution score: percentage of individuals who associate an ad with the right brand.
  • the confusion score: percentage of individuals who associate an ad with the wrong brand.
  • the approval score: percentage of individuals who liked the ad campaign message a lot/ a little/not at all
  • the purchase incentive score: percentage of individuals having the intention to buy the product or service promoted in the ad.

The development of digital advertising allows us to take a new look at how to evaluate the success of advertising campaigns, at least for those publicized on the internet. Numerous tools allow measuring the performance of an advertisement, such as the well-known Google Analytics, which reports all the data, from the launch of the campaign to its completion and judges the impact of the advertisement on the traffic to your website.

>>> See how to track the performance of a TV ad

>>> See how to measure the effectiveness of a display advertising campaign

What kind of advertising works best?

Many advertising agencies have mastered the codes of advertising to perfection, which they implement brilliantly in their advertising campaigns. Here are a few examples of outstanding French ads from the beginning of 2022:

Gamme Royal - McDonald’s

The story-telling is the recipe used by the giant with the golden arches to concoct an ad full of emotions and synonymous with sharing. Three friends united by the sacred bonds of soccer and McDonald's Royal Range. This allows a large part of the population to identify to the story developed in this TV spot.

Clio hybrid - Renault

Renault rides the wave of nostalgia and travels back in time with the ad for its new Clio hybrid. The TV spot also shows how the iconic vehicle, which is celebrating its 32nd anniversary, has managed to go through time by reinventing itself without jeopardizing its identity: “Toujours Clio, maintenant hybride” ("Always Clio, now hybrid").

Travel in good company - Corsair

Wordplay, small characters evolving in an elegant and pressurized environment, a clear and simple message: all these elements make Corsair's communication campaign a success. The airline's advertising campaign is divided into six posters, each presenting one of the company's strengths, and is distributed on three media: posters, press, and digital. The motto remains the same on these posters: “Voyagez en bonne compagnie” ("Travel in good company").

6 affiches corsair, février 2022

>>> Voir aussi notre article sur notre top 30 des publicités marquantes de l'année 2021

How to successfully create an ad campaign?

With all this information, you have all the cards in hand to make successful advertisements. And it is your lucky day, we have listed for you the 13 golden rules for a successful advertising campaign:

  1. Clearly identify your brand's target audience 
  2. Understand the expectations of your target
  3. Identify the needs of your company/brand
  4. Determine the objectives of the advertising you wish to carry out: 
  5. Try to convey only one message at a time (for the sake of clarity)
  6. Develop a clear message without ambiguity: advertising is not open to interpretation like art, there should be no room for doubt. Having a tagline is a plus!
  7. Address your target with codes that speak to them
  8. Work on your visuals: every image counts, make it a point of honor to make your ad aesthetically pleasing. Be careful that the image does not hide your message. The visual must complement your text. It's all about consistency.
  9. Stand out: don't hesitate to go and see what your competitors are doing. You must be able to appeal to consumers.
  10. Draw up a media plan: this is the strategy on which your campaigns are based, and it will allow you to follow them over time and make them consistent
  11. Choose the media best suited for your brand and your target
  12. Monitor your campaigns, learn from your previous experiences and especially from your mistakes.
  13. Let your creativity run wild!

 >>> See our article on How to succeed in advertising campaigns in 2022

Advertising is the chain that links your company to your target. It is through this channel that consumers can have an idea of your activity, your services, or the products you offer on the market. It nourishes the image and the notoriety of your brand. Therefore, you should never neglect one of the few mediums that allows you to address your customers. Take care of your advertising campaigns, because it is on them that everything rests.

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