It’s been estimated by scientists and researchers that the average American is exposed to anywhere from 600 to 5,000 advertisements each day. While people in rural areas avoid being bombarded with constant banners and subway posters, city-dwellers skew towards the higher range of ad exposure. With the innovation of smart phones, mp3 players and a whole host of other techno-gadgets, it is easier and easier for advertisers to reach their target audiences with stunning accuracy.
In the midst of all this advertising noise, some people would think that the general masses are becoming more immune to ads and product placement. However, researchers in the US and abroad have continually shown that children as young as age 5 begin to retain information they see in advertisements and allow it to affect their decision making. Whether we like it or not, advertisements have become ingrained in our everyday life and they’re not leaving anytime soon.
Since we must peacefully coexist with these ads, it only makes sense to look a little deeper into what makes them work. Here are the basic tenants that comprise any ad from Internet pop-ups to the Man on the Moon:
- The Tease: Otherwise known as a headline, this line of text is the largest in the ad and sets the tone of the messaging. From “Just Do It” to “Got Milk?” the best advertising teases often become ingrained in popular culture and stick around for much longer than the actual ad campaigns. Teases may or may not have anything to do with the actual product or service being offered, but instead they are designed to somehow intrigue you as a viewer.
- The Eye-Candy: Traditionally, imagery in advertisements followed the “Say dog, see dog” adage. Ads for shoe polish would feature a picture of wingtips while Coca-Cola promos showed a glass full of bubbly liquid. Today, however, rule-bending advertisers will pit a seemingly innocuous headline with a controversial image to maximize shock value. Possibly best known for this tactic is the international clothing maverick United Colors of Benetton, whose shocking ads in the 1980s and 90s pushed social boundaries in race and sexuality.
- The Tagline: After dragging your eye away from the main imagery and text, you’ll notice a second line of text, essentially a subhead in the ad. This text’s purpose is to really bring home the message of the ad, to wrap it up in a nice bow that consumers will have stuck in their minds the next time they go shopping. Quite frequently, the tagline is where advertisers insert a “call to action,” a simple line that blatantly tells viewers what they are supposed to do with this new information. “Call Us Today” or “Make your next car a Ford” are all forms of a call to action.
- The Details: If you’ve taken in the initial ad text and are still looking at the advertisement (assuming you haven’t already passed the billboard on a highway or turned the page in your magazine) you’ll see an otherwise unassuming paragraph sitting somewhere towards the bottom of the image. This is usually where advertisers dump all of the information about themselves and the product that they hope viewers will take the time to read, but assume they won’t. If the headline and image have done their job, a viewer has already formed an opinion about the product or service long before they wade through minute details.
- The Sponsor: Tucked away somewhere on the ad you are almost guaranteed to find the advertiser’s logo. Even ads that are engaging and controversial and well-executed don’t drive brand awareness if there is no brand indicated on the page. When consumers imagine Michael Jordan, advertisers want to ensure they imagine him wearing Nikes and Hanes, not Adidas and Fruit of the Loom. Adding a logo or some kind of corporate branding to the ad helps ensure that, at least subliminally, consumers will recall the company associated with a given image or catch-phrase.