Volume 94, Issue 48

Thursday, November 23, 2000


An attempt to advert the senses

An attempt to advert the senses

By Jill Shaw
Gazette Staff

You would be hard-pressed to find the few things in this world more ubiquitous than advertising.

Watching television, reading a magazine, even looking at the logos on your clothes – it seems impossible to avoid the barrage of advertising messages surrounding us.

In our supposed media-savvy culture, people do not like to think they can be controlled by advertising, but the experts agree there is some impact although the jury is out on whether it is positive or negative and how it all starts.

Robert Fisher, marketing professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business, said creating a successful advertisement has become a real challenge in recent years. As consumers are subjected to thousands of ads each day, getting one particular message to stick out is an advertisers biggest hurdle. Fisher said this problem is being dealt with in different ways.

For example, creating an emotional connection with the viewer has now become a top priority to an ad's success. "You can't engage a viewer intellectually unless it is illustrated that [the advertisement] is useful to them," Fisher said.

The ad needs to drive some side of the business, whether the image or the product. "You need to know how the ad will fit into the overall strategy," he explained.

Photos by Jeremy Brace/Gazette

Formulating a strategy and researching the consumers' demographics, needs and wants is crucial in building a successful ad, said Andrew Hibbert, owner of Icom Communications Ltd. in London.

"The key to a good advertisement is a benefit headline," he said. "We must know the product. We have to know the benefits and talk about them in the ad. Too many people talk about features," he said.

Wendy MacQueen, strategic planner and media director of Link Advertising in London, said a common mistake advertisers make when coming up with ads is the overuse of images from popular culture.

She said things like music and iconography can work to negate the ad's ability to grab consumers' attention. "Using popular music, you get wrapped up in the song, you have no idea about the product," she said.

She also acknowledged popular culture does have a particular effect on certain demographics. "[The impact] is a lot stronger on pre-teens and [people in their] early 20s," she added, explaining this results from the high level of peer pressure in these groups.

After youths outgrow their teenage preferences, MacQueen said people begin to consider other elements of the product, such as cost.

"Most advertising appeals are now aimed at late adolescents, early adulthood," agreed Patricia Pakvis, professor of sociology at Brescia College. She said targeting a certain age acts as an attempt to build brand loyalty.

While one may assume celebrities automatically make an advertisement successful, Hibbert disagreed. "I don't think it's necessary. If a product lends itself to being sold by a celebrity, that's fine – but you must really understand the product and find out about the consumer."

Peter Stemp, a Western sociology professor, said he also does not think celebrity advocacy is necessary for a popular ad. "Most people are smart enough, they know they're not going to turn into Michael Jordan if they buy those shoes."

Pakvis, however, feels celebrities do have an impact in advertising as people view them as role models who embody the qualities consumers want for themselves

One challenge advertisers face is advertising clutter. According to MacQueen, clutter is an over-saturation of the senses, to the point where it becomes difficult to clearly decipher the message. When there is advertising clutter, consumers tend to lose their attention.

"We want to get clients out of the clutter," she said, adding this is done using clean images in ads, streamlining campaigns and using specific media that appeal to certain demographics.

Stemp said there is no restraint on the clutter. "There's no reason athletes' uniforms won't start to look like those in Europe." He added there is no good way to restrain the overbearing clutter.

While affording advertisers the ability to make ads slicker and more stylish, the use of modern technology also acts as a potential problem, he said. "I still believe the basic truths of advertising are the same as 50 years ago, there're just more ways of getting the message out. The Internet has changed a lot of things, but doing it all on the Internet is a mistake."

Stemp said as a result of technological invasion, traditional media like print and television, have benefited more from advertising on the Internet .

According to Stemp, the impact of advertising is very complicated. "For the most part, it doesn't do a good job selling stuff, most people know its just an ad. The vast majority of ads don't even apply to us."

But Pakvis said she disagreed. "I think advertising has a profound effect, a lot of which is negative." She added the problem stems from the promotion of goods which are unattainable. "When we try to attain what advertising promotes. It has the effect of changing our lives to the extent that we're not living the life that makes us happiest."

Fisher also said advertising is still effective, explaining it has been instrumental in increasing the sales of products like Marlboro cigarettes and Coca-Cola beverages.

While the debate goes on as to whether or not ads effect us, an impact is certainly attempted. "Advertising appeals to things we are interested in," Fisher said. "We are interested in self-preservation, pleasurable feelings from food, sex and [the] pleasure of laughter."

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