An advertisement, or ad for short, is a paid message that is meant to persuade you. Most are short and come from companies trying to sell you something. They appear mostly in magazines and newspapers and on television, radio and the Internet.
Ads are mostly used to affect the spending and voting of millions of people.
Ads work less by the use of facts and reason or even base appeals, and more by being repeated over and over again. The idea is that if you hear something enough times you will start to believe it. This works, as it turns out.
Ads tend to be short and make very good use of the medium that they appear in. There are no wasted words, images or seconds. If you want to learn how to express yourself better in a medium, study the ads.
Ads are very important for things like cars and toothpaste where there is not much difference between what companies sell. And so these companies must get you to think that the name on the box – their brand name – makes all the difference.
I have talked on and on about all kinds of media, but said little about where all the money comes from to pay for them. In America most of it comes from advertising. Books and movies have little of it, but newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the Internet are largely bought and paid for by advertisers. It is the ads that you see that have paid for everything else.
So does advertising affect what you see in a medium?
Yes, it does.
If you doubt it, then just think of how public television (paid for by the government) is different from private television (paid for by advertisers). This will give you some idea of how advertising affects the medium that it appears in.
Where public television tends to be worthy but dull, private television tends to be lively but lacking in substance. It is like the difference between bread and cake. It is no accident.
If you run a medium supported by advertising – like a magazine or a television station – the bigger your audience the more you can sell ad space for and the more money you make. That means you cannot afford to anger either your audience or the advertisers. So you play it safe.
And so you show what you think people want to hear or see (sex and violence) or what will catch their attention – like bad news from the war in Iraq or a fire across town. You avoid what will drive away your audience or advertisers – like the burnt children of Iraq or the poor across town.
And so in America the love lives of certain Hollywood film stars are better known than what goes on in vast stretches of Asia like, say, India or China.
That is the world brought to you by advertising.